Club Excellence Spotlight: Sarasota YMCA Sharks


Club Excellence Gold MedalBy Emily Sampl//Correspondent

Since 1961, the Sarasota YMCA Sharks Swim Team in Sarasota, Florida has established itself as one of USA Swimming’s premier age group swim clubs, and arguably the greatest YMCA program in the country.

The Sharks have collected nine consecutive YMCA National Championships dating back to 2005, and 13 overall in the team’s history. The team has also won the Florida Age Group Championships nine of the last 10 years, including eight consecutive titles from 2006-2013. This is Sarasota’s sixth straight year as a gold medal club in the Club Excellence program.

Head Coach Steve Brown has been with the team for almost 19 years and has seen the program grow from 150 swimmers practicing at a 10 lane county facility to 350 swimmers practicing at the YMCA facility.

“The stability in our coaching staff has gotten better each year, and it’s just been long-term, steady growth in numbers and performance,” Brown said. “Success feeds success. It doesn’t happen overnight. The climb is fun, but it’s even harder to stay there. The bar keeps getting raised across the country, and we’re just trying to meet it and exceed it.”

Brown credits the consistency in coaching, exceptional facility and parent support as major factors in the team’s continued success in this week’s Club Excellence Spotlight.

1. Consistency. When I say consistency, I mean consistency with our coaching staff. We’ve had a lot of people here for a long time, and some of our current coaches grew up in the program. Also, our practice times never change; they are basically the same year round. That really helps a lot. We only have one pool, so we don’t have to move around a lot.

2. Our facility. We have a 70-meter pool that holds 28 lanes when set up as yards. This allows us to be really flexible in accommodating everyone. We also have a lot of deck space, so we can do dryland on the pool deck. We host a lot of big meets, which brings in money for the program, and that’s great too because we don’t have to travel as much.

3. YMCA support. The Sarasota Y supports competitive swimming and has let us program the pool as we see fit. We don’t have an over-programmed pool where we have to fight for space. They want to see our success continue. 
4. Our team culture. Everything we do is based on the team. Team comes first. We have a team mantra, FTT, which stands for “For the Team.” Everything the kids do should be for the betterment of the team. We always stress what’s best for the team.

5. Parent support. We have great parent and volunteer support. In the past 10 years the culture has really changed. Competitive kids come from competitive parents. This allows us to do what we want with the structure of the team. We’ve spent a lot of time educating our parents and getting them to buy into what we want to accomplish.