It might be cliché to say BronxWorks’ swim team is “making waves,” but it is true. There has been a swim program at the BronxWorks Community Center on the Grand Concourse for years, but this fall the first organized team was launched and has quickly grown to over 30 members.
Two of those members are Sean, 12 and Sanjiv, 8. Their father, Gowkarran – known as Jack – and his wife were looking for something to keep their boys busy in the fall. A good friend suggested BronxWorks. They now travel to the Center in spite of having another pool closer to them because they like Eileen Towey, the team’s coach, who they say is tough but fair. Jack has noticed many positive changes in the boys beginning with weight loss, increased stamina, and greater confidence in themselves which has carried over into school.
Two of their teammates are Nicole, 10, and Machia, 6. Nicole is a veteran of the swim program, coming since she was 5, and now she can be found at practice four times a week. Her dad encourages her to do her best, which she strives for each day because her dream is to go to the Olympics. Well, it’s a tossup between going to the Olympics and being a dancer.
A 6-year-old petite bundle of energy, Machia is often the youngest and smallest swimmer at the meets the team attends, but her father, Brent, says she is learning that it is important to do your best, no matter what your size or who you are competing against. Interestingly, Brent came to this same pool as a kid, traveling from Washington Heights with friends who would traverse the city visiting indoor pools during the fall and winter.
Mother of 7-year-old Paulina, Karina says her daughter was scared of the water when she first started coming last September but in only 5 months, Paulina now loves it and is very excited to be going to her first competition in February. Karina is happy Paulina is getting exercise and knows this is better for her than sitting around watching television.
Eileen, the coach and also Aquatics Program Director, started working part-time as a lifeguard at BronxWorks in 2008 while still in college and was, she says, “one of those kids who was swimming before she could walk.” Since graduating last year, she has worked to expand the offerings of the Aquatics Program and has increased pool attendance by record numbers.
Jeanne Tibbets, Children and Youth Program Director, observes that “unlike many other sports which require teammates to play, swimming can be done individually,” so they are learning a valuable, lifelong ability that they can use to exercise and keep healthy.
The benefits of the team incorporate all the things mentioned above: fitness, making friends, and gaining confidence. In addition, Eileen points out that it is “a good social environment” for kids from different neighborhoods who learn to work together and support each other. She also incorporates a mentoring strategy of sorts, having the older kids help the younger ones in practice, which teaches them leadership skills and to set a good example.
At BronxWorks, “making waves” is a good thing. It means building a future that will have a positive, healthy and inspirational impact on the lives of young people and their families.
In addition to the Blue Waves swim team for youth ages 6-18, the Community Center’s indoor swimming pool (1130 Grand Concourse) holds activities and classes for all age groups at reasonable fees, including aqua tot, aqua aerobics, adult lap swimming, recreational swimming, and American Red Cross certified lifeguard training. Questions or comments? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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