Every season, the youth swim team at the Fort Dodge Community Recreation Center has anywhere from 70 to 100 participants of various ages and skill levels. But members of the Fort Dodge Swim Club, the board that works with the team, say there is always room for growth.
"The team is open to any and all kids with an interest in swimming," said Jason Major, a Swim Club board member. "It is both competitive and noncompetitive. Kids love to swim, and they can come to practice, work on technique, and when they are ready they can compete. The Swim Club's goal is to promote swimming and to help provide a warm, friendly environment where kids can learn and build off of others. What we do is all about the kids."
Youth swimming has had a presence in the Fort Dodge community for nearly 50 years, Lee DeCicco, a FDCRC swim team coach, said.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Hunter Egeseal, 12, of Fort Dodge, gets out ahead of the pack as he practices with his group of beginning swimmers.
"I've been coaching for 35 years," DeCicco said. "But the team was around years before that. Rusty Garst was a coach before I came on, and I believe he may have started the team."
The swim team has recently transitioned from a two-season to a year-round competitive team with short breaks in between seasons for training and conditioning.
"We're just coming off our first full year of year-round swimming," said Tina Davis, the team's dry land coach. "Before, we had a summer and a winter season, but we decided to change things because we were finding the kids were getting out of shape."
During the year, the team competes in meets throughout the region, with anywhere from 10 to 12 meets scheduled between October and March. The team takes a break from competition and practice in August, but before coming back for the fall/winter season in September they have the opportunity to participate in the dry land training with Davis.
"There is more to practice than swimming. Our kids get the chance to condition out of the water too," said Davis. "On dry land, they work on muscle toning with more running, jumping and push-ups. They can spend one hour of practice working on dry land exercises."
The team has also experienced other changes in recent years with the transition from being a YMCA-affiliated swim team to a Rec League in 2008.
"We had to find a new conference," said Davis. "We had to learn new rules and find other teams to compete with."
The Fort Dodge swim team competes with teams from Algona, Carroll, Emmetsburg, Boone, Lake City, and as far away as Pella.
"Most of our conference teams are within the Highway 20 to Highway 30 area," said Davis.
Swimmers between the ages of 6 and 13 with varying skill levels participate on the team. Participants also have the option to take a season off as their schedules allow.
"Summer and winter have our largest participation," said Davis. "In the fall, we lose some to football, cross country and volleyball, but they are still getting the conditioning they need to stay fit for the next season."
"It's fun that swimming is something I can do all year," said Katie Keith, 12, a six-year member of the swim team. "The practices are fun. The meets are fun. You get to meet friends from other teams."
"Swimming is just fun," said Cole Davis, 13, a seven-year member of the team. "Even swimming long distances, you still have fun."
Participating in swim team at their own comfort level also allows those who are serious swimmers the opportunity to prepare for high school and collegiate level swimming.
"Some of our older kids have goals of making the high school team and even becoming college swimmers," said Davis. "We never know, we might have the next Missy Franklin or Michael Phelps among us. These kids have high hopes, but our team is also different because we do have both those who swim for fun and the more serious ones."