Recently Jon Sakovich, assistant head coach for the Bolles School and Sharks was in Hilo to speak on “Commitment to Sport” and “athletes preparing for college.”
“I am just passing through from a trip to Palau, Saipan and the Marshall Island where I conducted swim clinics,” Sakovich said.
“Water sports are so much part of the culture in island communities,” Sakovich said. “There are so many opportunities available to youngsters who love the water and as a result they produce kids that are good swimmers.”
Sakovich, who was born on the Big Island and later moved with his parents to Saipan, became well known for his swimming talents.
If the last name sounds familiar it is because both his parents, Bill and Jean, are swim coaches in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation with Bill coaching at Waiakea and Jean at Hilo High.
In 1987, young Sakovich, while still in high school, competed for the Northern Mariana Islands in the South Pacific Games and won six medals. The following year Sakovich competed in swimming for Guam during the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games while still in high school.
Sakovich attended the University of Florida and following his freshman year was given a 70 percent scholarship, making it to the NCAA championships in 1991 and ’92.
“I was only in Hilo for three days on my way back to Florida, as I promised my wife I’d be back in time for Easter,” he said. “My parents asked me if I would speak to a group of swimmers while I was here and I wanted to help in any way I could.”
“Swimming has giving a lot to me and I want to give back and help in any way that I can to get kids to the next level,” he said.
At Waiakea High School Sakovich talked to more than 30 swimmers about the importance of having a passion to swim.
“Being passionate and having a strong desire to do well is more important than having good swimming facilities,” Sakovich said.
“If kids have the desire and work hard they accomplish anything,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where they are, in Palau, Saipan, Micronesia or Hawaii, if they put their mind to it and not limit their dreams they can make to the higher level.”
Sakovich also talked about the importance of doing well in school to be able to get to the collegiate level.
“Failure is part of being successful,” he said. “When you get knocked down and fail a few times, you need to get back up and try again.”
Bolles is a private K-12 school and their swimming program has over 300 participants ranging in ages from 6 to 19. “We have a tradition of excellence at Bolles and we take great pride in developing some of the best swimmers in the world,” Sakovich said.
Sakovich also talked about looking for the right college and the process that it takes to make it to the collegiate level.
“The most important thing about swimming is to have a passion for it,” he said. “If you’re extremely committed it’s not a sacrifice, if you don’t like what you’re doing then it becomes a sacrifice.”
Most of what Sakovich spoke about could apply to any sport, “passion for what you do, no matter if its track or volleyball or basketball, is the key to succeeding in everything you do,” he said.
Sakovich loves the sport of swimming because, as he puts it, in swimming everybody can compete and they can choose the event that they want to do. “In swimming you have as much opportunity as everyone else,” Sakovich said.