SH Seahawks dive right in
Travel to South Harrison Park during late evenings in the summer, take a left turn beyond the toll house and, through the tree-lined road, splashing can be heard at the outdoor lap pool.
Learning various strokes, teaching swim basics and competition take place at the pool when the South Harrison Seahawks swim team practices four days a week.
In recent years, the organization has experienced a boom in membership. Thirty-three swimmers five years ago has more than doubled to 72 in 2012.
‘I think word of mouth has helped us grow,’ said head coach Amber Miller. ‘As an organization, we are strong and it’s starting to show.’
The summer outdoor swimming season begins Memorial Day and wraps up Saturday with the annual Swim Camps hosted by West Clark. The six swim clubs from the Southern Indiana Swim Association come together for competition to close the season. Kids ages 4 through 18 will compete for ribbons and to see if times have improved from the start of the year.
‘Swim Champs is an all-day event,’ Miller said. ‘It’s an all-day event and each swimmer can swim in three events and two relays. So, it is usually a busy, long, hot day.’
Art Tostaine, the Seahawks’ equipment manager, was new to the area and Swim Champs five years ago and was caught off guard.
‘When I first went to Swim Champs, I was overwhelmed,’ said Tostaine, who had three kids on the swim team. ‘I didn’t even bring chairs. But it is 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. You’ll see parents there at 6 a.m. to get good seats. It is a good event and big time for these kids. They can actually qualify for state meets if they meet certain time requirements.’
Miller said she looks for individual improvements to gauge success of her athletes.
‘What I tell the swimmers is, I honestly don’t care where we place, because we’re a small organization,’ said Miller, who has been coaching for 11 years. ‘Winning a meet is rare for us, but I make the swimmers bring me their times after each event. That teaches them to watch their times. As long as they are bettering themselves and competing, that is what matters to me the most.’
At practice Monday, the Seahawks ran a mock meet to prepare each swimmer for Swim Champs, including being timed.
Practices can be fun. Miller said at least twice a year they will have a relaxed practice that includes games. One in particular draws plenty of excitement: the annual diving competition.
The increase in team membership has also prompted upgrades within the organization. Newly purchased equipment ‘ custom backstroke flags, lane lines and holder, computer and printer, professional starting system, sound system and stopwatch timers ‘ has come through donations and support.
‘The enrollment has really helped us with our budget,’ Tostaine said. ‘It opens the door for more sponsors, donations and fundraisers. We’re also heavy on social networks, using Facebook, our website (www.shseahawks.com) and text alerts to keep parents informed.’
‘It’s nice we’ve built a strong organization to where we can purchase good equipment the kids can benefit from,’ Miller said.
Tostaine’s wife, Stephanie, serves as the South Harrison Seahawks president and enjoys the summer sport.
‘It has been great for our family,’ Stephanie said. ‘Our kids have been able to come each summer and not have to travel a lot like other sports. They really enjoy it. It’s good exercise, and they’ve made a lot of friends as they’ve grown older.’
With the Olympics weeks away, swimming comes to the forefront, especially with the focus on USA contenders Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. Miller said some of the older swimmers take notice of the lexicon competitors and commentators use and motivates the youth to improve.
As a coach, Miller takes on all levels of swimmers. Sometimes newbies are scared to death of the water and have to be taught from scratch. Others jump in and are hooked and eventually swim competitively year-round.
‘It means a lot to me,’ she said. ‘The main reason I coach is because I think every kid should know how to swim, at least enough to save their life. That is my main goal. We take them all ages.’
On Saturday, the Seahawks will pull their purple and white swim caps on their heads and give it all they have at Swim Champs.
For more information about the organization, visit www.shseahawks.com or visit their Facebook page and search ‘South Harrison Swim Team.’