In just two days, Jefferson High School will debut its first ever swim team. It has been in the works for quite some time and the JHS team will make its first splash Nov. 10 at Frances Meadows Aquatic Center in Gainesville.
Assistant coaches Tricia Bartoletta and Tammy Kelley are not only excited about being a part of history but watching the team progress and mature in the sport. Lane Guzman is the head coach and team members are also instructed by a veteran.
“They are coached by Coach Jim Young who has swum 40 years and has a wonderful reputation. He’s with Lanier Aquatics,” said Bartoletta.
“I think it’s very exciting. We both have children that have swum in the community for several years and we know that the need and want for a swim team has been there,” said Bartoletta. “The kids have been excited and I am excited for them.”
While Jefferson is known for their winning culture, both assistant coaches agree that they are more concerned about the athletes bettering themselves in the sport first. They say they are hopeful the wins will follow and don’t feel any pressures to keep up with the tradition of the other athletic teams. Both coaches agreed they aren’t necessarily looking for a team of experts. They have a variety of swimmers, those in the intermediate stages to those who are well-rounded in the sport.
“Most of them do have rec league experience. We’re excited about the sixth graders that don’t have any experience; to think about if they stick with the program through high school where they could be,” said Bartoletta.
“I think we’re just excited to build from what we have. We have some great swimmers. We have some new swimmers that are showing incredible progress. We have two new boys on our team that have never swam before, and Coach Jim commented to us the other day that he can’t believe how far they’ve come in two weeks,” said Bartoletta.
“We really want them to focus on their time. We’re not worried about school ranking. We’re just getting into this [and] we want them to improve their time,” said Kelley.
“We don’t want to discourage them with it being their first year [going] into the pool and feel like they have to get first or second place. We want them to understand that while this is a team sport, it’s also an individual sport and if they go in focus on [improving] each time, that’s really all we are looking for,” said Bartoletta. “We want them to stick with it and not get frustrated.”
The idea of putting together a swim team has been in motion for some time but approval had to come from the athletic director and transportation and a host of other things that went along with this putting the venture together had to be determined.
“For years, we’d been asking [Athletic Director] Tim Corbett about a swim team,” said Kelley.
“Once the summer sports started and got more popularity, we realized that more of our kids were traveling to Athens, Gainesville and Winder to swim. Then [we] realized if we had something here to bus them or where there was more support from the school to get them excited about it, [it could be possible],” said Bartoletta.
The Dragons will have two hours of travel time for each day of practice because the city does not have a swimming facility to practice or host meets in, but it is definitely something that is on the radar. Having that type of venue would allow Jefferson to have more supporters show up, lessen their travel time and give the athletes a place to call home.
“It’s really nice to consider the aspect that we may have a swimming pool locally because we travel an hour a day back and forth to practice,” said Bartoletta.
While the wait has been long, Kelley noted they are actually way ahead in terms of getting the swim team up and running. With the support of Corbett, who predicted when the team would come into existence, they were able to put the team together sooner than expected.
“This is happening two years before we thought it would. Tim kept saying by the time our girls got to high school, he was almost positive we’ll have a swim team. Our girls are on the middle school team. He was very instrumental. He wants to have a swim team. The drawback is we don’t have a pool,” said Kelly.
While there is never really any certainty about how a new team will compete, they have been able to note the swimmers’ strengths individually and, are very pleased with their talent and mindset.
“We’ve been watching them at practice. They’ve only been officially practicing since Oct. 22, so they haven’t been with us very long. We have some really strong swimmers. [They have] really good attitudes [and] they are so willing to contribute,” said Bartoletta.
“I think it’s going to be exciting for them to be making history in Jefferson City Schools. It’s exciting for us to see them so excited. I think its going to be fun,” said Bartoletta.