Swimmers, Take Your Marks!

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By Matt Larson

As time goes on, and more television shows and video games are produced, our lives become fixated on mental stimulation leaving little to no room for physical activity. For many of us this has become our way of life, but for the kids it’s not too late! Especially if they live in or around Pinole, there’s an awesome swimming organization called the Pinole Seals Swim Club that can offer a positive, healthy outlet for your child.

For 47 years the Pinole Seals Swim Club, a recreational competitive swim team, has been training kids ages 3-18 to compete in swim meets and better their skills, boosting both their health and confidence along the way. Plus, kids are grouped by skill level, not age, so they end up making friends that they’d otherwise never find common ground with.

“We’re all one big family of swimmers,” says Marina Rossi, Board President for the Pinole Seals Swim Club. “The age range is wide open, they’re exposed to older kids, younger kids, male and female, and they’re encouraging and supporting each other! It’s a wonderful environment for the kids and for the families.” Rossi’s children both started with the Seals when they were 4 and 6 years old. Her daughter has since worked her way up and was a junior coach this past year.

The Pinole Seals have 4 paid coaches and around 10-12 junior volunteer coaches on their coaching staff. Last year they reached 125 swimmers in their club, which works out to having a coach for every 8 or 9 kids. There is a registration fee to join, but Rossi stresses that regular swim lessons can get expensive and usually only last a couple weeks. With the Pinole Seals, they practice every day from the middle of April to the second week in August.

“We go the full summer,” said Rossi. “And so that competitive environment for them to really show improvement, see improvement for themselves, improving their best times—the investment really comes across when you track down how many hours of opportunity they get to be in the water.” Improving a skill like swimming takes time, and with the Pinole Seals they not only get better swim skills, but they get a whole new community of friends as well.

Focusing on the four key strokes—freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly and backstroke—the Seals are part of a league made up of 6 teams that participate in competitive meets, fun meets and some invitationals. They hold competitive races for their swimmers every Wednesday evening and Saturday morning during operations. Despite the competitive nature, it’s all really about personal growth rather than simply beating an opponent.

“We focus mostly on personal improvement and building self-confidence,” said Rossi. “Not every kid is made out to do a sport, but every kid can learn how to swim and get better at it.” And especially in an environment like that the Seals provides, “The exposure to the older kids and the mentorships of that is a pretty amazing thing to see throughout the years.”

Rossi wants everyone to know that the coaches from last year will be returning again this coming year. “They were well received and we had the best performance and placements in our competitions than we’ve ever had since I started,” she said. “We have some pretty dedicated coaches.” One of their swimmers actually qualified to compete against the best kids in the county last August and earned first place in the freestyle competition!

Registration for the next season begins around February 2016. As far as plans for next year, “We just hope to keep growing,” said Rossi. “We’ve got a great facility at the Pinole Swim Center, which is owned by the city and run by the YMCA, working hard with those entities to keeping the pool working, up to date, and a great place to be over the summer. We’re just looking forward to growing our swimmer base every year.”

It’s a great thing to be a part of and your kids will learn swim skills that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. So mark your calendars for February to start checking online for when registration begins. Call them at (510) 758-7566 or visit http://www.pinoleseals.org.

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