By Mike Watkins//Correspondent
Long-time USA Swimming corporate partner Phillips 66 has been a sponsor since 1973 and involved in the sport overall for seven decades. Today, Phillips 66 believes they can improve lives through energy, and in that spirit, usaswimming.org is highlighting swimmers of all levels who have benefited from Phillips 66's contribution and chosen to give back to the sport of swimming or to their community.
Strapped for money and low on members, the Dayton Dolphins, a City of Dayton (Ohio) swim team, were on the brink of folding last year. As one of the few inner-city swim programs around, its absence would have left a rather significant void.
When Ken Kreitzer and assistant coach Jennifer Bryant, who coach a Dayton high school team at the same pool where the Dolphins train, learned of this, they stepped in – volunteering their time so young children can learn to swim and be safe in the water.
“The city was looking to disband the Dolphins due to lack of funding for coaching staff when Jen and I decided to volunteer our time,” said Kreitzer, head coach of the David H. Ponitz CTC High School swim team.
“We recognized how important it is for these kids to be able to have the opportunity to swim and compete, and we’ve already seen two of our members make it onto college swim teams. The idea of these kids not having a team bothered me, so we decided to give it a try and see how it went. It’s been a great experience.”
Since taking over as coaches, Kreitzer and Bryant registered the team with USA Swimming and have seen a 200 percent increase in membership (currently 30-plus, up from 9 last year). With about 30 team members qualifying for reduced fees as Outreach swimmers, the cost to keep the team going strong and competitive was kept reasonable for the athletes and their families.
Kreitzer said coaches and members of Ohio Swimming – Outreach Coordinator Kim Morstadt, in particular – have been great to work with to get the Dolphins team members registered. As part of the Outreach program, Ohio Swimming (in conjunction with USA Swimming) offers qualified athletes the opportunity to become members of the organization for $5. This is a scholarship program for athletes whose families are currently in need of financial aid from their swim club to participate.
Other coaches from nearby teams have donated equipment – new suits, goggles, fin paddles, etc. – to help the team get going and on the right foot.
“We really want to get kids in the water and on the team,” Kreitzer said. “So we are finding ways to make it affordable to everyone. We’d be dead in the water without the help from so many other organizations and clubs.”
This summer, the Dolphins participated in five meets with strong results, according to Kreitzer. During the Olympic Games, team members hosted a Splash Bash (pictured) with over 40 people joining them in the water for various games and to cheer on U.S. swimmers on a big screen TV.
Kreitzer added that getting more swimmers involved through the Dolphins program is a good opportunity to feed his and other area high school teams with good, competitive swimmers who can then go on to earn scholarships and college degrees.
“We knew the swimmers would definitely benefit from having a year-round club, and parents – most of whom never learned to swim – have been very supportive of us,” Kreitzer said. “We’ve had to do some education to show them what swimming is about, and they have embraced our plans. So have the kids, and the City of Dayton has been very supportive of our efforts and even offered free swim lessons to some kids to get them involved and possibly added to the team.”
Bryant said the program and experience for many kids who otherwise wouldn’t get the opportunity to learn to swim have helped create a swimming culture in inner-city Dayton – and raised awareness that swimming is something from which everyone can benefit.
“Most of these kids grow up playing football and basketball and nobody swims, but we’re helping change that and proving that you aren’t a dork for wanting to swim,” said Bryant, who hails from the same neighborhood as many of these kids. “When they go to a meet and see huge populations of other kids just like them, it sends a positive message about the sport and about themselves.
“More importantly is that this is helping kids and their parents see the value in the sport and instituting a culture change of sorts. They see that a swimming program can exist in an urban environment, and they can learn about water safety and come in and love the atmosphere.”