WILLIAMSBURG—Larger numbers turned out for some local swim teams this summer, and the additional fins are helping in lots of ways.
Having more swimmers available allows teams to fill in for athletes missing because of family vacations or summer activities. It also gives coaches a chance to allow their participants more variety in what events they swim, according to coaches in the Virginia Peninsula Swim Union.
Kingsmill has 196 swimmers out this season, while First Colony has 187, according to team representatives.
The trend continues among teams in lower divisions. Wellington has more than 100 swimmers and exhibition participant Villages of Westminster is seeing numbers double for its second-year team as well.
Kingsmill is up from 175 swimmers last year to 196, with almost 90 of those ages 8 and younger, said coach Chris Hanks.
"I know that in our case there are a lot of families with young kids that are moving into the Kingsmill area, and they're looking to find things to do in the community," Hanks said. "The one thing they have over there that really is kid-focused is the swim team."
Hanks knew from last year that numbers were rising, and hired extra assistant coaches to help out. He has five paid assistant coaches and up to five volunteers who work with the team on any given day.
"It's a challenge, but it's exciting to see that many people that are interested in swimming," Hanks said.
Allison Henning, first-year coach for First Colony, said the average for her team before this year was about 125.
"I have no idea why those numbers are up," Henning said. "Having the increased numbers allows me to give different kids a chance to swim events that they might not have gotten to swim if there were fewer swimmers.
"I can let them choose what they want to swim, which is nice because that makes them significantly happier."
Wellington coach Matt Dryden, whose team competes among the smaller teams in Division 3, is having the same experience.
"We saw a rise in numbers," Dryden said. "So we're about over 100 now for the total. It definitely helps out in our division, having a larger team and having more swimmers at our disposal.
"We have backups just in case families are on vacation," he added. "It's often hard to get those weeks when you have everybody in town at the same time."
Dryden said that many younger people are getting involved with swimming, and he said that's important because they are building life skills and swimming skills at a critical age.
"With summer swimming, just because it's a great sport to cross train with we see a lot of younger swimmers do it up until about the age of 12, then a drop-off and swimmers decide either swimming is for them or not for them," Dryden said.
Villages of Westminster is swimming as an exhibition team for a second season and pending board approval will have full VPSU membership next year, said Corinne Picataggi, the president of the neighborhood's homeowners association who started the team last year. The squad started with 17 swimmers last year and is now averaging 35 per meet out of a total of 43.
"It definitely has grown since last year," said Villages of Westminster coach Matt Schiller. "Last year the team was about half the size, and I think it's going to keep growing."
He hopes to add to the roster for next season.
"It will help us compete in every event because there are times when we don't have enough swimmers to fill out every event," Schiller said. "The size of our team does impact its competitive ability. But we're definitely moving in the right direction."
Williams can be reached by phone at 757-246-4644.
To see a gallery of photos from the Virginia Peninsula Swim Union summer season, go to virginiagazette.com. Email us your swimming photos at firstname.lastname@example.org.