By Tommy Keeler Jr.
STRASBURG --Before his senior year at Sherando, Morgan De Jong was looking for a swimming club that could help take him to the next level and he found it. De Jong went to Nation's Capital Swim Club in the Washington D.C. area coached by former Olympian Jeremy Linn.
Linn helped De Jong, now a Sherando graduate, reach his dream of swimming for the Naval Academy, where De Jong just completed his first year. It was through his connection to De Jong that Linn agreed to help out the Valley Swim Team Phoenix, the area's local swim club, which De Jong has been a part of for years.
"We kind of became connected with his team through that," Linn said on Sunday of De Jong. "Seeing the change in that young man in one year's time really kind of bought us into the idea of how we can help this team kind of become a little bit better for itself."
Linn held an all-day clinic for members of the Phoenix on Sunday, it was the second of four clinics that he will be holding at the Signal Knob Recreation Center in Strasburg.
Linn, who won a gold and silver medal in the 1996 Olympics, was joined by fellow Nation's Capital Swim Club coach Mark Faherty for the clincs. The clinic in the morning was held for the senior group with a daytime session held for the junior group. They also work with Team Phoenix coaches on different things they can do to help the youngsters improve. Team Phoenix currently has around 60 members on the club team, from throughout the area.
In between the clinics, Linn and Faherty talked with the members about having team values.
They gave each swimmer a sheet that had a list of values, which included honesty, confidence, teamwork and enthusiasm.
Linn said the most important one is honesty.
"The number one thing is to be honest with themselves about what it means to be the very best, and hope they understand what honesty is and how to be honest with themselves," Linn said. "That would be the number one thing to instill in them. Then I think everything else will fall into place."
Linn won the Gold medal with teammates Mark Henderson, Gary Hall Jr. and Jeff Rouse in the men's 400-medley relay, while also setting a new world record.
He also won a silver medal in the 100-meter breaststrokes in the Olympics, which were held in Atlanta, Georgia that year.
"People always say 'aw man, you got silver. That must be tough,'" Linn said. "Think about that for a second. I won a silver medal at the Olympics. I didn't sleep for four days after that. Luckily, I didn't compete in the relay for five."
Linn said he took a lot away from his Olympic experience.
"The thing I remember the most when you think about it, when the average person thinks about it, and even when I think back on it -- it's really hard to do that. It's near impossible to make that happen," Linn said of winning two medals. "And the thing that strikes me the most is I truly believed it was possible, and not only do you have to believe it's possible, but it's learning to work for that possibility. I think that's the biggest thing that I remember is that I believed it was possible, and I made it happen for myself."
Linn went to the University of Tennessee, where he was a 17-time NCAA All-American in swimming. He won 11 SEC titles, including six individual ones. Linn also won four individual NCAA titles.
After his swimming career was over, Linn decided to get into coaching.
"When I looked back, I thought about what the values were that I learned," Linn said. "I realized that it made me a great person. This is what I wanted to give back to the sport to the youth to help them be better people, because great people are great swimmers. It's not just about swimming. It's about walking out of the program having learned how to be the best person you can be. That's what's most important about swimming to me."
Linn said he started out in Key West, Florida, helping build the first-ever program in the Keys. Then 10 years ago he took a job coaching the team in Northern Virginia, which includes the best swimmers in the D.C. area.
"One of the neat things about Northern Virginia is as far as participation is concerned, it's the swimming capital of the world," Linn said. "There's no place in the world that there's more people swimming. It's a really special place in that there's so many people participating in the sport, so it's so easy to say 'hey, let's take it and give it great quality.'"
On Sunday, De Jong was also there and helped talk to some of the young swimmers during Linn's talk about values.
De Jong said Linn has been a great influence in his life and achieving his goals.
"It was a positive training environment to have people pushing you all the time," De Jong said of Linn. "He was a really positive influence on my life.
"It's awesome that he's coming to help out and help push these kids to the next level. Help them realize what swimming is really about and help them have fun."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or email@example.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd