Rhinelander Swim Club going strong at 50
The Rhinelander Swim Club is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and it is not showing any signs of aging.
The club’s enrollment is on the rise and right now the biggest concern for the club officials is making sure all the kids get enough pool time.
“It is a good problem to have,” club secretary Heidi Catlin said. “We have to be creative to get the kids the proper attention they need.”
The club normally practices at the Rhinelander High School pool but with more than 110 swimmers in the program, they have had to tap other outlets for training.
“We have some of the younger kids swim at the YMCA,” Heidi said. “The Y was happy to help us out. We just want to make sure that every kid gets the opportunity to swim.”
But it was not always like this in terms of numbers and for a time only a few years ago, it was questionable whether the swim club would make it to its 50th birthday.
“In 2007, we were down to about 35 swimmers,” club vice president Craig Catlin said. “There were real questions about whether we could sustain the club.”
But things changed after the Beijing Olympics when Michael Phelps made his record run in the pool.
“We saw a real increase in participation after that Olympics,” Craig said. “We have had a steady increase ever since then. We are continuously growing.”
And that is good news not only for the swim club but the Rhinelander High School and junior high swim teams.
“We consider ourselves a feeder program for the junior high and the high school teams,” Craig said. “So the more kids we can get in the club and learning to competitively swim, the better it is for those teams. We have had swimmers go on to swim at state and swim in college. When you look at the top swimmers on the teams from year to year, the top swimmers usually were at one time in the swim club.”
One reason is the exposure participants get to competitive meets when in the club.
“We attend eight to nine meets a year,” Heidi said. “We also have a divisional meet and championship meet for those who qualify.”
Meets are mainly local with the club not traveling more than 90 minutes to meet but for those who want more exposure, USA Swimming Meets are also available.
“We do have swimmers that want to swim in bigger meets,” Heidi said. “So we do have the option to swim in USA meets and those could be a little farther away. You also have to be a member of USA swimming.”
But for the most part, the club focuses on getting kids excited about swimming and keeping them in the pool.
“Swim club is a great experience,” Heidi said. “It is a great program to be a part.”