By Thomas Albano
The swimming and diving team has found a way to benefit both itself and the local community — raising money by hosting children’s swimming lessons taught by the athletes.
Head Coach Steven Fletcher hopes these clinics will bring more buzz to his squad, while also helping the team’s budget problems.
“We’re running programs for the local swimming community for a couple of reasons,” Fletcher said. “One is for outreach. After having tried to build a program over the last 13 to 14 years, we feel that outreach is important for people to know that there’s a competitive swimming and diving program here. Previous athletes and teams that we’ve coached have brought it to a pretty competitive level. Secondly, we’re doing this as a way to support our operating budget.”
There are a total of two four-week sessions, each of which has two different time slots, both a half hour long. The clinics can hold up to 30 students, but are kept at a 2-to-1 instructor-to-student ratio, according to Fletcher. The young swimmers are not broken up into age groups, but rather by ability and learning progression. The clinics were conceived by Fletcher and the other coaches, and the first one was run this past spring for older children.
“It was our first time running any kind of camp or clinic,” Fletcher said. “The swim program is something that was in place here, but we haven’t run swim lessons for over 20 years. There was a time when there was a pretty big program here, so we’re trying to restart it — granted we’re not recruiting 6-year-olds.”
The instructors of the sessions are all members of the swimming and diving team, and all, in one way or another, have experience in teaching swimming lessons. More importantly, they have a love of teaching, according to Fletcher.
One of these athletes is junior breaststroker Morgan Kandrac, who has taught swimming in the past; she feels teaching children how to swim is rewarding.
“Swimming can be a really independent sport because it’s you racing other people, so most people see it as really individual,” she said. “I think seeing someone else succeed from your guidance, and learning how to swim from you helping them, is just a reflection of what you want as an athlete. We have lots of help along the way from really good coaches. I think teaching all these kids is rewarding because that’s what we want to see out of ourselves, and we can help other people with that.”
Fletcher sees the love and passion the athletes have for teaching.
“You can tell they’re experienced at it and they can handle giving the instructions very well,” he said. “They hold the kids’ attention very well and they give them some good information. All of the families that have come are really excited about it and have enjoyed the interaction the child has had with the athletes. So it’s a win-win.”
Fletcher also said it can be positive for the athletes because it shows them how much they truly understand what they’ve learned.
“As athletes, there comes a point where they have the ability to teach, but they’re still competing and training,” Fletcher said. “They can learn about their own swimming by trying to teach something to someone who is struggling with that concept. I think by teaching, an athlete can also learn.”
Overall, parents are very pleased by how the athletes have instructed their children, and by the small-group atmosphere that comes with these lessons.
One father was very impressed with the athletes as instructors and how well informed the young swimmers were after their lessons.
“They work hard — all of them, and it’s a plus for the kids,” he said.
Kandrac said running these clinics is financially positive for the team.
“All the proceeds go to the team budget because we have a really large team and a rather small budget,” she said. “Sometimes we get in tough situations when it comes to, ‘How are we getting to this meet? How are we getting to that meet?’ Sometimes things come up that we just have to pay for and weren’t really planned as part of the budget.”
At the end of the day, however, the biggest reward for the athletes is being able to teach children what they love to do.
“This is what we do every day — we swim,” Kendrac said. “To put us up on the other side of the fence and teach people how to swim, it kind of puts us at a different perspective, but it is a really good idea. What else do we do on Sundays? We sleep and do homework. We can give a half hour lesson to someone.”