The sounds of young people splashing in the water isn’t your normal early-morning noise, but it’s an everyday happening for a bunch of local kids who compete for the local swim team.
The Wayne Dolphins Swim Team has been a part of the summer sports offerings in town for many years, and this year the team gets to practice and compete in a brand new pool after the opening of the aquatic center at the Wayne Community Activity Center late last summer.
A total of 80 kids ranging in age from 7 years old to high school get together early in the morning to get a two-hour practice in. The older kids go first for an hour, with the younger kids joining the fun in the second hour.
Andrea Cooper, one of the team’s coaches, said it takes some effort for the kids to make it to practice so early in the morning.
“To get up early in the morning and come in to swim, you have to be dedicated,” she said. “But they’re a great group of kids and they work pretty hard.”
While most practices are spent working on technique and trying to improve their stroke before the next competition, sometimes it’s good to have some fun and get away from the grind of teaching technique.
After winning first place in a recent competition in North Bend, Cooper thought it would be a good idea to let the older kids play a game of “Sharks and Minnows” to stay active in the pool without going through the rigors of a workout.
“You have one or more ‘sharks’ in the pool and the ‘minnows’ stand on the side,” Cooper says in explaining the game. “The sharks yell out ‘minnows’ and then the minnows have to jump in and swim to the other side without getting caught. The sharks can touch them, or if they try to swim underneath they have to pull them to the surface.
So, even though they weren’t “working out” — the game still gets them active and busy in the water.
“You still get quite a bit of exercise playing the game, so I’m kind of tricking them into a workout,” she added, laughing. “It was really hot yesterday in North Bend and I think we all came in this morning feeling kind of bedraggled, so I thought we’d have some fun today.”
The swim team is a good revenue generator for the city, Cooper said, as opposing teams will invade the local restaurants and convenience stores after a competition.
“A lot of the parents will bring a cooler of food along, but after a while the kids want to get some snacks and so a lot of parents will stop into the convenience stores to gas up and get a bunch of snacks,” she said. “I know when we left North Bend the other night, it seemed like everybody was in there getting gas and food, so it’s a good revenue builder for the communities.”
The Wayne team competes in the Cornhusker Conference with teams from North Bend, Hartington, Blair, Tekamah and other communities, and the team participates in about a half-dozen meets during the summer months before the season-ending conference meet, which will be held in Blair.
The teams compete in five age divisions, including 8-under, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14 and 15-18. Swimmers can participate in up to four events, swimming any combination of individual and relay events.
It can be a challenge for some of the kids to get a full workout in, especially the older ones who also have to juggle jobs and summer workouts for their fall sports.
“Some of the older kids have to leave early because they have workouts for cross country or volleyball or weightlifting, so it’s a challenge for them to make up their practices sometimes with all the other activities going on,” Cooper said.
Cooper and Rachel Duncan are this year’s coaches, and Duncan’s sister, Megan, is also helping out as a fill-in coach while her older sister is in Europe on a short mission trip.
Swimming at the new aquatic center has been a big thing for the team, Cooper said, and they're looking forward to hosting meets this weekend and July 15.
“We’re hosting our first meet at the new pool this weekend and we’re really looking forward to showing it off to the other teams,” she said. “Our old pool has four lanes and wasn’t regulation length, and this pool has six lanes and is 25 meters long, which is important because the only times that count for conference are on regulation-length pools, so it will be nice to be able to use our times at conference.”