“Swimming has consumed my life for the better.” -Renzo Tjon-A-Joe
Imagine living in a third-world country with no access to Olympic length pools, no clear blueprint on how to train or compete in the water, taking direction from a club coach whose limited knowledge of the sport came from brief international travel to competitions, and training without any teammates. Now, picture the incredible grit it would take to make it to the national and world-class stage of competitive swimming from the described resources. Such is the experience of Renzo Tjon-A-Joe.
Hailing from the country of Suriname – where the last swimming success was 30 years ago when Anthony Nesty won gold – Renzo had little precedent to follow and limited resources to pursue his athletic dreams. But despite these many barriers, he seized every opportunity to learn and improve. This led him to moving to the U.S. in pursuit of a higher level of training and other opportunities:
“Before I had my country’s support in terms of finances, it was three or four times harder for me to travel to the U.S. due to the steep exchange rate. It’s very expensive. That put my family under a lot of financial pressure, so I had a lot to lose once I moved. This taught me to appreciate everything around me and allowed me to excel at the end of the day. Just one flight away, all of these opportunities and resources do not exist.”
If there’s one thing participants will learn from Renzo, it will be an attitude of gratitude: “I really want swimmers at my clinics to adopt the mindset of being way more appreciative of what they have around them, utilizing every resource that much more than they may previously already have.”
In addition to being grateful for the opportunities swimming offers, another important aspect of mindset development is believing in yourself and putting in the hard work. Renzo emphasizes that anyone can develop a champion mindset, no matter their talent level: “Not everyone can be an Olympian or a world champion, but everyone can train like one and have the mentality that they have. That, in and of itself, will take them to places that are way past swimming and into their professional lives.”
While mindset training is incredibly important for success, Renzo also digs into the nitty gritty details of strokes and racing skills. He has a creativity-driven teaching style and an intuitive feel for the water that comes with experience at the upper echelon of the sport, ensuring that swimmers are taught the best strategies and techniques from the most basic to the most complicated of skills. Great swimmers must be built from the ground up: “I like to start from scratch with the body position on the block.”
Renzo particularly likes to focus on teaching starts and other highly interactive skills that translate into fast, powerful swimming. Proper body position is incredibly important for fast swimming, and Renzo encourages playing with positioning to figure out the best swimming style tailored to the race distance: “With sprint freestyle, you have a more fixed body line compared to mid-distance and distance freestyle. Those longer races require your body to be a bit more loose. With sprinting, you have to be more aggressive at maintaining and holding a way stronger core than you do for longer distances.”
His attention to detail and expertly trained eye will lend great insights into your swimmer’s strokes and skills. “I love to see the excitement on the swimmers’ faces when they start figuring it out and know that what I have taught is working for them. They say they feel a huge difference, and coaches and parents will send me videos of their swimmer practicing. It’s so rewarding to see that!”
If you want to hone your swimming skills from an expert with fresh perspective and a growth mindset, look no further than Renzo Tjon-A-Joe’s next Fitter and Faster clinic!