Diving right in: Titans, coach try to raise level of youth swimming in Coweta
By DOUG GORMAN
Donna McCondichie hopes to become a great ambassador when it comes to youth swimming in Coweta County.
Through her dedication to coaching the Summit Family YMCA Titans, McCondichie is trying to pass on her years of knowledge and love of the sport to her swimmers, some of which are competing for the first time this summer through the West Georgia Swim Association.
The West Georgia Swim Association was started by Carrollton Bluefins head coach David Weeks five years ago as a way to promote swimming in a less competitive and more relaxed surrounding.
After starting with just 17 swimmers on the Sunset Hills team in Carrollton, the program has expanded to eight-club style neighborhood squads with more than 200.
Weeks says the West Georgia Swim Association has provided opportunities for children who might not yet be ready for more competitive settings in the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association or USA Swimming.
“We realized a couple of years ago that kids like to swim close to home,” he said. “It’s been something that parents have looked toward. I can walk into these events and none of the parents know who I am, and that’s a good thing because you want swimming to be grassroots. So many of these kids might not have got involved if it weren’t for their neighborhood pool.”
Some, like Coweta resident Maureen Lily, wind up sticking with the sport through their senior year of high school. Lily’s six-year-old daughter Catherine is in her first year of swimming with the Titans and won three events at Tuesday’s home meet, the 25-yard freestyle, backstroke and butterfly.
“I love the structure that it provides,” Maureen said. “It gives her that commitment to something, it gives her structure with the practices and it helps her build relationships with different people from different walks of life, and it is something everybody can be good at.”
Catherine is quickly proving good swimming is in the family genes and is already enjoying the new sport.
“It’s fun and I practice a lot,” she said with a big smile on her face.
Catherine isn’t alone. Most of her Titans teammates also enjoying spending time a the pool.
“I just like being in the water and how it feels and when you go against it,” said 7-year old Nolan Miyamura, who appears to have a bright future with the Titans. Last week, Miyamura was named the high-point winner at the Carrollton Invitational while capturing the 25 freestyle, breaststroke and butterfly.
“It felt great to win,” he said.
Weeks only sees the WGSA continuing to grow.
“This is just an extension of the neighborhood pool,” he said. “Kids are always in the pool, and they are always racing each other to see who is the fastest to the other side. It’s fun to watch these swimmers of all abilities swim and compete with their buddies.”
Most swimmers already come to the Titans with some ability to get across the pool, but even if they can’t swim, there is still a place for them in the Y-pool.
“The good thing about being here at the YMCA is that we also have a lesson program,” McCondichie said. “So if someone comes to me not knowing how to swim, I usually recommend to them that they do the lesson program. So once they complete the lessons, they come to the team knowing how to do the freestyle, the backstroke and usually somewhat of a breaststroke,” she said.
Older swimmers have even more clear-cut goals for joining the Titans.
Anna Dean is following in her older brothers’ footsteps in East Coweta’s varsity program, and she is using her experience with the Titans to get better for the upcoming high school season.
“I am swimming for the Y-team because I want to improve my stroke technique, work on my turns, and to keep in shape,” she sad.
Dean won four events on Tuesday, but she says she especially likes the 50- and 100-freestyle, two events she won easily.
Ben Taylor, a Northgate High transfer, has plans to join the Vikings’ swim team and hopes competing during summer with the Titans will help with the transition to the high school ranks.
Taylor started swimming with his mom’s encouragement.
“She said I looked like a swimmer,” Taylor said. “I have been here for about a month, and I have met a lot of cool people”
With a little hard work, McCondichie says her swimmers always see their times improve. It was certainly the case in Tuesday’s meet when all 30 of the Titans swimmers turned in at least one personal best.
The Titans coach admits it’s up to each swimmer as to how much improvement they show.
“It all depends on just how much they come to practice,” she said “Some kids love it so much that they come every day. The more they come, the more endurance they have, and you see that improvement from week to week.”
McCondichie knows there will be opportunities for her swimmers to advance to more competitive meets.
“They want to see themselves excel. They will go to U.S. Swimming and the more competitive meets. We as a Y are working on becoming Y national, which is on the same level as U.S. Swimming, so there are going to be many opportunities,” she said.
The second-year coach has learned a lot over the past year.
“I know a little bit more about what I am doing. I was a first-time coach last year so, I was learning, the kids were learning, but I just get so much enjoyment out of seeing these kids get better and better,” she said.