Hope has renewal in competitive swimming

Spartan Swim Club helps improve strength and technique

Swim coach Steve Link helps Nicola James with her hand paddles at last Thursday’s practice for the Hope chapter of the Spartan Swim Club. Fourteen swimmers work out twice a week at the Dan Sharrers Aquatic Centre

Long-time Hope residents may reminisce about the glorious days of outdoor swimming at the old Centennial Pool — but when the cold autumn rain sets in, it’s nice to have a warm, dry place to go and have a splash… or a rigourous workout, like 14 kids are getting with the Hope chapter of the Spartan Swim Club.

Under the guidance of Hope Secondary shops teacher Steve Link, the age seven to 14 swimmers meet for one-hour sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Dan Sharrers Aquatic Centre.

Sharrers was the much-loved coach of the Hope Otters Swim Club — which was in its heydays at the old outdoor facility that sat roughly on the same site as the present indoor pool.

Now, with the support of the Chilliwack-based Spartans, Hope is seeing a resurgence in competitive swimming.

“The difference is, we take the summers off,” said Link. “It’s kind of backwards to what the summer club was about. We hope to get it to be a year-round program.”

Link swam competitively in Saskatoon, from age 10 to 18 and he has moved up to the head coaching position after two years as an assistant in Hope. His daughters Emma and Darby are members of the club and Emma and two other girls have qualified to take part in regional meets in the Lower Mainland this season.

“Kami Becker, Sarah Irwin and Emma qualified by swimming 300 metres in less than 5:40 and a 200-metre individual medley in less than 4:30,” explained Link.

“There’s a series of events in the region throughout the year, so we’ll pick a few for them to go to.”

The parent club in Chilliwack is having great success in its registration numbers, added Link. Since he was on a waiting list, one young Chilliwack-based swimmer has chosen to come to Hope to get his time in the pool. There may be even more at the next session, which runs from January to April.

“We have all of the Spartans’ resources at our fingertips,” added the coach. “They are only a phone call away.”

A wander through the Hope pool’s equipment room also netted a few items that the club is now utilizing, such as flippers, pull buoys and hand paddles.

Link said the flippers are especially helpful for the younger swimmers, who start to sink before they can complete a 25-metre length. They also give the swimmers a feeling for swimming quickly.

“The pull buoys are floats that they hold between their thighs,” said Link. “This makes their legs float, so the kids can work on just their arm strokes.

“We also got some pieces of inner tube from Kal Tire, to hold their knees together when they are doing their snap kicks.

“The hand paddles are partly for strength training and also to get a feel  for the water,” said Link. “It’s important to optimize your pull, from the moment your hand goes into the water and on through the whole stroke.”

Link works with the more senior swimmers — putting them through as many as 60 lengths in a session — while former club swimmer James Irwin works with the younger students, who can burn up as many as 25 lengths in the hour.

The next intake for swimmers will be in January, for the 14-week January to April program. The registration fee of $238  covers pool rental and coaching costs, explained Link.

Interested swimmers and their parents are welcome to drop by the pool during the club’s practices.

“They can come and see me on-deck,” said Link, “or if they come to the viewing area, they can pick up an info sheet there.”