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New swim club tests the waters in Guelph and area

The goal is to build sport in Guelph, say those behind new swim club

The Wellington County Waves figure there’s plenty of room in local pools for another swimming club.

The Waves came into existence earlier this year when some parents of swimmers who were members of the Guelph Marlin Aquatic Club decided to split with that organization.

“You never want any disagreement or fracture with parents to end up being a negative experience for kids,” said Waves president Craig Taylor. “We had a meeting with all the families and that was my message. Sports should be fun. It should be rewarding. You should compete on the playing field, but not off. We all live in the same town, there's lot of room for all of us.”

Just getting started was a bit of a battle for the Waves. They had to prove to Swim Ontario there was room for another club in Guelph. They failed at that, too, as the provincial governing body doesn’t want new clubs to impact pool space from existing clubs or draw members off of existing clubs.

However, the idea of starting a new club just didn’t go away, so they appealed Swim Ontario’s decision.

“It became clear to me that there were enough parents that wanted to go in a different direction and they weren't just mad for a week, aggravated or anything,” Taylor said. “They were serious about this thing so they raised the money for the appeal and we won the appeal and got reconsidered. We were able to get guarantees from pools that there actually was available space that wouldn't impact (existing swim clubs) and we got approved.”

In the end the Waves got the nod from Swim Ontario to use the U of G pools and the Acton Lions Indoor Pool, but neither the Victor Davis Pool at the Victoria Road Recreation Centre or the pool in the West End Community Centre. But the Waves do have the use of Victor Davis Pool for triathlon training as the Wellington Waves Triathlon Club.

The Waves, both the swimming and triathlon versions, are at the bottom of the pecking order when it comes to securing time in the pools as they are the new organization and existing clubs get picks ahead of them. That has led to the Waves sending new prospective members who were not thrilled with their pool time’s time of day to the Marlins who might have better pool times for those people.

“We've been encouraging people to find the best fit for them,” Taylor said. “We just think there's two good, well organized, decent, honourable performance programs in town."

The Waves now have about 60 members including masters swimmers and some members who have never swum before. They finally got in the pool for the first time earlier this month.

“The kids have just been so grateful and excited to be back in the pool,” said Haylie Burton, one of the club’s two coaches. John Carey is the other one.

“The atmosphere has been as good as we can ask for,” Burton said.

The key for the Waves will be to keep that feeling going when the new club feel-good vibes start to fade.

“I definitely think it's going to be a challenge, but I do think we have great momentum to just keep it going and I think we're pretty adamant and pretty good so far to make sure that everybody is working toward this common good of community and kind of being there for each other,” Burton said. “I think we have some pretty good leaders in place with our athletes and I think they'll help keep that going.”

“Our biggest thing is making sure that we're not overextending,” Carey said. “We still have our main goal of building great humans, athletes, then people. We really want to focus on that so that's going to be our biggest challenge moving forward – staying consistent with our values as we grow as a club and as we come into the next set of problems, whatever they are.”

The Waves have come into existence after a year and a half when pool time in the area was pretty limited due to shutdowns brought on by the pandemic, leaving some of the swimmers feeling a little more tense than usual just by being out of the water.

“The emphasis has been just getting back into something fun and exciting for them and making sure that they are leaving practices more excited and more energized for their goals than maybe they were when they were coming in when maybe it's either six in the morning and they're dragging their butts to the pool in the pitch black or they're going home and it's still pitch black,” Carey said. “They're long days.”

“Guelph is growing at an exponential rate. That's the scary part. It is pretty common to have multiple clubs swimming in (a single) pool in the GTA, so as we grow, and we're growing quick with the new pool coming in 2024, there's going to be a need for this," Carey said.

"However it came about, it came about. The goal is to build sport in Guelph, whether they're swimmers with us, swimmers with GMAC, the triathletes. There's such a great hub of sports in Guelph that we just want to keep building it.”