For the Dawson Creek Seals, being a summer swim club has its advantages and disadvantages. It provides swimmers with a shorter season and more family friendly swimming environment, but there are no summer swim clubs North of Prince George, making it tough for the Seals to find meets to compete in. And, due to the coronavirus, their entire 2020 season was cancelled before it ever began.
However, the club has now been approved to be a member of both the B.C. Summer Swimming Association (BCSSA) and Swim B.C., the province’s winter swim association. The Seals are just the second club in B.C. to have this partnership, and the only club that was approved out of the four that applied this year.
This means kids who wish to compete year-round and have full-time will have the opportunity to do so, though Seals president Trevor O’Dwyer says only a few students will take that up this year. It also means, as long as kids don’t receive more than two coached hours of swimming a week, they can keep their summer swimmer status and still compete in meets held by winter programs, such as the Inconnu Swim Club’s meets in Fort St. John. It will also be able to compete in summer club meets in Alberta, and inter-provincial meets during the winter.
“We like the summer program because it is just a little less intense,” O’Dwyer said. “But we wanted to give students who are interested in pursuing varsity opportunities the ability to do that, especially if that is their passion.”
Despite losing a full summer season, O’Dwyer said the club hasn’t been affected negatively in a serious way. When the Kenn Borek pool reopens September 12 — though there are tight restrictions, such as the amount of people who can be at the pool at one time — the fact that most kids can only receive two hours of coaching a week leaves O’Dwyer feeling optimistic about the club’s ability to successfully navigate this unknown time.
“Typically we would have 10 to 12 kids per lane, but now we’ll have 32 in the pool at a time, just four kids per lane,” said O’Dwyer.
The club worked with the city in developing the return-to-swim plan, and the fact that Shields is the president of the BCSSA helped the club develop the best plan possible. O’Dwyer said the club remains in good financial shape despite losing the summer season, which gives it grace when it comes to running just 32 kids in the pool at once.
The club would normally have 200 kids registered during a summer season, and are expecting up to 120 kids to register for September, helped by the fact that kids and families are in need of a physical activity outlet and other sports such as hockey remain up in the air in terms of having a season this fall.
The Seals still have work to do to get where the executive ultimately envisions it being, but it is on the right path. In the last two years, the Seals have gone from being ranked 33rd in the province to 19th, and they should only continue to improve despite the things that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown in their way.