The Burke Centre Swim Club members aren’t just learning how to improve their strokes, the children are also learning valuable life lessons and self-confidence.
The club, a Burke Centre Conservancy chartered organization, features two swim teams: the Penguins and the Stingers. Both teams are members of the regional Colonial Swim League, competing in league-wide meets throughout the summer.
"Our focus is to provide an environment where it’s fun and safe," said Coulter Weaver, the Penguins’ head coach.
And while the club is social and fun, it’s still a swim team, not swim lessons, said Cindy Ogren, the Penguins vice president. The club’s members have been growing steadily in recent years, so organizers are looking at ways to control or manage it better. They implemented some tougher criteria for becoming a member, which ensures that each swimmer joining the team has at least a basic level of skill.
JoEllen Osiecki, president of both the Burke Centre Swim Club and the Stingers team, said it’s still a great way to introduce kids into swimming though.
"It’s typically not as strenuous as your year-round clubs," she said.
For the Burke Centre Swim Club, competition is not always the most important thing during the summer. The teams provide social atmospheres for the children during the summer months, said Coulter Weaver, the Penguins head coach.
"It really is a social event for the summer," he said. "I tell them they’re going to have the best summers of their lives."
And the fun comes in many forms for the swimmers. From social poolside parties, to a day at Kings Dominion with other Colonial Swim League teams, the children have numerous opportunities to make new friends and build relationships.
"They learn a lot about setting goals, and the value and hard work of achieving those goals," said Jeremy Casanova, the Stingers head coach. "They also learn self confidence."
The relationship building isn’t restricted to just the swimmers though. Osiecki said parents benefit from the club too. Swim teams are unlike a lot of other sports, she said, because they require so many parent volunteers to run the meets.
"It’s a great community builder," said Osiecki.
Burke Centre also has a lot of military families moving in and out, she said, so the club is a great way for parents and children alike to make new friends and get involved. One of the social events the club sponsors is a parents meet-n-greet.
For the coaches, the swimmers can brighten their days. Casanova said he feeds off the children’s energy and enthusiasm, especially when he’s having a bad day. For Weaver, it’s all about the hugs he gets from the younger swimmers.
"It’s so close here; everyone is like family," said Sarah Lynch, 16, who has been swimming with the club since she was 7-years-old. "I like watching all the kids, plus it’s another way to keep in shape."
THE BURKE CENTRE BOARD of Trustees recently established a pool task force that will look at pool usage throughout the season. The task force was put together after some controversy earlier in the year when the swim club requested extra pool time for their practices.
Some Burke Centre pool members expressed concern about the swim club already taking up too much time, while the swim club maintained that it needed the hours to accommodate its members. In the end, they met in the middle and the club received some extra time, but not all of the time it requested.
Some pool members said the club might be getting too large, and the club recognizes that putting some extra limits on membership might be necessary in the future.
"We, as a club, have to figure out how to meet our growth needs too," said Osiecki.
Osiecki said she has already created a log-in sheet for each of the pools to try and gain some better statistics of pool usage. Anyone visiting the pools will sign their in-and-out times, age range, name, neighborhood of residence and whether they are swim club member. This will help the Conservancy determine who’s using what pools, and at what times, so pool members and club members can coexist better in the future.
"If people are patient enough and can come in and tell us [those log-in sheet items], that helps us know where people are coming from," said Patrick Gloyd, executive director of the Conservancy.