Swimmers were happy to be diving back into the water for training with the Prince Rupert Amateur Swim Club on Sept. 14 the opening day of the Earl Mah Aquatic Centre.
The swimming club has been staying dry since the pool was closed due to pandemic restrictions in March, Chris Street head coach said. The closure affected the whole club of more than 120 members, especially a large group of high school students who were disappointed to miss the entire competitive season.
“The ones who it really hurt were a big group of six grade 12s … They basically missed their last competitive season with the swim club. We were in Winnipeg for a swim meet, which got cancelled an hour before,” Street said. “It was the club’s first major swim meet of the year. It was really disappointing. Those are the ones I really hurt for.”
Two of the six swimmers are back swimming for part of the season then they are headed off to university in January.
“They can compete, but we don’t know what competition is going to look like. We are going to do some competitions in house,” he said. We can compete if we have 50 people or less within a cohort. When we are going to be able to compete with other clubs – no one knows when that will be.”
The swim club is a competitive swim program, Street said with young swimmers right up to the master’s program.
“We have kids as young as six years old. At that stage, it’s still kind of learn to swim. However, they have to have some ability. We ask that they be able to do a length. It’s a guide to being safe,” he said. “We also have some in their 60’s.
Members of the swim club nicknamed the Rupert Rapids, are there for many different reasons and range in age from six to 60. The youth like to compete, Street said. The masters come for fitness or socializing.
“We have masters that compete in competitions. We have some that do triathlons, but most are just trying to stay in shape.”
With the new aquatic centre regulations there have been changes to the swim club’s regular pool times. Masters’ practices are Tues. and Thurs. mornings and Mon., Wed., and Fri. nights.
Rarely do masters attend all five sessions, he said.
“It’s what fits into your life. We have maybe 25 to 30 masters and 75 to 95 kids at any given time.”
Costs to join the club can be different for everyone and are individualized.
”A seven-year-old who starts at entry-level for 30 minutes a week isn’t very much. If you have a 17-year-old who swims nine times a week and is travelling to competitions, then that costs a bit more,” Street said. “We have a drop-in rate where you can buy a punch card, a monthly fee for people who want to fundraise and a monthly rate for people who don’t want to fundraise.”
Youngsters start the program compete with some in-house meets a few times a year using equipment, pool noodles and having fun races, Street said. Once a swimmer has been in the club for a couple of years the next step up is to attend regional swim meets in Kitimat, Terrace or Smithers.
“We have kids who go to the provincial championships, national championships or meets in the USA,” he said.”We have had kids swimming at the highest level. We have had kids swim at university level. We’ve had the full spectrum.”
To join the club a swimming assessment is required and swimmers must have some aquatic ability.
“We don’t run it like Red Cross swimming lessons where there is always going to be an instructor an arm’s length away,” Street said. “Our instructor might be at the other end of the pool and we need to make sure your child is safe when an instructor is that distance away.”
An assessment consists of swimming a couple of lengths to make sure a child is going to be safe in the swim club.
”If they are better than just safe, we can figure out which group they should be in. It is definitely safety first … What constitutes safe is different for everyone. Some kids float really well and they may be safe with (lesser swimming) ability. Some kids don’t float very well … That’s why we do the assessments,” Street said.
“We have a very broad spectrum of masters with various abilities, masters don’t need to be assessed as long as they can stand up in the water.”
To become a swim club member or arrange an assessment contact can be made through Facebook, email and a telephone call.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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