If you're looking for a way to jump into competitive swimming, or simply a fun way to stay in shape - look no further than the Warren County YMCA's Masters swim program
The program is an opportunity for anyone aged 18 and older to get into the pool, regardless of previous swimming experience. The program is run at YMCA's throughout the nation but didn't start in Warren until late this summer when David Brook began talking to former swimmers to gauge their interest.
YMCA head swimming coach Chris Snyder and assistants Amy Corbran and Jill Bunce have also played a large role in getting the program started.
Times Observer photo by Jonathan McAfoos
From left are YMCA Blue Dolphins head swimming coach Chris Snyder, assistant coaches Amy Corbran and Jill Bunce and creator of the YMCA Masters swim program David Brook. All four compete for the YMCA’s Masters swim team.
"I talked to former swimmers and we talked about how it would be a good idea to start it and I went from there," Brook said. "Kathy Peterson at the YMCA and the coaches have been a lot of help. I've done most of the organization and administration stuff and I've written the workouts and structured the program, but the program as a whole is kind of loosely run. Jill organized the swim meet and made sure everyone was registered, so she's been a big help."
"Since I coach the youth kids, I'm always at the Y and Chris (Snyder) and I talked about wanting to get back in the pool," Bunce said. "David started it and we just started showing up to practices."
"He (Brook) got it all organized and up and running, but we all kind of work together as a team as far as doing things," Snyder added.
Despite being less than six months old, the program has gotten off to a solid start with over 20 members of varying ages and with all different levels of experience. Members participate in workouts of their choice, based on their experience level.
"The program is for anyone 18 and over that has an interest in competitive swimming," Brook said. "The ages vary from 19 to late-50's. You don't have to be a former swimmer or an expert swimmer to join, just like you don't have to be a former runner to run a 5 or 10K."
Coaches help members with little or no previous experience by working with them on their technique. Other members that do have swimming experience do it as a way to stay in shape and stay involved in the sport.
"I missed swimming and competing so I joined a month, maybe two months, ago," said Amanda Walters, who has been swimming since she was in sixth grade.
The Masters program, known as the Dolphins much like the YMCA youth program, practices every Saturday morning and competes in regional swim meets.
"We have pool time every Saturday morning (for 90 minutes) unless the Y has a conflict with it, which will only happen a couple of times a year," Brook said. "Our first regional swim meet was in Clearfield, and we'll go to places like Franklin, Grove City, Erie and Edinboro."
Only six members went to the Clearfield meet, but they came away with solid results.
"We all took first or second place in Clearfield," Walters said.
There is a small fee to join the league - a fee that covers lifeguard payment, pool rental and dues - but Brook is willing to let those skeptical about joining show up for free to try things out.
"People are more than welcome to come try it one Saturday morning and see how they like it," said Brook.
Just four months old, the program has already started to have an impact on the youth programs.
"It's a remarkable thing and the response has blown me away," Brook said. "I already see how it's beginning to affect the youth program and coaches."
"As the program grows, it will have a positive impact," said Snyder. "People will realize after high school you can still participate in swimming and be competitive."