ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – “You are going to decide,” Brooke Bennett told the group of swimmers in the pool in front of her. “Which are you more comfortable going to? Think of yourself in this position.”
Bennett paired the turning instructions with a turning demonstration. She knows the sport and she knows how to be a winner in the sport.
I asked her about her swimming success in the middle of a practice at Northeast High School in St. Petersburg. Bennett is the head coach of the swim team.
“I am definitely not the most talented but I definitely learned how to have a work ethic beyond anybody else so that was my confidence going into every race. My coach and I worked very hard to make sure that I knew that I had worked harder or I had put in more yardage or I had put in more hours to be the best,” she said.
Bennett had the work ethic and she had the passion.
“Oh Lord,” she said with a smile on her face, “swimming is like everything to me.”
She reached the Olympic stage winning three gold medals. She won her first gold medal in the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta and she won two more gold medals in the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney.
“It has been 20 years,” said Bennett, “which is so surreal because some parts it feels like I was there yesterday and, then, other times, I am going, ‘Oh my God! I am so old!’”
Her energy proves her wrong.
Bennett told me she started swimming in her grandparents’ pool in Plant City when she was a toddler.
“Nothing ever grabbed my attention and I didn’t gravitate towards anything like swimming,” she said. “When it was warm enough to swim and many times maybe when it was not warm enough, I was asking to go into the pool to swim and I never got out. At lunchtime, ‘Can I just eat in the pool? Bring me my lunch here.’”
She joined a swim team for the first time when she was only 5 years old and she has never stopped swimming.
“Before I came here to coach, I was at my own swim practice so it literally starts my day and, if I don’t have that in my life, something is off,” said Bennett.
Now, in her third year as the head coach of the high school team, Bennett is focused on sharing a lifestyle with the athletes.
“What you learn here,” she said, “is something that you can take into your 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s. It is something that you can do for the rest of your life.”
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