By C. Todd Lopez
BOLLING AFB, Washington, D.C. (June 07, 2007) -- The Bolling Barracudas Swim Team is kicking off their 25th summer season this year, and practices and recruitment for the team are under way.
Amy Rogers, the team's summer coach, said the Barracudas are looking now for more participants for the team, especially those looking to have fun and meet new friends.
"We definitely need more swimmers," Rogers said. "The more people the better. I want to help them kick off their love of swimming. We don't need everybody to be racing in the divisional meets, but just so long as you have people. You can make friends, parents can meet other parents, and you can get the kids out doing something."
Dana Rigg, 13 years old, is a member of the Barracudas. She said the camaraderie of the team is one reason she chooses to participate.
"I like swimming because it's so much fun, being part of a team and getting to participate with everybody," she said. "At the meets, we go cheer for everybody. Even if you don't make your fastest time, it's still fun being with everybody."
Dana also participates in a USA Swim Team, and participates in the Barracudas as a way to keep herself in shape, to work on her technique, and to meet her goals for her own swimming performance.
"I'd like to get faster," she said. "Everybody likes to get faster. But mostly, it's just for fun."
Dana also said she thinks she could find a future in swimming, beyond the Barracudas.
"I think this is probably my sport," she said. "I'd like to go as far as I can."
According to Lt. Col. Glenn O. Wright, president of the organization that runs the Barracuda swim team, the organization is really about helping youth learn to be better swimmers, or even helping kids learn to swim in the first place.
"The developmental path is, if they never swam before and they can barely tread water, we have them get time with Coach Jamie Hooper. She goes one-on-one with them and gets them to the point where they can swim the length of the pool," he said. "Then they go in as a team and they join the team practice. It's less supervision then."
Colonel Wright said that due to the nature of the military, some of the younger kids may never have been taught to swim.
"This is a developmental team, made for kids who have never swam before," he said. "For most of these kids, it's their first year to go and swim."
For kids that don't know how to swim, participation in the Mini Barracudas will help them accomplish the bare minimum needed to participate in the team.
"The minimum requirement for the swim team is they need to be able to swim the length of the pool, with side breathing, and then swim back, without stopping," Coach Hooper said.
Once school is out for the summer, the Barracuda swim team will meet six times a week for practices, usually for a little over an hour. Those practices include four morning practices, and two evening practices. Colonel Wright said he asks kids to make at least four of the practices.
While in the pool, during either the winter season or the summer season, the Barracudas are guided by trained swimmers, Colonel Wright said. Coach Amy Rogers, the team's summer coach, is a certified Water Safety Instructor. Coach Jamie Hooper, the team's winter coach, is a certified USA Swim Coach.
During practices, members are divided into different skill levels. Practice begins with warm up laps, where the most junior members swim about 50 yards in the pool. The more experienced swimmers go about 300 yards. After warm up, the team concentrates on improving their swimming techniques and the kinds of things they might do in a swim meet.
"We usually try to incorporate kicking, freestyle and one other stroke," Coach Rogers said. "The kids are very hard workers, very good listeners, and they try their best."
During the actual training portion of the swim practice, the most experienced of the swimmers might be asked to swim as many as 2,000 yards. That's 40 laps in the pool, or just over a mile of swimming -- the most advanced swimmers are only 13 years old.
"For our best swimmers, that is the highest standard," Coach Rogers said.
Outside swimming practice, the team competes in the Prince-Mont Swim League. The league brings together swim teams in Prince George's County, Montgomery County, parts of Washington, D.C., and Charles County, Colonel Wright said.
The league is divided into several bands, from A to G, with the A-level swimmers being the best.
"The A level is literally the Michael Phelps kind of swimmers," Colonel Wright said. "And it goes down to G. We put ourselves in G. As a developmental team, a lot of our kids are first-year swimmers. It's not all competitive. We are focusing on getting kids so they can swim well."
Still, the efforts of kids participating in the Barracudas do not go unnoticed.
"At the end of the season, they get medals for certain things," Colonel Wright said. "And at every meet we give out ribbons, it's the same thing as at a track meet."
Thomas Berthe, 10 years old, has participated in several swim meets with the Barracudas, and has scored well several times. Last year, he made it to the league divisional. He says winning becomes old hat after a while.
"The first time it's like 'oh my God!' But then it's like, OK, I won," he said. "And then the last couple of times, it's like, I got that over with ... move on to the next thing."
Thomas and his family will be soon making a permanent change of station to Alabama. He said he hopes to continue with his swimming there.
"If the base has a swim team, I'll swim," he said.
While the Bolling Barracudas Swim Team does compete, participation is mostly about swimmers competing against themselves, not against others, said Coach Rogers.
"At the end of the season, mostly I hope they each improve on their own time, if they couldn't make it the whole way, that they can now make it the whole way," she said. "And basically that they are having fun and they do their personal best."