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PURSUIT: Newmarket Stingrays making waves in pool, community

Competitive club has produced high-calibre swimmers since the mid-1970s, thanks to elite coaching, a dedication to giving back to the community, and an uncommon approach to developing athletes

The Newmarket Stingrays aren’t afraid to make a splash.

The competitive swimming club has produced high-calibre swimmers since the mid-1970s. Its success is thanks to elite coaching, a dedication to giving back to the community, and an uncommon but effective approach to developing athletes.

Most swim clubs, at the first sign of high performance, advance young swimmers to an older training group to further their development. The Stingrays see things differently.

“The Stingrays have a unique philosophy that keeps the kids, regardless of ability, together with their age group,” said Janine Brisbois, the club’s president, “and we think that this is really good for social development and creating really deep friendship bonds, which, frankly, you need in swimming because sometimes it’s really hard.”

She says parents are often surprised at how intense and demanding competitive swimming can be. For the more than 150 swimmers in the club, the season is usually the length of the school year, beginning in September and ending in June. Some kids might compete in more than 10 swimming competitions in a season, and that can require a tough training regime.

Young swimmers in the club’s splash program, which consists of children ages five to seven, train twice a week in the pool for 45 minutes. When swimmers reach the Grade 8 level, they’re in the pool six times a week and their workout times increase to about two hours. By the time they are in Grade 10, they train 10 times a week and combine pool sessions with dry-land workouts.

“It is a progression,” said Brisbois. “That way, kids don’t burn out as much and their bodies get used to a more intense schedule as they grow and they are physically able to handle it.”

The club is hoping to expand to more than 200 swimmers for the next season, which makes it a great time to join.

“Every September, we have a tryout camp and it runs for one week and the kids come and swim for an hour each day, Monday to Friday, where they are working directly with our coaches and some of our senior swimmers to see if they are ready to join our program,” said Brisbois.

Younger kids might be asked to swim only from one side of the pool to the other and perform other basic skills. The older the swimmers are, the more lengths of the pool they are expected to swim. Swimmers don’t have to have perfect strokes at the tryout; the club’s coaches will help improve their form. The tryout is mainly for individuals who haven’t swum for another competitive club before. There is a different process for swimmers who have experience with another club.

The Stingrays aren’t just making waves in the pool. The club believes community involvement is a critical part of developing a child’s understanding that giving back is important. Some of the Stingrays’ initiatives include food and supply drives during Christmas and Thanksgiving, tree planting, and working together with Inn From the Cold to host community meals.

The club is also proud of a fund it has developed over the years that benefits kids in its own swimming community.

“Fund From the Heart is a program we have that will allow families who are already members of the club, who find themselves in some financial constraint, to keep their children swimming,” said Brisbois, “and the club will support them (by) covering some of the fees and some of the expenses of travel meets.”

The Stingrays encourage their members to go as far as they want in competitive swimming. The coaches have the knowledge to guide athletes into the right lane if they want to compete for a university or if they want to jump to the coaching side. The club aims to support each athlete, regardless of accomplishments or ambitions.

“Overall, it’s a great organization. We represent Newmarket and the surrounding communities very well, and if you want your kids to have great discipline and time management and be super-fit and have a skill that they’ll use for life, competitive swimming checks all those boxes,” said Brisbois.

For young athletes who are ready to take the plunge into the world of competitive swimming, the Newmarket Stingrays club is a great place to get their feet wet.