Olympic games inspire many to join sports leagues - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Olympic games inspire many to join sports leagues

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Numbers show the world's biggest stage for athletics consistently helps grow sports participation.

When it comes to swimming, the world wide exposure is really limited to the Olympics every four years.

"High school swimming has gone up about 18 percent since 2008..what happened in 2008 in August? Michael Phelps, Beijing Olympics, trying to get the 8 gold medals."

Swimming really depends on these big, memorable, Olympic moments to draw new participants into the sport.

With names like Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky bringing home Gold medals and breaking world records,it's easy to see how these dream catchers would inspire others.

From a marketing standpoint, CCU professor Mark Mitchell says that is Gold on its own for a sport like swimming.

"The athlete has become the celebrity, not just the sport," Mitchell said. "Not unlike the NBA selling its players or NFL...Swimming has started to do that by highlighting the individual athletes."

However, the challenge now is how to continue the recruiting momentum when these big-name athletes retire.

"Some of their marquee athletes will cycle out of the sport, and they'll need the younger athlete to continue that level of excellence to garner that attention they get," Mitchell said.

That attention can work for other sports and even into the collegiate recruiting process.

"When someone leaves your program and eventually reaches those highest levels of performance, certainly that may help in your recruiting because you're able to talk about the athletes we've helped to develop,"

CCU's very own Amber Campbell...an Olympic hammer thrower taking her skills to Rio this week...is an example of just that.

Mark Mitchell/ CCU marketing professor
"We don't know how she's going to do, she's going into the event top ten ranked in the world. this is the third time she's been there. that's just beautiful to have her representing all of us along the grand strand at the highest levels," Mitchell said.

The motivation the Olympics generate isn't limited to athletes though.

"We love talking about what this might do for the organized sport...but what is this going to do for the person with high blood pressure that decides to go to the gym? What's it going to do for the mall walkers that walk an extra lap because they've been inspired by the success of these athletes? That to me is equally powerful and may touch more lives than the athletes themselves," Mitchell said.

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