No cost Winchester swim team completes first season
Published 9:30 am Saturday, July 22, 2023
The cost of competitive swimming has made the sport inaccessible to many low to mid-income families. Pool fees, swim lessons, coaching salaries, entry fees, equipment, transportation, and the availability of swimming pools are luxuries that many can’t afford.
Of the 340,000 year-round athletes registered with USA Swimming, only one percent identify as African American and about three percent as Hispanic. Perhaps due to lack of access, studies have found that a large percentage of minority children in the United States have little or no swimming ability, putting them at increased risk of drowning.
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This summer, the Winchester-Clark County Parks and Recreation (WCCPR) partnered with the Friends of the Parks non-profit organization and the Swimchester Sailfish USA Swimming Team to provide a no-cost competitive swim team opportunity. Their mission was to increase access to swimming in Clark County.
The Friends of the Parks already funds free swim lessons for Clark County preschoolers. With the Friends, the Swimchester Sailfish families committed to providing scholarships to fund the new Winchester-Clark County Parks and Recreation Summer Swim Team, the Wave Runners.
The Wave Runners were coached by Bill Lorenz, retired forest supervisor of the Daniel Boone National Forest. Lorenz has been involved in swimming in age-group, junior college, and U.S. Masters Swimming competition, coaching and as a swim parent.
The Wave Runners practiced at the College Park swimming pool and competed as one of eleven teams in the Bluegrass Swim Conference. For the inaugural season, the team was open to boys and girls aged 9-16 who could swim the 25-yard length of College Park Pool. There were no fees. Pool time, bathing suits, swim caps, goggles, flippers, kickboards, swim bags and experienced coaches were provided.
The Bluegrass Swim Conference supported the goal of making swimming accessible to everyone. The conference admitted the WCCPR team and scheduled meets even before the team had swimmers. Once admitted, the team started the season with four swimmers who practiced four to five hours each week. The swimmers learned four competitive strokes and swam in four meets, including the conference championship in Berea. For 2024, the goal is to expand the team to field relay teams in all age groups from age 6 to 16. The dates and times for tryouts will be posted at Clark County Public Schools, daycare centers, and the parks and recreation websites. Scholarships will be available to ensure that access to competitive swimming is affordable to all.
Under aquatics director Kevin Ryan, the College Park pool offers a comprehensive program of aquatic activities, including aquatic fitness classes, swimming lessons, U.S. Masters Swimming, lifeguard training and recertification, a certified infant swimming resource instructor for the Self-Rescue Swimming Program, and both a year around and summer swim team. The USA Swimming team, Swimchester Sailfish, currently has about 90 members.