Today’s first Masters workout with GRA was really special, as I have been anticipating a new team in Burbank. Great being coached by Michael. His timing is perfect as the Spring competition season is upon us.
I’m the wife of a new Master’s Swimmer with Golden Road…was blessed to see this team compete in Santa Clarita on Sunday. WOW. What amazing teammwork, love and passion for swimming, and support for each other. I was so proud to be part of that day!
Golden Road Aquatics (GRA) is one of the best masters swimming program in the area. Coach Mike truly cherishes, each and every one of us. For many years I swam for another swim program in the area, and while I enjoyed my time there, it wasn’t until I met Mike that my passion for racing and improving my technique became a bigger priority. Mike motivated me more than any other coach: I wanted to swim faster. I wanted to train harder. I wanted to swim more days each week. Mike made that all possible for me, as he possesses a rare combination of youthful energy and enthusiasm, never harsh or critical, and uses gentleness along with positive reinforcement to correct the most nagging of swimming technique issues. One of the biggest developments for me personally is participating at a higher level at swim meets. Before meeting Mike, I only competed a few times in my swimming career; over the last year, I’ve already swam in fifteen swim meets, and plan on swimming many more this year including all of the upcoming championship meets. This represents a considerable increase in the amount of yearly events I’ve ever done in my life, and I credit this renewed enthusiasm for racing to Mike’s motivation and encouragement. He has certainly given me the confidence to enter more races and participate at a much higher level. Anyone who attends a swim meet these days where GRA is attending knows firsthand the added excitement that we bring: we have many new swimmers (that are also new to masters racing), very fast young swimmers, and an undeniable energy and enthusiasm that I feel never was present at this level before our existence. Mike is certainly a big part of that. I practice nearly every day at the Verdugo pool with the GRA team, and Mike is a consistent figure on the deck, always happy to see each of us when we arrive and dispense advice and information on nearly every aspect of swimming. He’s truly an encyclopedia of swimming knowledge, and knows how to apply specific tips or fixes to each of our individual needs. I’ve already seen my times drop because of an issue he noticed in my freestyle stroke last summer. Mike has affected each of us on our team, as well as the local masters swimming community as a whole. We’re family to him, and I really feel he cares for our well being that goes well beyond the swimming pool.
In early 2015, having noticed flyers at my local pool for “Golden Road Aquatics,” I happened to stop by the pool for my admittedly meager 1500 self-paced lap swim. Noticing my index card workout, Mike casually introduced himself and asked if I wanted to try a workout with the team. “Why don’t you swim with us tonight? No pressure, but since you’re here already, the more the merrier!”, Mike asked. Mike’s welcoming demeanor was refreshing, unlike other “first time” swims I’d tried out else where. It wasn’t about how fast I was, it wasn’t even about finishing the workout. It reminded me why I love the pool and this sport. Organized sports are led by great coaches, not great athletes, and Mike embodies everything it takes to be a great coach. Since that first workout, Mike has encouraged me to become an athlete and a coach again – two passions I’d put on the back burner. His coaching style has just the right amount of push, never pressuring beyond the point I feel comfortable pushing myself, checking on his swimmers when they stop at (almost) every wall, regardless of speed. He’s got the chops to recruit and train the “fasties” (as we lovingly refer to our record breaking swimmers), but I’ve never felt sidelined. If anything, these athletes have joined because they’re seeking the same thing everyone else is – the “work hard, play hard, whatever your speed” environment that Mike embodies. This is what GRA is all about. Mike’s focus and dedication to coaching is infectious, both for those of us refueling our previous swim legs, or those just trying to get through a 200 without stopping. I love watching Coach Mike push himself and other swimmers, and doing impromptu stroke clinics. It takes confidence, faith, and experience to create something that you have worked so hard for. Mike created GRA from nothing and their are so many big things to come from our team.
From the first time I stepped onto the pool deck and observed the swimmers, the coach, the facilities, I was 99.9% sure I had found what I was looking for and needed. Before I got in the water, I talked with Coach Michael about a few physical issues and he assured me that would be know problem. Well it’s been 6 months since I joined GRA and my first impression was correct. Coach Michael’s dedication, enthusiasm, and passion shown towards swimming and the team is evident every day in the way he coaches and encourages everyone to their goals and beyond. Bonus and secret formula is the team feeds off his energy of dedication, enthusiasm and passion for the team. It’s wonderful when teammates tell you, “great job today”, “you’ve improved so much”, “see you tomorrow”. Coach expresses these comments and many others every day. Which in turn, encourages everyone on the team to do the same. And, as far as any physical issue I thought I might have; well those are non-issues. He just ask that we give our best, and the team does and more. The reason I am writing is to give back and say, Thank You. Swimming on this team with his encouragement has been life changing. It’s his dedication, enthusiasm and passion for GRA that I have to periodically tell him, “I love this team”.
In one short year, Golden Road Aquatics has formed a team that has become a welcoming beacon to Masters Swimmers in Southern California. While the team is based in Burbank California, swimmers come from all over Southern California to swim for Golden Road Aquatics. There are a core group of individuals who live and work in the Burbank area who train on a daily basis. Others drive a great distance to receive outstanding coaching from a staff of highly qualified coaches.
The many top caliber swimmers that we have on Golden Road Aquatics is a testament to the support for Coach Mike Lucero. He has created a team in which Nationally Ranked swimmers will stop their less experienced teammates during drills and give them helpful tips and encouragement. On GRA there is no “A” team, there is no “B” Team, there is only one team- a cohesive group that truly encourages one another to do what each individual does not feel possible-but with the encouragement of this team make the impossible happen. This is the most selfless team that I’ve ever encountered. Mike Lucero made this happen with his caring and selfless attitude.
The “Welcoming Spirit” of Golden Road Aquatics is widely known among the Master teams competing in the Southern Pacific Region.
What Coach Lucero has done with Golden Road Aquatics (GRA) in only one year has been truly amazing to witness. As a GRA team member, it is easy to see that the success of the program is directly related to the kind of Coach Lucero is and what he represents. Coach Mike has built a Masters program that is unique and unlike any Masters program I have seen, or heard of. Athletes have traveled from all over LA to swim with Coach Lucero because of the positive environment he has created at GRA. Coach Mike displays his dedication by never missing workouts and he coaches up to 16 workouts per week! His positivity is contagious and he sets the stage for his swimmers to flourish. Coach Lucero’s program undoubtedly hosts the largest high performance masters team in the county. Numerous national records have fallen this year and GRA is only getting started. It has been such pleasure to swim under Coach Lucero (and I have had the opportunity to train under coaching greats such as Dave Salo, Greg Troy, Jon Urbanchek & Pete Malone). What I find even more impressive than any GRA record is how Coach Lucero has naturally established a healthy coaching balance between swimmers of all abilities and ages, sharing his energy evenly amongst all group levels—and his swimmers clearly respect him for this. As a fellow coach, I understand how difficult a task that can be at times. However, Coach Lucero has seemingly effortlessly connected all of his swimmers regardless of skill level, creating an interactive swim community. Coach Lucero spends his time equally with all the lanes he’s coaching and also shares his excitement equally about his swimmers’ personal accomplishments. GRA is truly a team environment. All GRA swimmers, speed or age aside, support each other’s goals and help each other with skills. Many GRA teammates also carry on friendships outside the pool. The importance of competition has also been embedded within the Coach Lucero team culture. His athletes are driven to better themselves. Friendly competitions keep his group motivating themselves and each other. Coach Lucero always has great swimmer participation at meets because that is what he encourages: to race, to evolve, and to have fun doing it!
Golden Road Aquatics: The best team around! Coach Mike truly cares for his swimmers and wants them to succeed and do their best. He is at every practice actually coaching. I have been to many practices where the coach puts up a workout and that is pretty much the extent of what they do- not Mike. Mike walks around the deck offering advice and suggestions, answering questions, pulling swimmers aside if there are specific skills they need to work on. Swimming and his team are everything to Mike. He has created an amazing program with three options a day of when to swim, to work with everyone’s schedule. Also, GRA plans social events. Not only are we a team, but also we are friends, that want to hang out with each other…and motivate each other in all aspects of our lives. I will never swim for any other team again, because no team and no coach will ever compare to GRA and Coach Mike.
In October of 2014 I was homeless and crashing on a friends couch. I lucked out and convinced a family friend to trade me their RV or a computer, cooking at their wedding and a promise to pay. I heard about an aquatics team starting up and decided I would start going as a sort of New Year Resolution. Go swimming or pay for it! To me all the money I had at the end of the month.
I did pretty much exactly that the whole month of January of 2015, paid for it. I didn’t go one day that I can remember.
In February I went to my first day. The coach had amazing energy. He wasn’t too pushy. Meaning he listened to me rabble on about all the Youtube videos I had watched over the last month and a half before finally showing up for a practice.
The Coach, Mike ‘Lucky’ Lucero started giving me little bits of advice, like the pusher-man he gave me one, or two. Here or there. Enticing me to come back where I could see him again the next day. Before long I was completely hooked, like a junkie to the end of a needle, I was addicted to him and the pool.
For March I was in the water everyday before work. I was too scared to attempt Spring Championships in April.. With the encouragement of the team members I kept consistent on practice days. Ditched the RV in July for an apartment. The next month in August I had the guts to go to Mission Viejo for Long Course. I won a couple of ribbons and most importantly I didn’t drown. My best friend had even come to watch and go to dinner with the team after to celebrate. It was one of my happiest moments in my life.
In the month of September 2015, my 10 year old nephew killed himself and everything began to unravel. I tried really hard and got to the pool one day but began to falter in my commitment. I called Christian and told her to cancel my membership.
Mike and Christian never gave up on me. Over the next 6 months they contacted me through Facebook if I didn’t answer my phone. Offering me incentives. Or, asking about going to the end of the year championships if I didn’t want the everyday fix. Anything to get me back in the thrall and intoxication of Golden Road Aquatics.
Their dedication to this team and their love for every member will always astound me. They never make excuses, they never give up, they are always there. Finally after 6 months of gentle seduction I was back in the water. I was with my team for Spring SCY this year, no longer afraid. There is nothing to fear when you have a team of superheroes watching your back. These Coaches, and this team, are my heroes and true champions.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving so much of yourselves to all of us, everyday, and only asking for credit cards numbers in return. Thank you.
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