Dave Berkoff has held a myriad of titles throughout his life: Olympic gold medalist, world record holder, creator of the “Berkoff Blastoff,” elite swim coach. It’s because of his decades-long esteemed career in the swimming world that BioOx is thrilled to announce Berkoff as the company’s first-ever brand ambassador.
Berkoff spent years studying air quality while pursuing his Master’s in Environmental Studies. In working with the Environmental Protection Agency, he researched the impact of exposure to chlorinated organics on competitive swimmers, leading ultimately to his 34-page thesis dissertation in 1995. Access to healthy, breathable air is clearly an issue that Berkoff is passionate about – and also one he’s experienced personally through his decorated career in competitive swimming.
“I would go to different pools on training trips and I’d be getting sick every time I came home,” Berkoff says of his competition days in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “I was really being torn down physically by breathing chemicals in the air.”
Berkoff says he knew he was a healthy person, but the asthmatic symptoms were a regularity and there seemed to be no solution. While some coaches would try to improvise by opening doors or turning on fans, improvement was minimal. And some facilities managers refused to open doors at all, leaving swimmers, coaches and parents to breathe in stale air for upwards of six hours each day over the course of a three- or four-day meet.
As a coach, Berkoff watched thousands of swimmers succumb to many of the same health challenges he faced as a result of poor air quality, such as coughing fits. Berkoff has pulled hundreds of swimmers from races throughout his coaching career who were struggling to breathe, and he was there for the infamous Caleb Dressel incident at Junior Nationals in 2013, where the young swimmer had to be taken to the hospital mid-meet.
“He was the best high school swimmer in the country and he had to scratch out of the second half of the meet at a time when he was setting national records,” Berkoff said.
For Berkoff, joining BioOx is about joining a team that’s committed to solving the air quality issue that’s rampant in the swimming world and that’s needlessly endangered generations of swimmers and coaches. And in terms of the decision to come on as an ambassador, Berkoff says that was pretty simple.
“I believe in it and there’s no reason not to try it,” he says. “I’ve talked to countless people who feel that the BioOx system has made a huge impact in their programs.”
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While Berkoff retired from an illustrious 30-year coaching career earlier this year, he says he wishes his swimmers could have reaped the benefits of the BioOx system. Instead, he explains, his swimmers suffered in conditions so unbearable that he sometimes sent them out to the parking lot to sleep in their cars rather than endure the unbreathable air.
Berkoff’s team swam most of its major meets in a world class facility in Federal Way, Washington. The county spent nearly a million dollars on a new HVAC system, but air quality issues still persisted. Berkoff notes, “They could have spent a tiny fraction of that money on a BioOx system and it would have been just as good – if not better.”
Berkoff says another aspect that drew him to the BioOx system is the flexibility and level of personal attention. Every coach, parent or aquatics manager who reaches out gets a call from the company’s sales director to discuss the challenges the facility is experiencing and ways that BioOx can address them.
“BioOx isn’t some massive company where you have to jump through hoops to get your problem solved,” Berkoff says. “They’re real people who will quickly and efficiently send you their machines so your swimmers won’t have to deal with things like wheezing or coughing fits.”
“If aquatics facilities realize that if they can afford a new scoreboard or a few new starting blocks, they can afford BioOx to help their swimmers breathe better,” Schapiro said. “And there’s nobody better than Dave to speak to how important breathable air is – in terms of health as well as from a competition perspective.”
“We’re thrilled to have Dave’s valuable insight on the team, both in terms of his deep connections to the swimming community and his academic expertise on the broader issue of indoor air quality,” added BioOx inventor and CEO Sam Sofer. “We look forward to partnering with Dave to continue to transform the health and well-being of the swimming community.”
About Air & Water Solutions
At Air & Water Solutions, we’re changing the way people think about the air they breathe. We’re leaving a positive impact on the health of the Earth, and making it a safer, more enjoyable place for those who live here.
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