Swim league builds neighborhoods, too

Published 8:31 pm Saturday, July 7, 2012

Team Barracuda’s Victoria Schatzel helps bring home a win in the mixed 11-12 year old 200 meter medley relay.

By Titus Mohler

Meghan Lee and Duncan Irvine are worlds apart when it comes to their swimming skills. But both are benefitting from the chance to swim competitively this summer through the Western Tidewater Swim Association.

The organization gives kids like Meghan, 14, and Duncan, 9, the opportunity to have fun developing their skills, while bringing neighborhoods together through volunteer-led events.


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Christopher Pfrang, president of Team Barracudas, one of eight teams in the WTSA, said the main goal is for the kids to have fun.

“Our goal is really to get someone that’s any level (of swimmer) in there,” he said, “but the official rule is you have to be able to swim 25 yards unassisted, but we’ll even let you do it with a life preserver. Of course, you’d be disqualified, but at least you got to swim. It’s all about fun for the kids; that’s really what it comes down to.”

In their fifth meet of the season, Team Barracudas fell yesterday to the Smithfield Dolphins by a score of 282-257.

Other Suffolk members of the league include teams from the Nansemond Swim Club and the Tsunami Swim Club from Burbage Grant. The season consists of seven meets over the course of seven weeks, ending July 14.

“It’s extremely quick,” Pfrang said.

Despite her team’s loss, Meghan Lee won all four of her events. And even though Duncan Irvine did not win any of his events, he managed to shave 15 seconds off his previous best time in each one.

Team Barracudas has about 73 swimmers, ranging in age from 5 to 18. Some teams in the league have more than 100 members.

Each meet includes events featuring the breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly, freestyle and relays, for a total of 66 events. Meets last more than three hours, and still some kids don’t get to swim competitively.

“If you have six kids, three don’t get to swim,” Pfrang said. “So, what we do a lot is we add an extra exhibition heat to it so that they can swim as well.”

Pfrang said parents have great motivation to get their kids involved in the league.

“I would say for the team spirit of camaraderie, the exercise and being part of also a neighborhood, because all of the teams are neighborhood-based, in a sense,” he said. “You have to be a member of a particular pool in order to swim for that team.”

The teams get kids together who might not otherwise meet, and that has benefits that go beyond the pool, he added.

“It’s good for the neighborhood,” he said. “What we did find this year a lot (is) even the developer and sort of the management of the pool and the neighborhood are coming around to realizing how much this helps the development of a neighborhood.”

At least one family has moved into one of the league’s neighborhoods just because of the swim team, he said.

Pfrang explained that a major asset for parents is to be able to walk across the street to their kid’s activity, as opposed to driving halfway across town.

Parents are important to the league, because the WTSA is entirely volunteer-run. Meets do not happen without parents filling the roles of timers, scorekeepers, judges, starters and so on. However, this interactivity helps make the league unique.

“What other sport can you actually be in the game, so to speak?” Pfrang asked. “In any other sport — soccer — you sit on the sideline. Maybe you scream a little bit, but you’re not there with a stopwatch right when your kid jumps in, and so that’s something that a lot of parents get.”

Ultimately, the WTSA hopes to grow along with the swimmers it trains.

“Our goal really is we want to have more teams join the league,” Pfrang said. “That would be great if we could get more kids involved in swimming. That’s what we really all want to get.”