Olympian, Author, Swim Coach: Q&A with Elli Overton
I was looking at swim related projects on Kickstarter one day when I came across Elli's book, "Jay's Swimming Journey" and was immediately interested by the story. I watched her charming video and thought it was so admirable that a former Olympian and current swim coach would write a book for her students. I reached out to Elli to follow up with her and ask about the whole process and she was gracious enough to give us some insight. First, here's a little background on Ms. Overton and her Kickstarter project.
Elli Overton swam in three consecutive Olympics for Australia and has two gold medals from the 1995 World Short Course Championships. She came to the US to complete her undergrad at UC, Berkeley in 1997 and now lives in Austin, Texas where she is raising her two sons. She's also become a passionate coach and runs her own business, Elli Overton Training Systems.
Kickstarter and "Jay's Swimming Journey"
Last Spring, Elli took to Kickstarter, the popular crowd-sourcing site, to fund a book she had written for her students. “Jay’s Swimming Journey” is a teaching tool geared towards young competitive swimmers, demonstrating through Jay how kids can focus on themselves in practice and listen to their coach. The book had 104 backers and more than doubled its monetary goal to pay the illustrator and graphic designer as well as getting it produced and marketed.
I know you took a break between your career as a competitive swimmer and beginning to coach in Austin. What made you come back to swimming after taking that time off?
When I was done with my competitive career nothing about coaching swimming and staying in the swimming environment appealed to me so I began working in an office. I really wanted to find my identity away from the pool. When I wanted to get back into the workforce after staying home with my boys while they were little I soon realized that I loved swimming and that my experience and background meant that I had a lot to offer as a coach.
When did you first realize there was a demand for a story like “Jay’s Swimming Journey?”
After my first season coaching my summer league team I created my own demand! Essentially I wanted a book for my team kids that had the messages of Jay's Swimming Journey in it. I felt it was hard to teach the littlest ones to slow down and pay attention to themselves when I got them at the end of the school day and put them in the pool with a bunch of their friends! I hoped that if I created a book that parents could read to their kids at home the messages would sink in better. After talking to and getting to know some other summer league coaches I knew they all had the same issues I did and that there had to be a wider demand for such a book.
I’m sure trying to get hyperactive children to focus during class was a constant battle for you, but what made you think a book would be a more effective teaching tool?
As a mom myself I cherish the quiet time at night when I read to my kids. They are calmer and more receptive. The book gives you a story and characters to talk around with your kids and they can compare themselves and kids on their team to the characters in the story. I also think that the messages in the book are important for parents just getting their kids into competitive swimming. The book gives parents a healthy outlook on their kids swimming too. If everyone starts their swimming journey with the right frame of mind it will be a lot more fun!
How did you decide on Kickstarter to fund the book? How did you feel about the response to get your book funded?
One of my young assistant coaches actually suggested I do a Kickstarter campaign, I had not heard of it before then. When I looked into it I got really excited, I knew it would be a great way to fund my book's illustrations and publishing. I was truly overwhelmed with the support I received! I didn't plan to set a higher fundraising level than $30 but my illustrator offered to sign prints of one of the illustrations for a higher level and low and behold I had 7 donors give me over $200. Some of them were family friends from my childhood or business associates from 10 years before. It was very touching to see the outpouring of support from old friends, acquaintances, swimming parents and strangers alike.
How have you integrated your book into your students’ training?
I read the book to my team at the beginning of the season and was then able to refer back to the characters and the ideas in the book when the kids got off track. It was great to see them relate to the characters.
How does it feel watching someone you’ve coached succeed? How is that different from your own accomplishments as a competitive swimmer and three time Olympian?
Helping others reach their swimming potential is incredibly rewarding for me. I think it is actually more satisfying to help others than it ever was to achieve accolades myself. I love to see others listen and apply what I teach and then sit back and watch the great results come to them. I am so much better able to see small victories and celebrate those with my clients and swimmers than I did when I swam myself.
Do your boys think it’s cool that mommy wrote one of the books on their shelf?
They do! Although some of it is lost on them, I think my little one thinks every mom writes a book :) I came and read the book to my son's second grade class and he was very proud.
Do you plan on writing a companion book to “Jay’s Swimming Journey” any time in the future?
I do! I am waiting for inspiration on the exact topic and how to do that. But I would like to write another book for sure!
Thank you so much to Elli for taking the time to chat! Make sure you pick up a copy of her book, especially if you have little swimmers of your own. You can get it from the "Jay's Swimming Journey" website where you can get it signed by the author. It's also available from Amazon.