Lillian Hucke ’24  |   Published May 04, 2021

Swimmers Take on Coaching

Monmouth’s McCormick, Gibbs use time off from Fighting Scots team to lead local Y squad.

BROOKE MCCORMICK: One of two Fighting Scots swimmers who used time off from team to lead local YM... BROOKE MCCORMICK: One of two Fighting Scots swimmers who used time off from team to lead local YMCA team.MONMOUTH, Ill. – In the short time since transfer student Brooke McCormick ’22 of Metamora, Illinois, became part of the Monmouth College swim team, there were moments in practice when her coach would bring an item to the team’s attention.

“Coach would always stop practice and say this is a ‘coaching moment,’” said McCormick. “He really made me think about how I would explain concepts to a younger audience.”

McCormick got that opportunity sooner than she might have expected, as the 2021-22 Fighting Scots swim season was canceled because of the pandemic, which also claimed the life of her coach, Tom Burek, in December.

Without a team on which to compete, McCormick took on coaching the Warren County YMCA’s swim team, which had 35 swimmers, ranging in age from 5-17. She was joined on the coaching staff by another Fighting Scots swimmer, Ashley Gibbs ’23 of Morton, Illinois, as well as a swimmer from Knox College.

From September through late March, the trio took turns running training sessions and writing practice plans. Because the team had such a large age gap, there were different concentrations for the different ages.

“We really try to focus on making them well-rounded swimmers.” said McCormick. “With the 5- to 8-year-olds, we really work on technique and making sure they learn to do the strokes legally.”

For the older swimmers, much of the training was based on how they performed in the previous meet. Lots of sprint work is also involved.

This year, some of the competitions were traditional in-person meets in Galesburg, Effingham and Clinton. Others were held virtually, with swimmers reporting their own time for a given stroke and distance.

Remembering Coach Burek

The longest-tenured women’s swim coach in Fighting Scots history (2013-20), Burek came to Monmouth with experience coaching youth swimmers, so he was a natural to help McCormick and Gibbs write practice plans in their first weeks with the Y team.

“When I came on a campus visit, we had a meeting in his office, and he pointed up to a picture … we took years ago at his clinic. He was like, ‘That’s you!’ and I just thought that was the sweetest thing.” Brooke McCormick

Although McCormick didn’t officially get to compete for Burek at Monmouth, she does have some memories unique to her Fighting Scots teammates. When she was 12 years old, she and her brother attended a clinic Burek was leading, and afterward they posed for a picture of McCormick, her brother and Burek.

“When I came on a campus visit, we had a meeting in his office, and he pointed up to a picture,” said McCormick, whose father was also coached by Burek. “He pointed to the photo we took years ago at his clinic. He was like, ‘That’s you!’ and I just thought that was the sweetest thing.”

McCormick said it was heartbreaking when she learned that she wouldn’t have a swim season this year, but she said staying involved with the youth swimmers has helped fill the void.

“Getting to develop these kids into people that love swimming, that want to keep swimming, it’s really inspiring,” said McCormick, an English major who hopes to attend law school after she graduates next year. “As someone who went through that, I didn’t realize the impact that it had on other people. I also got to know other people from the Monmouth community, and that made me a better student and better person. It is amazing to be able to connect with the community and have experiences beyond college life.”

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