A Swim Mom Transforms Training to Stay in the Game
From autism therapy to Tokyo 2021, Parker's swimming has been "life changing"
"I can't even watch the Olympics," Laura Egbert fretted during the Tokyo Games. "It makes my stomach do flip flops because I know – we're going to be there!" The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games starts on August 24, and Laura will be the one allowed escort for her son, Parker, who'll be representing Team USA.
Parker will be swimming the 200-meter individual medley and the 100-meter backstroke. Like any accomplished swimmer, he's had obstacles to overcome. Parker has autism, for one. Then, during the 2020 lockdown, he was left without a venue for swim training. That's where Endless Pools® came in.
Parker Gets in the Fastlane
The Egberts have a traditional backyard pool. And for swim training, Laura knew, "It wasn't realistic swimming. We had a bungee cord hooked to him, and we tied it to our pool fence. He's a backstroker, and how do you do backstroke with a bungee cord? He can do freestyle, but it was pulling him, in my opinion, in the wrong position.
"Especially autistic kids, if they do things wrong, they continue to do things wrong because that's the way they did it." She knew that she had to act fast, not just to stay on track for Tokyo, but because swimming was therapy for Parker. "We immediately had to find a solution to keep this kid in the water.
"I was familiar with Endless Pools," Laura recounts. She and her husband had a Fastlane Pro current system installed in their pool. Our deck-mount Fastlane Pro system delivers our signature current, letting Parker swim in place in the 12-foot deep end of their existing pool.
"I can guarantee you, if we hadn't had the [Fastlane] system," she asserts, "he wouldn't have turned around and gone to the [World Para Swimming] World Series in Texas and done so well. It would never have happened. I love that we were able to install it in our pool."
By swimming in place, coaches get an unprecedented view of the swimmer's technique. "I could go under the water and watch what he's doing. It's kind of amazing to see – backstroke, his arm's not deep enough in the water. Freestyle, his wrist is turned. You can really tweak the little things in somebody's stroke that you normally can't see when you're racing down the poolside."
From Therapy to Gold Medals
Originally, Parker took to the water for its therapeutic effects. "We have a neighborhood pool, but it was too much stimulation with all the people there," Laura says. Once they installed a backyard pool, "He spent most of his time under the water. When he'd get out of the water, he was peaceful, he was calm, he wasn't flapping his arms.
"He used to rock back and forth, and he wasn't doing any of that, which was kind of amazing! We'd put a whining, not-happy child into the water, and we'd take him out of the water, and he was a completely different child."
To give him more to do in the water, Laura says, "I taught him all his strokes when he was young, maybe five or six." Through camps and local swim clubs, Parker progressed impressively. "At 12, he started competition. At 14, he joined Team Greenville, which was life changing. He technically has only been swimming about 5 years competitively!"
Adapting to Public Pools
Parker's autism originally made swimming in public pools difficult. "It took a lot of tricks" to get him to adapt, Laura recalls. The starting buzzer was a problem. "He didn't like the sound. We took him to an ENT [Ear, Nose, and Throat] group, and we had special earplugs made.
"He'd swim with those plugs, and then one time he lost one. We said, 'It is what it is, Parks. You have to just do it.' By no means was it an easy journey.
"We had lots of bullying and lots of not-nice kids. The environment is extremely loud when people are cheering. So, the sounds and everything was a lot for him, but each meet taught us something. We're going to do this differently, or we'll try this. But he was still winning.
"You'd show him somebody on the Heat Sheet, and you'd say, 'Parker, this person is faster than you in this lane,' and he'd say, 'OK' and he would just get in and beat him."
As he swam more often, and on more competitive teams, Laura observed, "he just started getting better and better and better – and faster! It's his thing. He loves it."
All in the Family Pool
When Parker isn't training, their Fastlane current gets enjoyed for fitness, aquatic therapy, and play. "I use the Endless probably at least three or four times a week," Laura says. "I have MS, so heat is hard on my body. Swimming is kind. It doesn't hurt anything in me, and I don't get overheated.
"I used to be a runner, and it's just really hard. I had a really bad [multiple sclerosis] flareup when I had my youngest, and I was in a wheelchair. I've done an IRONMAN, I've done all that kind of stuff, even after I got diagnosed. But running, especially with the heat, it's just too much for me.
"It makes me feel terrible the next day; I feel fatigued. So, I just swim. It's private, it's quiet, there's nobody looking at you, judging your stroke," she says with a laugh. "It's hard to swim at his pool with all those coaches!"
When Laura swims, she uses the Endless Pools Fit@Home® app. The app lets you control the current and program interval workouts from Apple or Android devices. "I love that you can see all the different speeds and the distance," she enthuses. "It's very helpful."
The Fastlane current can also provide a refreshing fitness alternative during a South Carolina summer. "It was a 108-degree heat index here yesterday," Laura repots. "I have a daughter who runs cross country, and they weren't running yesterday, so I swam her in the Endless. And she's not a swimmer, but she swam!
"My youngest uses it," she says of her eight-year-old daughter. "She'll jump off the diving board, land in the current, and have the current shoot her to the shallow! It has a fun factor in it."
On the Road to Tokyo
As she prepares for her and Parker's trip to Tokyo, Laura admits to feeling "a little nervous, a little scared. Like I tell my kids all the time: 'If you're nervous, that means it's important.' It's an amazing opportunity."
At 17, Parker will be the youngest male swimmer on Team USA. You can see him representing his country on August 31 in the 200-meter individual medley and again on September 2 in the 100-meter backstroke.