Jen Bell, former coach of the Sooke Cohos, now the Sooke Island Swimming club, has returned to take the position of head coach after a three year hiatus.
Bell, who has been coaching swimming since 1989, has plans to start up swim teams in local schools and to hold a swim meet for the league.
“It’s so important because we live around the water, we live next to the ocean and a lot of parents don’t put their kids in swim lessons or teach them how to swim,” Bell said of school swim teams.
“It’s not even a right it’s a must that you need to learn how to swim.”
Currently, Bell is in the early stages of getting school swim teams together.
So far, SEAPARC has agreed to allocate the time and space for school swim teams, but is still deliberating whether or not to host a swim meet — which would be open to School District 62.
A $6,500 grant from the District of Sooke will be used to purchase starting blocks and equipment necessary for an inter-school swim meet.
“All that money will be used to set up a legacy… so we can run these swim meets every year,” Bell said.
If the proposal for school swim teams pulls through, Bell hopes some kids will qualify for the elementary school championship in February.
Sooke has only participated in the large swim event once or twice.
“There is at Commonwealth, every February, district elementary school championships, so all the schools in Victoria compete in this and Sooke never does,” Bell said.
“It’s not fair these kids get an opportunity to do this and the kids out here don’t.”
Bell held school swim teams four years ago during her last stint as coach, and had 100 kids enrolled.
According to Bell, the school swim teams will run over a 10-week period, starting in November. The kids will pay a fee, and each swim team will represent their respective school.
In comparison to the Sooke Island Swimming club, the school teams will be focused on learning basic swim strokes like front crawl, back crawl and dolphin kick rather than competitive swimming manoeuvres.
Bell said kids must be able to at least glide in the water to be eligible for the school swim teams.
In the more competitive sector, 32 swimmers with the Sooke Island Swimming club hit the pool on Sept. 9. Bell hopes to gather 50 kids in total.
As head coach, Bell does it all, from marketing to monitoring beginner swimmers to training kids for the provincial level.
“I’m excited to be back and I’m hoping that I can get more people in the community to learn how to swim,” Bell said.
To register for a free two-week trial with the Sooke Island Swimming club, or to receive a free evaluation of strokes for the school swim teams, contact Bell at firstname.lastname@example.org