In 2000, I just started my job at the East Whittier YMCA as the new Aquatic Director. I was very excited to be part of the YMCA family and dug right into work. I immediately noticed that there was no swim team! What I did find was a group of 7 kids in our swim lesson program that were ready to take the next step and parents that desperately wanted their kids to be in competitive swimming. So we banded together and started what at the time was called “The East Whittier YMCA Stingrays Swim Team”. Those seven kids worked hard with me for months going to their very first swim meets, having fundraisers and really becoming part of the YMCA Aquatic Family. It was not easy! We went to swim meets that had teams of over 150 kids participating and boy was it intimidating. Only one girl stuck it out through the end of the first season and she was the only one that made it to the championship race. I was so proud of her. She went to that race all by herself and represented our team alone.
We launched full force into our second season and were up to 25 swimmers and took 15 of them to the championship race that year. We decided to change our colors and team name and from that point forward became known as the “East Whittier YMCA Sharks Swim Team”. The following year we discovered that the Uptown Whittier YMCA had a fledgling team and started to incorporate swim meets with them and eventually, it was decided by both YMCA branches that we would merge our teams so that we could be a stronger united team with even more parent support.
Over the years our team has grown and grown and even though we have weathered hard times, we have stuck together and supported each other. We were ecstatic when the Uptown Whittier YMCA branch of swim team re-opened in April 2011 (they briefly had too close for low enrollment). At this present time, we have 8 different practices/levels and times at 2 different sites and are running over 125 kids in our swim team.
As staff we have often marveled at how wonderful our swim team parents are. They are so giving of their time and monetarily when they are able to. The coaches and the kids receive endless support from the parents and it is such a blessing to know that we have such a dedicated group of responsible folks behind us. We know this is not always the case in other teams. The parents of our team have always believed not only in the swim team, but also in the overall YMCA mission, dedicating their time to both goals.
We all want to think our kids are the best right? Well our kids really are the best! They have the best attitudes and great dedication. They are always willing to help us and each other. I am not surprised because they come from awesome parents. I have story after story through the years that I can tell about the way our kids really put forth our YMCA 4 core values. As staff, it is a pleasure to watch them grow and mature over the years.
Over the year’s coaches have come and gone; it isn’t often that you get to keep a coach for many years in a row. But there has been common attributes in all of them and that is the love of the children, the passion for the sport of swimming, and the dedication to the YMCA mission and values. It takes a special person to handle over 20 kids at a time, teach them a skill, be a role model, get up at 5am on weekends for swim meets (my personal favorite), and love doing it every day. We have been blessed that these talented individuals decided to spend part of their lives sharing their talents with our kids.
Last but definitely not least is the YMCA. What a wonderful place to have a swimming program, so supportive. The Y truly believes in youth development and gives us the opportunity to teach the kids in our programs not only our mission, but also to give back to the community and become a real family unit. At some of our swim meets you might see some of the management working the snack bar in their off time, which only shows you the dedication that they have to the success of our team.
We look forward to an unlimited future and only more success. Thank you to everyone who has helped us along the way.
Founder J. Reneau