qathet region’s new year-round swim club is hoping to make a splash in competitions moving forward.
Marissa Schweitzer, head coach of the West Coast Wind swim club, said there are two different competitive sectors of swimming in Canada: summertime clubs and year-round programs.
“In years past our community has only had that summer option,” said Schweitzer. “Most communities have both. They draw different types of competitors and different types of athletes.
“When you see competitive swimmers in the bigger, wider world, such as those on TV, or making the Olympics, those athletes are training year-round. Our town and community has never really had the option to build up athletes to that kind of goal-set.”
Schweitzer said she grew up swimming with the summer club in this community and loved it. She also coached in the club for several years, but always wanted to have the year-round option and have bigger goals. She said after moving away and going to school, and coaching in year-round programs in Victoria, she realized this town could have a program like this. It would just take someone to create it.
“Back last fall, in 2021, I was chatting with some athletes who I used to coach here, and they were finding themselves at kind of a loss because they wanted to have bigger goals and to train for them,” said Schweitzer. “I decided to take it on and do it. I had this little group of eight swimmers last fall and the pool space. We started training at this higher capacity.
“In the meantime, after starting training, I started putting forward the paperwork to have this program. I created a nonprofit organization through the government and reached out to the governing body of the sport in BC and they were super lovely and graced us. They don’t usually take on new clubs until the end of each season but I was asking them to accept us in the winter and they decided to accept us in February .”
Schweitzer said that as a result, the club’s swimmers were able to compete last season. It was only at two meets but “it was amazing.”
This fall is the beginning of the club’s first fully affiliated season. The season goes from September to the beginning of August.
She said the new club has close ties with Powell River Aquatic Club, the summer club, which has been around since before a pool was built in this community. She said this past summer, West Coast Wind competed with the summer club and she coached with the summer club. As a result, West Coast Wind swimmers were well conditioned coming into the new season.
West Coast Wind has grown substantially since its inception. Originally, last year, there were eight swimmers, and another eight have been added to the roster. Schweitzer said there are now two age groups in the year-round club program.
“There was interest for a third and younger group, but I am the only person coaching this team, and I am the person running the administration side of it as well,” said Schweitzer. “We have a small executive to help, but tripling the size of the club wasn’t an option. But it is amazing. Our community is supportive and the pool staff is extremely supportive.
“It’s been explained to me that twice, there have been attempts to start a club like ours, and finally, the goal is coming forward, so a lot of people are really excited.”
As for the current composition of the swim club, the younger group goes from 11 to 14 years of age and the older group is from 15 to 19.
“We are aiming for youth from grade seven to grade 12 at this point,” said Schweitzer.
The swimmers are currently training four days a week at Powell River Recreation Complex. Schweitzer said club members are in the pool for five hours a week, which is low compared to some places on Vancouver Island, but it’s the only amount of time the club can get at this point.
The swimmers have already attended one competition and will be attending two more this month, and hopefully, one in December, according to the coach. There will be more swim meets in the new year.
“We have some kids with pretty big goals and some in grade 12 who are aiming at varsity status for when they graduate,” said Schweitzer. “We have some in grade 11 with goals of going pro, so it’s pretty great. We have some provincial qualifying times already, which is quite exciting.
“This is a big dream come true for me and I’m happy to be part of it and spend whatever resources I can to make it happen.”
West Coast Wind is grouped in with Vancouver Island, so that’s where the competitions are happening. If swimmers make the provincial championship, then they would likely swim out of their zone.
Of the 16 athletes currently in the club, none are new to the sport, said Schweitzer.
“All of them were able to join this program because they already had swimming experience with the summer club,” said Schweitzer. “We are not catering to brand-new swimmers. Hopefully, one day we’ll get to the point where we have a developmental program, but this is very much a competitive program.”
The club has a website, which is westcoastwind.ca. More information can be found at that site.
Schweitzer said the club is looking for sponsorship and people in the community to help. She said during COVID-19, it was tough to stay afloat financially, so any assistance is appreciated. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.