WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
The merger of the Coral Springs Swim Club and Comets Swim Team is now official.
After waiting the mandatory 120-day period, two of the most well-respected USA Swimming clubs are now the South Florida Aquatic Club and will be sponsored by Nike, Inc., the world’s largest maker of athletic shoes and apparel.
The Florida Gold Coast’s newest club combines more than 450 swimmers and 20 employees including two world-class coaches. Michael Lohberg is the club’s head coach and Chris Anderson is the CEO.
Head age group coaches Luis Soler of the Comets and Bruno Darzi of Coral Springs will also play key roles.
The clubs’ 8-and-under age group programs will remain under the auspices of the Coral Springs Swim Club and Comets satellite programs.
The Coral Springs Swim Club as well as the Comets Swim Team will continue to exist. All 8-and-under swimmers will still be registered under their original club name. All three clubs will have their own websites.
The swimmers and coaching staff will be outfitted in the latest Nike swim fashion and gear. The Beaverton, Ore.-based company is widely recognized and according to HSBC Global Research analysts “has survived as the go-to brand during tough times and will likely continue to thrive when the economy improves.”
“Nike gives us instant credibility and they really showed us that they wanted us and wanted to be associated with this new club,” said Lohberg, a six-time Olympic coach.
“Nike is a big name, no question about that,” Lohberg said. “This goes way beyond swim suits. To be associated with a world-reknown company like Nike is an honor. It is a special way this whole thing started and it is compliment to us that they obviously recognize the potential.
“They will do a lot for our kids. I am very excited about it. It’s just not promotional.”
Anderson is also excited about the team’s affiliation with Nike.
“This is the best way to make our kids the happiest and try to make us a professional brand,” Anderson said. “The kids identify with the Nike swoosh.
“Our team will dress, act and perform professionally even at the younger age levels and Nike is on board with that. We can portray to the public that we are a professional program. This is the image we want for SOFLO.
“We have been waiting for this for a long time,” Anderson said of the merger. “It is refreshing we have our name and professional look. Now it’s time we get back to work with our coaching staff and dynamics.”
Lohberg said SOFLO will be a “test team” and have an impact on the development of Nike material used in swim suits.
“Nike is making a big push forward in swimming,” Lohberg said. “Their swimwear is gorgeous. In the very near future with our help they will have top-notch racing suits.”
2004 U.S. Olympic silver medalist Maritza Correia, the first Puerto Rican of African descent to make a U.S. Olympic team, represents Nike and will work closely with SOFLO.
SOFLO’s first appearance as a team will be on the Texas Senior Circuit May 22-23 at Texas A&M. The team’s first local meet is still to be determined.
“I think we have a great tradition in swimming and now we will develop something new together and maintain that tradition,” Lohberg said. “We are working together at all levels– coaching, administration and booster club levels. We will learn and benefit from each other. It will be exciting for everybody.”
Both Florida Gold Coast clubs were recently recognized among the nation’s best with excellence awards from USA Swimming’s Club Recognition Program.
Coral Springs earned the Gold Medal Club achievement award as one of the nation’s Top 27 clubs.
The Comets earned the Silver Medal Club award, ranked between 28 and 100 in the country. The prestigious awards are based on the performance achievements of the athletes.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org