Morning folks, and welcome to the on-deck show. A show that takes a look at people and organizations doing things and operating outside the normal scope to make things better for folks like you and I. Today, we have the pleasure of speaking with Suzanne Escobar from the 2008 Mexican Olympic team graduate of the University of Texas in Austin, NCAA swimmer currently resides in Ontario as the co-head coach of the Tri-Hart triathlon club today, we're going to speak to Susanna. This is going to be the first in a multi-part series where we talk about tips for training this summer, bringing her expertise as a swimmer and what she's doing in her home-based swim business. We welcome Susanna.
The text that follows is an unedited excerpt from our hour long conversation. The full video interview can be found on our youtube channel and by the link here. The full audio can be found by vis the Spotify link below
All right. Good morning, Susanna.
Good morning, Jason. Thank you so much for the introduction. That was lovely.
My pleasure. And you know, just, just simply a resume of, you know, things you've done and we're going to dive a little bit more deeply into that, um, in the early parts of this episode, but I want to spend the time, the majority of the time talking about the home-based business. You have, you've developed with your husband Lee and, talk about some tips for the summer and people listening and, and whatnot. And then, from that point forward, um, I'm hoping maybe we can arrange a quick tour of your swim area. Okay. Perfect. Um, so just to set the stage and give people some context to understand, you know, like sort of your journey and whatnot.
So you're originally from Mexico, the prime motivation for you, yourself getting into swimming was a near-drowning accident. Is that correct?
That's that's correct. Yes. Um, I would have been maybefour. I, I don't remember the incident, but, um, my mom does; I've always lovedthe water, like, and I, you know, always going to pools that more shallowenough so that I would be safe. I didn't know how to swim. We were on vacation,and sure enough, I jumped into the hotel pool, but that was a little bit toodeep for me; I was having a hard time, I went under, and my sister jumped in,got me out.
And then from then on, my mom's like, okay, well, we're notgoing to go anywhere unless everybody knows how to swim. So my three oldersiblings already knew how to swim. They're already in swim lessons, but theyounger three words. So since then, uh, all six of us kind of got into it, andyeah, the rest is history, right?
And it, that, that piece of information that sort of times,well, cause we're in the midst of a drowning prevention series that we're alsorunning. So very important message in terms of, you know, like the need forswimming lessons and so on and so forth. Now you've had the fortunate experience to swim in Mexico, the USA andin Canada.
Tell me a bit of the swimming environment in each of thosecountries.
Oh, yes. Uh, that's an excellent question; we can talk aboutthat for hours. I'm just going to get to the point. It's very,very different than, you know what, it's no wonder, you know, the US is the numberone globally, the resources in the United States are overwhelming. In Mexico,like growing up there, uh, there were many challenges, right. Um, there, so ourhistory as a family is quite rich, we had to move from one city to the next,um, you know, my parents had built a swim club from the ground because theywere just not seeing eye to eye with the head coach at the time. I was very young when this happened 9 or 10years old; I remember vividly how my parents were very active with thecommunity members, especially on the swim club. They talked about how thingscould be better. And they not only were talking to talk, but they walked thewalk where, you know, they recruited the parents who aligned with theirbeliefs. They drew up a plan and started their swim club; it was pretty impressive.They recruited a coach from Cuba at the time; swimming and just sports in Cuba arepretty strong. They've been very, very smart. So they brought in a coach fromCuba; he started teaching my sister, who is now head coach up in the Yukon with the WhitehorseGlacier Bears.
She started at 16, and that's how we began to get a glimpseinto high-performance swimming and training. It was always a struggle; there was always something, and there's a lotof politics in play there. I remember atime with a swim club that we were swimming with dissolved due to challengingconditions. We had to move to anothercity to keep finding ways to training and find pool time and swim coaches &resources; we ended up moving three times before I was 12 in [pursuit ofswimming. I was always the new kid at school because I was going to differentcities. I recall a point in time where peoplejust were not happy that we were taking too much pool time for training, and Iwas physically pushed out of the building. And that's just an example of how itwas to just get good high performance or just performance swim club back in,back in Mexico, especially in the city and in the region.
The focus was high on health and fitness, which is excellent,but there's very little focus and attention on youth sports. Ithink sports in general, swimming I love. But, still, sports in general, it'sjust a great gateway for youth to grow, you know, to, you know, get them tolearn, teach discipline and you know, all these virtues and values that aregoing to be good throughout life.
It was tough to get them to see back in Mexico at that time.So my journey, you know, and the first early in life, you know, my teenageearly teenage and mid-teenage years were very difficult. It wasn't up until I was about 16 during highschools, like grade 11 or something like that, there was a huge boom and thecenter of the country, at a swimming training center; it's more like a health club, but thefacilities are phenomenal. So you have 50-meter pool, you have the track, youhave your tennis courts, everything. And they brought in an American coach. InMexico, we have this thought that when it's somebody else other than a Mexicancoach comes, they must be better. It's an idea that still kind of haunts us tothis day, but that's another story. So anyway, he came in. His name is Jack Roach, widely knownin the United States.
We heard about it. We thought it was the best choice at thetime.
We wanted to get somewhere in swimming; we went there and started training with Jack, and it was, it was great; it was a great push. There were a lot of swimmers that Jack drew into that team. The competition day in day out was phenomenal. I improved a lot., it was my first time being in a virtual team because before that it was just family; It was just my sisters and myself getting me the workouts. Performance pushes you to do your best every day.
Coach Jack Roach in the adjacent photo
So, how did the USA augment that for you? Did you go from Mexico to the US or did youcome to Canada first?
So, because I was training with Jack, he would take us tothe United States to race. I was utterly oblivious that I could, as a swimmer,go to university and represent a university at the same time while getting anexcellent education and do both at a hundred percent like without compromising.
Unfortunately, you don't have that possibility back inMexico; for 90% of the swimmers, they have to decide once they graduate highschool, continue swimming, or just pursue their education.
And this is going back to; we don't, we can't pay attentionto that youth, recreation, youth sports and youth performance, because as anexample in high school, I had a teacher that said, well, you know, it's gettingtough. So you're going to have to decide at some point whether you want to swimor you want to be a student.
That's the reality. We have so much talent in Mexico, butkids just can't pursue as much as they should or much of that one because theyhave to compromise.
Would it Be fair to say that they're told they have tochoose one or the other rather than meet the challenge?
I was told you're going to have to choose swimming or ourschool. I was told. So they're going to pick school because they can't make aliving out of swimming. So I just spent like, I best focus my efforts into theschool.
Sorry. I want to interrupt you there; just a follow-upquestion to what you said. To dig alittle bit deeper on that point. So you're not going to make a living out ofswimming, but what you do get, you know, through the journey you took was a lotof experience.
You're not, you're not going to make a living yet. But theexperience that you're going to live, you know, will help shape and help youunderstand what you might enjoy down the line that you can make a living at.
It's great that you bring up that point that's how we think;we appreciate what sports do for a person. I vividly remember times where mymom was fighting with my uncles, but you know, it's neither here nor there. Thepoint is that there are a lot of parents who just don't see it that way. Theymay believe they are wasting too much time;, you're not going to get, you'renot going to get to the Olympics, and retreat to the idea to go to school and just forget about swimmingand that's usually how it works.
Are there parallels that you found between Mexico and Canada?
It's a little different; it's a little bit different because I'm going to tell you something I'm going to be as straight up. Very, very honest. We are very hard workers in Mexico. People work hard, very, very hard work. But, unfortunately, it's what I've found here in Canada is not so much so willing to put in that, you know, the extra effort and then really, really, really commit.
They have a more challenging time getting there. I think it's just because you know that the quality of living here in Canada is outstanding. I mean, it's just, it's, it's so good compared to many other countries. So I think we do Tam here in Canada. We tend to settle in that comfort zone a little bit easier than it is in, even in the states or in Mexico. In Mexico, often because of the conditions, in the United States because of the competition; It's unforgiving; you have to, you have to commit if you want to get somewhere. Here in Canada, it's a little bit more forgiving… a lot more forgiving.
The population has a lot to do with it; there are not nearly as many swimmers as there are in the United States or in Mexico; going back to how I grew up and how my conditions were growing up; you have to get too out of your comfort zone; otherwise, you won't get it. So if we didn't move cities and moved from here to there, I wouldn't have gotten to where I got, like, there's just no way.
Here, people tend to be attracted to convenience. Is it convenient? And now I'll do it. If not, and you know, maybe not so much in the US and in Mexico, they are willing to get uncomfortable.
So that's probably the most significant difference I've found. Of course, there's always the exception. I met families of swimmers who will do whatever it takes. And at the end of the day, committing to whatever It takes; whatever it takes; being willing to commit to the end, that's probably the most significant difference.
Interesting. So I want to use that to bridge into whatyou're doing now.
We talked about prevailing idea -"that you can't make aliving at swimming yet."
Expanding that idea. The knowledge you get is going to open doorwaysand pathways and may be the genesis of other ideas. So, for example, you had afantastic experience moving through Mexico, the US, and then settling in Canada,being introduced to triathlon, so on and so forth. Now you run a home-basedbusiness where you've got a swim spa. You bring people in; you help them in achievingtheir goals on their journey and their experiences.
So tell me a bit about the swim-based business.
Well, you know, it's interesting. The idea was to get itgoing, uh, at some point last year, and then COVID hit. This whole year hasbeen up and down. We were struggling to plan it and get it going. Afterretiring as an athlete, my goal as a professional, which ended up being verynatural for me, was helping other people become their best or reaching thatfeeling of accomplishment that I felt like an athlete. Istill remember my very. But, first, I was just two years, maybe not, and noteven a year into coaching and I got my first regional swimming qualifiers. Shewas like nine years old. And the feeling of that, you know, getting a regionaltime was like, whoa, this is amazing. So for me, it was just very natural toget into coaching. So for me, it was always trying to grow as a coach and giveit back to impact the people that I coach not only in the performance but alsoin just seeing their character.
So that's what I'm trying to bring into here as well. togive you a little bit of a background on how this started. When I was coachingfor Hamilton aquatic club, I started a summer training program because I foundnothing happening over the summer. I thoughtit was a little crazy, it was just unthinkable to just kind of finish the swim seasonin June, July and then do nothing to September because he had kind of, we arelate, started on the seasons where September start, whereas in the states it'slate August, mid-August, late August.
So I started doing a summer program at that club, a summerleague focusing on open water swimming. I wanted to provide an opportunity forswimmers to push themselves in the summer, improve their fitness, improve theirswimming skills and technique, and to have them something to look forward toand stay in shape for the incoming oncoming season.
I did that for a couple of years. And then in 2019, Idecided to do it on my own, independently from the club. And that's how theNikki summer leagues started. I partneredwith Tri-Hart triathlon to get it started,and it was terrific.
This swim spa was not something I saw in the short term at all.However, I did see it as a long-term goal because my college coach Kim Brackinsomething very similar. So that's how I got the idea in the first place. Hertraining center: the BrackinElite Training Centre. she works ontechnique with athletes to help them enhance their performance and just becomemore efficient swimmers.
Kim Brackin featured in the adjacent image
She's an excellent technical coach. She's influenced me alot. I love working on technique, Ithink it's vital. I think it's essential, especially in those teenage years,that, you know, they can kind of get a little bit more out of it, you know,because for me, it's not the same, just doing meter upon meter.
After the summer league, I did get a job out in Edmonton asa head coach. It was my first position as head coach. I was very excited. So Itold Lee I would go and grow as a coachprofessionally. It was an excellentexperience. They're a fantastic group of people, a fantastic group of parents.
It was quite an experience.
I think it was November; Lee calls me; I'm still out in Edmontonto tell me the swim spa, the master spa had been delivered. That long-term vision arrived quicker thanplanned; I moved back and that's how this got started. It wasstarted in the backyard; now we have a built-in construction, and I'll show you a little bit, um, where wecan start this.
So the main idea is it's just to offer our swim service tonot just high-performance athletes, but your everyday athlete that, you know,they want to push that extra mile. They want to pay attention to the smalldetails because those small details are the ones that add up.
We want to just be an opportunity for everybody to come inand they, they can pay attention to, you know, their training, their techniquewant to become more efficient. And you know, we're talking about pool summerstalking about open water swimmers, we're talking about triathletes, which oftentimes,they're the ones that need the most help technique. Um, right. So that's,that's, that's the idea of, of, of this being here. Yeah.
Sounds good. And I would love to take a look at it. Iappreciate that. Um, so if people who want to find the swim spot want tosubscribe to your service and stuff like that, how do they find you?
So right now they can just, uh, they can go to the Tri-Hart, website. Um, and then they'll findthere's a tab Neki swimming.So that's what eventually you're going to be where they find all the services,location, and contact information.
We're located in Stony Creek, Hamilton, which is the greaterToronto area, it's really nice. Part of Southwest Ontario.
We have a couple of hopefuls that want to do a lake crossinglake, Ontario crossing, and one of them actually, they were to apply for thissummer. So he's he's training currently. He's a surgeon, so he's swamped, buthe's making time too. Kind of fine, um, training times and get it done for nowin the master spa. And then when the weather is nice, you can go out to the lake,Ontario, and then we have Hammond. We have a couple of others who like to do openwater.
That's interesting. How, how long is that swim across lake Ontario?
It's 52 K from correct.
How do you strategize a swim like that? So 52K, is that aswim you do in a day?
Yes. I think he has up to 18 hours to complete. So he maystart early in the morning, you know, he goes all day and, you know, part ofthe night, or he may begin in the evening and then swim at night and get toToronto at sunrise. He's got some experience doing long distance swimming, hehas that going for him. He has us back, uh, competitive swimming background. Sohe knows what it is to train and to get into that, um, yardage that weeklyyard. The challenge is now that he's. Cardiac surgeon and he's busy to findthat time.
So while we wait for Suzanne to make a move over to the swimspa. We're going to be looking to connect with Suzanne in the coming weeks togo over some techniques specific tips in the swim spa.
Look forward to that.
If I can sum it up and you mentioned this in various ways throughout our talk it's not about Tom. It's about the kids, it's about the community. And I think that, that that's a thought that can resonate with many people and we get a lot of people can learn from that.
What's it like to be home?
Oh, it's great. It's great. In two ways, let me tell you why the job that I came back from is not the job I have now. This was a complete fluke. And so when this, the job that I have now, which is community services manager, so my coaching is volunteer and I plan that to be till retirement.
I love that. I'm a volunteer. I'm a volunteer coach. You know, it's just, I love that feeling. And so community services manager here. It's a great job. It's, it's crazy at times COVID has really made it come get it, but I manage a golf course, an arena a pool, a seniors active living center and outdoor recreation area, amidst all the programs.
And so knowing what I know from what sport can do for kids, what sport can do for people particularly coming from that high end point of view. It's great. I I'm getting to do a whole bunch of things in other areas that I never dreamed about. This is not something that I thought I would finish my career with, but no headaches with pool time.
I don't know if I got it as a coach, Tom, I I'm upset with it. I, I phoned the community services manager and everything gets sorted out. The coach is always smarter than the the pool manager. But yeah, so, and the resources I have that I just mentioned to you before, when we came on here the success that the club was having in reaching out for financial support.
So we have. A lot less, a lot more means, you know, you I'm buying a ton of equipment for the kids. We're just going to get them a bunch of snorkels and fins and they don't have to go to the pocket for that. The community is supporting it and when we can use snorkels again. Right. But the video system, all the things that I believed in Winnipeg with Manta we're going to do here.
And and that translates to our junior golf program. We're doing things for the junior golf program that. They didn't realize could be done. My cabin's 10 minutes away, Jason, it's beautiful. It's right on the water. I have to finish it. That's a lot to do to finish it.
But you know, any job that you care about is going to be stressful. So this stress of this job is my professionalism, my competitiveness wanting to be good. But going to my cabin, sitting on the way, going for a paddle, you know, it all goes away. And I have, it's a wonderful community, small communities are they support one another.
So yeah, it was a good move. As sad as at times when I look back and miss everybody in Winnipeg embrace what we have here.