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GCU Club Swimming athletes changing culture and community

Club swimming head coach and athlete posing
December 30, 2019

By: Natalie Van Dyke/GCU Staff

Fifty-four athletes on their roster.  New facilities opening.  The development of synchronized swimming and water polo teams going strong.

Still not quite enough.

Even in a season of strong growth, GCU Club Swimming wants to show athletes that they can swim at a high level while still pursuing different interests, serving the community, and building a successful and servant leadership-driven culture.

“We have a reputation for a great community, but I always want that to improve,” said Lopes’ Head Coach Jeremy Phung. “We want to continue to do more within our community and within other communities.  We’ve been serving with Feed My Starving Children, but we want to reach more locally and serve the needs of our neighbors in Phoenix. Any way we can reach out and improve the lives of others we want to do, and it will also improve our quality of character.”

One standout athlete on the swim team who is embracing all that GCU Club Swimming is and strives to be is Colleen O’Kane.

The freshman from Buckeye who’s majoring in Hospitality Management had many offers to swim at the NCAA DII level, but an injury to her shoulder in her senior year of high school caused her to evaluate some new options. Phung had been actively recruiting O’Kane to come swim for his team. Ultimately, the offer of competitive collegiate swimming, time to pursue her future career, serve the community and share her faith with others was an offer O’Kane couldn’t turn down.

“Swimming has always been important to me, but I’ve also always had a strong faith background, and I knew that was important to me to take into my college experience,” said O’Kane. “I want to help others, and GCU’s local and global outreach provides great opportunities for that. Just being present in someone’s life and showing them that they are loved is so important.”

The need of support in the community surrounding GCU is strong, and the desire of O’Kane and her teammates to be a part of that is important. GCU Club Swimming provides these athletes with the opportunity to swim at a competitive level without the time commitment of other athletic programs while still reaping the academic benefits and experiences of attending a DI University. With over 100 undergrad degree programs, career counselors and endless outreach opportunities, GCU makes it possible to do all of that.

Now halfway through her first year with the program, O’Kane already relishes the opportunities she’s enjoyed – opportunities that come from a platform to have success in and out of the pool, which has been paved for them by people like Phung and Lopes’ senior Samuel Jones.

“I wanted it to continue to be the sport I love, not turn it into a job,” said Jones. “Swimming at the club level, I still have the chance to compete competitively, but I also have time to serve in the community and pursue different elements of my future.”

Jones also competed with the GCU Club Golf team, where he competed at nationals and was able to continue playing two sports he has great passion for. Jones has also served with local and global outreach as well as serving outside of GCU organized community outreach programs. While Sam turned down a few offers to swim for DI programs, he has proven to himself and others that there is still a chance to swim at a high level and gain other experiences along the way.

“It’s a great place to find balance in a busy season of life,” said Phung. “We have many national-level swimmers, and even more athletes graduating into great careers. I try to emphasize that balance and make it a possibility for us all to have community fueled by a sport we all love, and expanded by serving others.”

The success the Lopes hope for in the pool continues Feb. 9 at the NAU meet in Flagstaff.

Interested in joining the club swimming team? Contact the coach to learn more!