The Richmond Hill Swim Club is growing and gaining recognition for its success.
This has been a memorable season for the swimmers and coaches. The club is on the verge of its best season so far, yet it also faces the reality of unknowns for the future.
In April 2011, Erin Cowan, owner of Perfect Pools, began using the space and outdoor pool located on Ford Avenue near Ace Hardware.
"I hadn’t intended to run programs at the pool," she said. "My first thought was to use the pool for pool-care classes. In May, I had people asking if they could use the pool, so I opened it for general swim. From there, we just added programs and it took off."
Over the last five years, a transformation has taken place. No longer an unused green pool, this "oasis in the city" is bringing swim lessons, masters’ swim adult classes, water aerobics and water boot camp, and is the training site for a team of 116 swimmers. The facility is also open to the new Richmond Hill High School swim team coached by Kristin Arnold.
Arnold and the Wildcats are proud to send off Jordyn Gulle, who is taking her swimming to the next level at the University of Georgia.
With more than 600 kids taking swim lessons throughout the year, Cowan feels strongly that the growing community will need to develop a plan for an aquatic center at some point. The first possibility for an aquatic center in Richmond Hill was more than 12 years ago, but the Richmond Hill City Center took its place.
Cowan, who will not renewing her lease in the fall, said she hopes the city and Bryan County will take note of the growing interest in swimming. There are many questions marks for the club, pending who takes over the space in September.
Local swimmers range in age from 5 to 18. Each swims an individual event or relay. The efforts contribute to one common goal — to rack up points for the overall team finish. Richmond Hill is one of 10 teams competing in the Savannah Coastal Swim League. Competitors include: Grand Lake, Isle of Hope, JEA, Landings, Mayfair, Savannah Golf Club, Savannah Quarter, Savannah Yacht Club and Wilmington Park.
The evolution of the program has stemmed from more than just a clean pool. It is the commitment of coaches, swimmers and parents who allow the club to thrive. Taylor Ibester, team representative, said the environment is like a family. After spending the past several years doing administrative work for the club, Ibester said, everyone knows everyone, adding that it is a friendly and supportive environment.
"These kids love to swim," Ibester said. "The coaching has gotten better every yea, and they make practice a lot of fun. All of this contributes to the growth."
No matter their age, these swimmers are learning valuable life lessons.
"They learn how to be accountable," Cowan said. "We seem to have lost that with this generation, but being part of a team means others depend on you. They depend on you to be there, show up and be ready to do your part to ensure the success of the whole team. Everything these days is me, me, me. … Being a part of something means sacrificing and sometimes putting others first."
From dawn to dusk, the pool water is occupied by swimmers of all ages and backgrounds. It serves as a place for toddlers to grow and elders to stay fit.
Swimming is a lifelong sport according to Cowan. This undefeated season is a key indicator that the pool is being put to great use and will be essential to the continuation of this excellent local program.
For more information on the club and local aquatic opportunities, go to richmondhillswimclub.com.