My name is Michael Olson. I was born here in Springfield and graduated from Southeast in 1997. I was on the SUSA swim team and was a swim teacher Eisenhower pool and Olympic club. In 1997, I joined the Army and was stationed in Washington DC at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC). While volunteering to teach swim lessons, I was asked to become certified by American Red Cross to train lifeguards and swim instructors for the pool on the base. I taught and trained soldiers on base and those injured in Iraq who were treated at WRAMC and taking physical therapy. After a heart attack in 1995 and an auto accident in 2001, I became a physical therapy patient. As of this year, I use a wheelchair most days, but in the evenings, I still walk to maintain mobility. The thing I love about swimming is that when I am in the pool, I don’t feel handicapped. I feel free like I could float.
I am married and live in Pleasant Plains. I have two children who are both in college. My son attends SIU Carbondale and my daughter is at Texas A&M Corpus Christi. My family has been members of the YMCA since early 2000’s when my kids learned swimming, Tae Kwon Do, gymnastics, and soccer.
About three years ago I stopped volunteering for the Girl Scouts as a troop leader and found I had a lot of time on my hands. I realized I could spend more of my time teaching and working at the YMCA. I have taught people from 4 months to 97 how to swim, including many with severe trauma and medical conditions. I love teaching people how to swim, and there is no challenge too big.
My wife says when I retire my life will be full, teaching swimming, driving school buses, and when my beard becomes all white I will need a special red outfit for 2 months. Most people (kids at heart) call me Mr. Mike.”