SGPT Interviews Everyday Warrior Hero Gene Smithson

Are you ready for anything at anytime? Are you a liability or are you an asset to your community?

As Sheepdogs that is a question that we live for everyday. We want to run towards a blazing building and help someone to safety. We want to work and be useful in society.

Gene Smithson stepped up to the plate when he was needed most. He answered the call and saved someones life.

Check out the interview with Gene as we talk about his daily training and what happened at the Austin springs pool.

SGPT: Tell us about yourself?

GS: Good morning Coach,it’s great to be here.
Let’s see…I’m a 62 year old martial arts instructor in Austin TX. I am also a blue water Navy vet from way back.

SGPT: Did you have an athletic background growing up?

GS: I have been working out and training for my entire life and SGPT is where I have landed. I competed in triathlon for over a decade, competed in kickboxing and submission fighting up into my 40s and was never wholly happy with those disciplines. For me SGPT filled the gaps I had been missing and became my personal base.

Training hurts. I mean it’s painful everytime if you put out and that builds your resilience and your spirit. You know at 62 I sometimes wondered if I was even an asset anymore. Those instances where immediate and effective actions are required only come rarely and you start to wonder.

That’s what I would say is something noteworthy.

Doing the training every day, week after week, year after year with no guarantee that you will be tested to the maximum…that’s noteworthy and you folks do that I think.

Anyway, Im still training every day, same as always, and I have earned confidence that SGPT training keeps me capable in the ways I need to be capable,in the ways the privilege of being alive demands I be capable.

When COVID came, I signed up for an SGPT Controlling the Chaos course and for me it was absolutely perfect. I love how SGPT addresses fitness of mind and body and, from my perspective at least, spirit. I feel like SGPT builds an all around warrior who can adapt to whatever is thrown at them.

The last thing I’ll say about that is that I don’t really consider myself a hero at all. I think it is our duty or joy filled responsibility, to be as competent and ready to lend a hand as is possible. It’s a sacred obligation to be the best human you can be, in my opinion. SGPT has you covered in that scenario.

SGPT: Tell us about what happened at the pool?

GS: So, Barton Springs is a spring fed pool here in Austin that has a natural rocky bottom that ranges from 18 feet deep to shallow end on a limestone beach on one end and a man made dam on the other.

It’s THE go to swim spot in Austin but you have to get there early if you want to be alone or at least feel like you are.

It was a recovery day in the 90 day program I was following from Coach and the springs are ideal for that. You can do a leisurely half mile or mile swim in 70 degree water that is as pure as water gets… straight up out of deep in the earth. My son’s refer to it as magic water andi tend to agree.

I had finished my swim and was relaxing on the bank in a sort of meditative state. I struggle with anger issues if I don’t stay on top of my mind. It was early so only one lifeguard stand was in use… usually they just keep an easy eye on swimmers until the crowds start showing up later.

I noticed when two young ladies came into the area down where I was sitting. They were unusual because they were dressed in long pants and long sleeve shirts. In Austin this is quite unusual.

One of my favorite parts of being at the springs is watching people enter the water 😀 the shock of the water elicits screams and huffing and puffing and exclamations of sheer happiness or feigned horror! People try to ease slowly in or jump in and splash the people easing in…it’s really a happy thing to watch, laughter and shrieks and reluctance all mixed in,very nice to be around.

These two young ladies eased into the water taking one step at a time ,shoulders hunched up around their ears and chatting with one another. They eased down the side of the pool, which is about 5 feet deep, while holding onto a bar that runs along the side.

I heard one girl ask the other if she knew how to swim.
Well that got my attention! But she answered yes and they continued to chat and sort of hover and so I continued with my meditation.

Maybe ten minutes later I heard H..blub blubblub and looked to see one of the young ladies vertical and sinking while trying to climb water.

In retrospect I’m honestly amazed at how quickly I was in the water and swimming to her.
Later I discovered that I had put a serious bruise on one foot pushing so hard off the side when I jumped in. There was no thought involved at all that I can remember until right as I was closing on her position.

I had the quick thought, She’s going to try and drown you, but it’s okay.
Sure enough when I got to her even under water she climbed on top of me. I got one minor scratch and I think that’s it. I believe it was because I was so relaxed and just went down and under without resisting.

Anyway, I got under her and shoved her to the surface. I think she got a breath of air because she relaxed for a second. That’s when I swam up and turned her and drug her over to the side. The swim was roughly 75-100 feet, so not far and by the time I got her to the side the lifeguards had run down from their office/shack and pulled her up on the deck.

It was an incredibly explosive and exhausting few minutes. The lifeguards were all high diving me and taking care of the young lady.

Later she talked to me and said it was her last day visiting Austin and thank God it wasn’t her last day. She is from London and was flying back later that day. She was really grateful and I admit both of us were pretty emotional, which is highly unusual for me.

The last thing is what happened. She told me she was swimming and thought she could touch bottom. She reached her feet down and sunk straight down. The surprise of inhaling water when there was no bottom caused her to panic and in her words just black out and panic.

Another interesting thing was how no one else even reacted. An older woman told me it happened so fast and no one knew what to do. Maybe training is sometimes, don’t think about it just go! I don’t know but that’s what happened and I’m happy I was there and able.

You know I never have a problem working out. I don’t believe I’ve missed more than a couple of days in ten years…but the type of working out we do here prepares you for real world scenarios.

SGPT: Wow; what a story. Thanks Gene for stepping up to the plate and getting the job done when it mattered most in saving someones life.

Triathlon…I was straight line fast and cardio fit but lacking in strength and explosive power, martial arts I had plenty of explosive power but was like a freaking rock in the water. I feel like the physical side of SGPT put me in the best position to be useful.

If there is a heroic aspect to anything I do, it’s one you all do as well. Day after day putting in the work, physical, mental and spiritual to be ready, to be useful.

SGPT: Thanks for the interview Gene. We admire your strength and courage in helping to save a drowning person.

GS: Thank you Coach and keep on training teammates. Thank you for the awesome training!

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