MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
The Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune Sharks, a youth swim team, is transitioning into this year’s summer league. With new plans for training to prep for the upcoming swim meets, the team encourages new faces.
Since joining, the team’s parents and members use each other as a support system to make it through each season, and to encourage hopeful “swim families” to get their feet wet as well.
Jackie Butler, one of the MCB Camp Lejeune Swim Team’s team moms, said her son, Jagger, has been swimming since last October and they’re both excited they made the decision to join.
“He has a sense of belonging to a group and on a team. We have kids with similar goals of learning to be better competitive swimmers,” said Butler. “It’s also a nice support group for parents if you’re new to the team.”
Butler added it’s a productive team environment for the kids, who learn to be team players.
“Even though it’s an individual sport, they learn to be a part of a team,” said Butler. “It’s important to just have fun. Swimming is one of those great sports that can become a lifelong thing. For athletic ability or just for your health, there are many benefits of swimming. Don’t worry about who you’re racing against, on our team, you compete against yourself. You try to beat your own time, and that’s fun for the kids.”
It’s not just about coming in the top 10, Butler said. The children should focus on having a good time and just enjoying swimming.
Another team mom, Melissa Greene, said she and her son, Alex, enjoy every aspect about being on the team.
“I like watching him compete and learn,” said Greene. “I like watching the children encourage each other at meets, as opposed to just the parents.”
Rihanne Hsu, who competed in the Junior Olympics last year and is in the top seven in North Carolina for her breast stroke, said she fell in love with swimming about eight years ago after taking her sister’s lead.
“My sister began swimming first and I just joined because I like being in the water,” said Hsu. “She was on the Jacksonville Country Club team, and then she joined (MCB Camp Lejeune Swimming Team) a year later. I just really like competing, especially at the bigger meets.”
Andrea Ducar, who was invited to one of the top breaststroke clinics for kids 10 and under in North Carolina, said swimming keeps her strong.
“I’ve been swimming for three and a half years,” said Andrea. “I used to take swimming lessons and they said I was good enough to be on a team so I just went from there. I’ve been with the team for two years now and my favorite event is the 50-meter butterfly.”
Andrea said the most exciting thing about being on the team is the competition and the support she gets from friends.
“Swimming is really fun, especially when there are a lot of people around you and they’re all cheering for you,” said Andrea.
Her older brother, Tyler, who also participated in the Junior Olympics as a long course swimmer, said that the only advice he can give to aspiring swimmers on the team is simply not to quit. He said he has seen friends come and go simply because it was too hard or they weren’t interested anymore.
“They didn’t (get the whole experience) of swimming,” said Tyler.
Tyler added that new swimmers should participate in the summer swimming program and if they enjoy it, follow up with a year round swimming program.
Taylor Hand, the current team head coach, uses her experience to influence and train her swimmers to accomplish new goals.
“I’ve been swimming since I was three years old,” said Hand. “I’ve done competitive swimming since I was five and I’ve competed all the way up to high school. I didn’t swim in college, but my jobs always somehow involved the water.”
Hand said that after being a lifeguard, pool manager and swim team coach for a country club and YMCA teams, it’s safe to say she knows a little about the water.
“The most exciting thing is watching them break their own records and personal bests,” said Hand. “Every milestone in their technique, times and strokes is in some way a small pat on the back for me. All of their hard work and all of my hard work is paying off. It’s really rewarding to see them reach a goal and then set a new one. ”
Hand added that before meets, which are more of individual effort events, she talks to each one of the swimmers.
“Touch the wall with two hands, stretch out your stroke, make sure you glide – I remind them of small things like that,” said Hand. “I think that the personal time, especially with the younger swimmers, is important. With new swimmers, its repetition and being able to get them to understand how or why changes are made. Nobody is perfect but they need to master the basics in order to excel.”