Tucker Dupree’s swimming career does not follow the norm for many elite athletes. Four years after his first practice, Dupree successfully competed on the world stage. Sounds like an easy life, right?
Wrong. At 17 years old, Tucker had irreversibly lost 70% of his central vision within a four-month time span. Inflicted with a rare genetic mutation that has only affected 9,000 people in recorded history, he was forced to come to grips with a new reality.
You may wonder how a man who is centrally blind can effectively watch and coach technique; however, his visual adaptation techniques and emphasis on body awareness have actually strengthened his ability to connect verbal instructions with observable technical changes in the water.
Utilizing peripheral vision and his competitive experience, Tucker is able to elaborate on the importance of body awareness and stroke counts to ensure participants at his clinics will be able to execute their best race.
“Our sport is about consistency and repetition. I count all of my strokes and use lane lines to make sure I hit my turns and get to the wall first,” he explains.
Swimmers attending his clinics will become aware of their limb positions in relation to their bodies, and their entire body position in relation to the wall. Armed with this knowledge, swimmers will be able to map out the ideal stroke count to the wall, the most efficient underwater kick count and execute a perfect turn by reducing drag produced by improper head or hip positions. Believe it or not, a smarter swimmer is a faster swimmer!
Because Dupree had to take coaching feedback verbally rather than visually, he built up a remarkable toolbox of cues and explanations that will undoubtedly connect with swimmers of all backgrounds.
“We all have different ways of learning. There’s no one way to fix your stroke. We’ll have over 100 swimmers at clinics, and I see them as 100 different opportunities to connect and develop a better way to train and race. Athletes get coached at all the time. I am here to coach with the swimmers.”
Choosing to engage in each practice, whether you’re feeling fresh or exhausted, is crucial to becoming a great swimmer. Dupree credits his quick rise in swimming success to acute attention to details and technique rather than pounding out the yardage.
“The swimmers must choose one or two skills each practice to sharpen. You do hundreds of flip turns in practice, but are you in-tune with your technique each flip, or are you just going through the motions?”
He will break down certain skills and repeat them until the swimmers have their “lightbulb moment” rather than flooding them with information and moving on.
In addition to his wealth of swim knowledge, Dupree emphasizes the importance of strengthening the mental aspect of competition and the daily grind of training: “The mental aspect of competition is what sets apart the good from the great.” Mastering your mindset starts with awareness of your body, confidence in your training, and an informed race strategy built from trial and error.
Rather than viewing visual impairment as a set-back, he describes it as an opportunity through which he has been able to represent the USA, compete at the highest level and give back to the swimming community.
Tucker Dupree embodies the true spirit of competitiveness, resiliency and work ethic. Swimmers of all ages will not only learn technique and skills in a unique way but also how to sharpen their mental focus and toughness from a master of mindset. “You can’t control a lot of things. But you can control your attitude, warm-up and race strategy.”
Dupree’s natural instinct to turn challenges into opportunities for growth will not only transform your swimmer’s perspective on the sport, but also sharpen their ability to adapt and rise to meet any challenge life may bring.
If nothing else, Dupree wishes to impart these nuggets of wisdom: “Know what you can control, and work with what you cannot. Find what triggers your ‘happy’ and have a supportive community. It’s easy to get caught up in the grind for success. But at the end of the day, the ability to have limitless vision and know what makes you happy is what defines success.”
“Tucker, you were absolutely amazing, and the kids loved you! Your teaching style kept them focused and allowed them to maximize their learning and retention. We would love to have you back in the future! Thank you so much for your time and expertise!” -Erika, from Clarinda, IA
“Tucker did an awesome job. He has a knack for communicating in a way that engages everyone in the room. The kids, coaches, and parents hung on every word he said throughout both sessions. The kids worked very hard at what he was teaching them. Tucker catered to my son’s broken arm and worked with him on modifying the drills so he could participate. He was very personable, and everyone he met fully enjoyed having him here. My son said this was the best clinic he has done, broken arm and all! Thank you, Tucker!” -Becky, from Pierre, SD
“Tucker, you are an inspiration to those who watched and learned from you. Your skills are fantastic. I don’t know how you do it with your vision impairment – we were amazed! Good luck in your future endeavors.”