When Lisa Derr watches her 7-year-old daughter, Saige, swim on The Club’s swim team in Jackson, Miss., she of course hopes she’s having fun. But more importantly, Derr hopes Saige is learning the skills she needs to be a strong, confident swimmer.
Fortunately, Derr hasn’t been disappointed. As a result of Saige’s instruction on The Club’s swim team, she has progressed over the past few years into a capable swimmer — one that not only enjoys swimming, but also loves the competitive atmosphere. “I love [participating] in the meets, and the competition,” said Saige.
Saige’s success is a source of pride for herself, her mother and The Club, which launched the swim team program three years ago, soon after the facility opened. Each year, the team has gathered around 25 kids (of club members). According to Travis Twilbeck, the aquatics director for The Club, although the team is only a few years old, it is already a valued program.
“Having a swim team has benefited the club in a few ways,” explained Twilbeck. “One, by providing programming for the kids and teens. Two, it gives our club some visibility among other clubs. And three, it builds a sense of pride among club members and their children to perform well. This can help with member retention and identity within the club for the members.”
According to Twilbeck, the swim team is also profitable. “A swim team can be profitable, especially if a club has the ability to host a swim event and provide snacks and programs for a small fee.”
The Club does both. “Most of the money our club gets from swim team events goes into investing into the team for things like equipment,” continued Twilbeck. “It also helps to compensate a part-time coach and lifeguards to help with the team.”
Derr has been impressed with the caliber of meets The Club has hosted, as well as the progress of the team since its inception. “The team has a good reputation,” she said. “As parents, we want the kids to have fun. However, our goal is to have strong, confident swimmers, and the team has accomplished that.”
In fact, Saige said swimming is now her favorite activity. “[The instructor] teaches me how to do the strokes the right way,” she said. Saige can now execute all four classic swimming strokes correctly, including breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly and freestyle.
Next season, Derr plans on enrolling Saige’s younger sister, Sydney, onto the team. “She’s been dying to start because she watches her sister practice and compete at the meets,” said Derr. “She’s ready to go.”
Tips from Travis Twilbeck on Operating a Swim Team
1. Talk with other clubs and organizations in the area to see what types of leagues there are out there. Our club participates in a more fun and friendly summer league, but there can be competitive leagues that are tough to start out in.
2. Find members that have competitive swimming experience, who may be interested in being involved, and ask for their advice or involvement.
3. Send a staff member to observe a swim meet in the league you are wanting to compete in, as well as find out who organizes the league. Doing a little research in the beginning can save a lot of work later on.
By Rachel Zabonick