The Battlefords Kinsmen Orcas success during this past swimming season — which was an exhausting one, no doubt — was made all the more sweet by where the club was just a few years ago.
After moving from their old pool to the new Co-Op Aquatic Centre, enrolment died off. Three years ago, it was close to not being a club anymore, according to current president Mike Nord.
"Then we did some changes as far as our tactics," Nord said. "What did we want to do? Did we just want to survive or did we want to try to float?"
At the highest level, the Orcas have done more than just float — they thrived this past season.
This summer, the club sent three swimmers to the Canada Summer Games, one swimmer to the North American Indigenous Games, and in the spring they sent two swimmers to the Western Canadian Champions and Manitoba/Saskatchewan Championships.
But Nord maintains that its the clubs culture that really makes them unique, and what makes them the best fit for both new swimmers looking for a fun activity and for those wishing to make it to the highest level.
"The culture of the club has always been ‘We’re here to help each other.’ We’re here to make sure that everyone is successful," Nord said. "We don’t care if you have no ability at the beginning because you’re probably going to learn it. And we also don’t care if you decide that you don’t want to be a competitive swimmer, that’s fine too because swimming is such a great, healthy thing. So if you just want to come enjoy swimming, that means the same to us as if you want to go swim in a national meet.”
Nord credits their ability to regain their relevance in the community the past few years to a number of things, including new coach Ally MacLeod, attending local events to promote what their all about, such as the kids club carnival, and their "Try Swim" program, which just happened earlier this month.
"We’re also flexible. When you’re growing up, should you only do one sport? That’s entirely up to the family," Nord said. "If kids want to do a few other things, we try to be flexible with them too. We don’t say ‘Hey if you’re signed up for this level, you have to make sure you’re here for everything.’ No. We’ll work with you. If you have another commitment another day, then that’s fine. You can go do that thing that other day. So I think it’s about flexibility and making sure we’re trying to be applicable for all the people in our club.”
This season, the club is aniticipating anywhere from a dozen to 20 new swimmers.
And they're offering new programs too.
Before, they had bronze, silver, and gold, but now there will be silver-plus and gold-plus that will incorporate other types of workouts.
"Just to spread out people’s abilities so that we’re having kids and parents who can choose something that fits their schedule and their ability," Nord said. “As the kids are getting older, now the kids are also lifting weights and doing dryland. We’ve added a little bit more mornings as well. Just more levels for people to choose from.”
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