Grant Greenbaum is a typical teenage kid. He enjoys going to the beach, playing video games and hanging out with friends. Sure, sometimes he’ll grumble that he has too much homework, but generally, he is good-natured and friendly.
As “typical” as he is, Grant stands out from his peers because he spends the majority of his free time at the local swimming pool. Then, there’s also the apparent ease that he can swim a freestyle mile—or any other distance and stroke, for that matter—faster than just about anyone else his age in San Diego County.
From Tadpole to Teen
Grant was 3 when he learned to swim, attending lessons with his older sister, Michala, at the Magdalena Ecke YMCA in Encinitas. At age 5, he joined the Y’s Riptides swim team, following in Michala’s footsteps on a journey into competitive swimming. The talented siblings competed enthusiastically over the following years, supporting each other as teammates and training partners, attending dozens of swim meets and qualifying regularly for various championship events.
In 2011, Grant became the individual high point winner at the San Diego-Imperial Summer Junior Olympics for the 10 and under age group. When he “aged up” to the 11–12 year old bracket, he continued his racing success, and by the end of 2013, he broke the all-time records for the San Diego-Imperial region in 1,000-yard free (10:31.85) and 1,650-yard free (17:31.90). Those records still stand. That year, those times ranked him within the top 20 national USA swimmers for those two distance events.
In January, Grant, now 14, traveled to Roseville, California to compete on the San Diego-Imperial All-Star team. That wasn’t his first time as an all-star representative—it was his sixth.
He has traveled beyond San Diego for other major meets, including the prestigious Western Zone Championships. This event includes top swimmers from California, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Grant has represented the San Diego-Imperial region at Western Zones four times and hopes to compete again later this year.
Dedication and Perseverance
Impressively self-motivated, Grant is extremely dedicated to his training. “People don’t understand how hard swimming is as a sport and how much effort and dedication that it takes,” he says. And there’s no doubt that it’s difficult (for the obvious physical exertion), but also requires great mental effort to swim back and forth, mile after mile.
Grant’s practices are 2 ¼ hours each, 5 days a week. During each session, he does dry-land exercises, runs, and swims 3–4 miles. Additionally, he spends at least one full weekend per month competing. Swimming is a year-round sport, without seasonal breaks. In summers, he adds morning practices.
Mike Benedick, Riptide’s head coach, who started working with Grant in 2014, says, “He is really focused on constantly improving and never settling on what he has always done.” Kids often have to modify their stroke techniques over time as they grow, so there is always room for improvement. Additionally, he observes that Grant possesses an unusual skill for a teen, “He is meticulous about numbers and knows exactly how hard he needs to push his body to achieve a time.”
Life Beyond the Pool
Grant admits that training can interfere with homework, but points out, “It helps that I take ISPE, because I get out of school early three days a week.” Independent Study Physical Education (ISPE) is a program that allows him to substitute swim practice for regular PE at Oak Crest Middle School, where Grant currently attends. He takes school very seriously, too, selecting challenging honors classes, studying diligently for tests and regularly achieving academic honors.
Grant’s work ethic and encouraging manner set a great example for fellow teammates, friendly rivals and aspiring younger athletes alike. To new swimmers, Grant’s advice is, “Set your goals and try to achieve them, and always do your best. In the end, it’s worth it.” He applies this mindset to all aspects of life, both in and out of the water.
Grant’s long-term aspirations include seeking a collegiate sports scholarship. Coach Benedick thinks he’s well on his way. “Grant is a college coach’s dream.”
Interested in learning more about competitive swimming? Read “Competitive Swimming 101” for helpful information.
Lisa Pawlak is an Encinitas resident and mother of two young swimmers. She is a frequent contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and San Diego Family Magazine.
Published: April 2015