By Sharon Robb
PEMBROKE PINES, September 19, 2020—-South Florida Aquatic Club CEO and head coach Chris Anderson held an informative zoom session for parents on Saturday morning.
Between practice sessions Saturday morning at Academic Village Pool, Anderson outlined the fall plan for swimmers including home and away meets, re-capped the summer season and addressed other club business.
The following is Anderson’s detailed 51-minute discussion:
“I haven’t seen too many people during the summer, so basically this is our summer re-cap.
“Obviously, it was a very stressful and busy summer for a lot of us. But the one thing our membership all had in common was we got to come together and we got to do some training.
“We really are proud about some of the things that we did with our creativity, especially the consistency that we had throughout the summer and the things that we have done at South Florida Aquatic Club.
“We also this summer got to really spend some time with our Class of 2020. With all the different things and all the different schools were going through, we had a wonderful, wonderful dinner on our pool deck. It was a very nice environment. I think those kids are having a great time at their different universities wherever they are from.
“The other thing we are quite proud of is that we got to run some swim meets. We had four of them. The really cool thing was our staff was very creative in finding different ways to reach out to all of our membership, whether it was our 8-and-unders or our people who had their senior national cuts. We found a way to have a bunch of meets with 30 athletes in their training groups. We’re quite proud of the fact that we were able to reach out to our membership as well as, of course, get some competition in. Most of the kids swam probably three races in different times over a period of two weeks. I think it was pretty good that we started the meets sometime in July, I think it was July 31st and ran them throughout the month of August leading into what we are trying to do this fall.
“Another thing that we’ve done I know our coaches as well as our membership has looked into. Coach Lou and I have been doing a coaching search for a long time to try and find the right fit. We finally have hired a coach, if you haven’t heard already from our Blog, we hired Jack Davies. He is a former swimmer of ours, he swam in our program for four years. He got a Mathematics and education degree at McKendree University. He has been coaching at the age group level for the CSP Tideriders, a club in Illinois, it’s quite a good club as well, just like ours. It’s going to be a really nice transition to have him come in starting on Sept. 28th. The significance of that is he will basically be coming in at the very beginning of the season where he will really be focusing on the 13-14 group, he will be assisting with some of the age group workouts as well as really concentrating and improving our senior development, our senior fit group that has been doing quite wonderful throughout the summer. We will be welcoming him again on Sept. 28th and welcoming him to our coaching family and hopefully the environment of the Silver group. Again Silver, Gold, National, all of our training groups’ ability and training environment is looking really positive, so he will be a really nice addition to our staff moving forward.
“The other things that we have been doing quite recently, ten of our coaches from our staff have been attending ASCA clinics, different meetings throughout the entire week. We have been on it a few times and discussed different philosophies, whether it was age group swimming, senior swimming or even just swimming in general as far as some things we would like to either improve as a philosophy as a program or tweak or even change for that matter. We will be having some more staff meetings, of course, our coaches have been meeting by Zoom, which has actually been kind of an improvement from what we have been doing in the past. We have really been able to do a great job of communicating especially with the two sites, one south and one north, are really trying to get things done so we are kind of rolling with that.
“As far as our team training, just a quick review, what we have really tried to do over the summer is we were really trying to improve our legs. We knew we had a little time constraint and of course, another constraint of maybe not having doubles on a daily basis because we were trying to get all our athletes in the water. But one of the things that we did was to try to improve our legs and our kicking. It really kind of worked in to what the ASCA Clinic and other coaches were talking about in their philosophy. We really found after 14, 15 weeks that not only the senior group or age group program, we really did a great job over the summer of really improving those legs. As you probably know, all of our kids, all of our members and all of our athletes have grown so much because they are resting a little bit more. It hasn’t gone unnoticed four our coaching staff and our training groups. The improvement of the kick and really committing to the first five or six weeks of building up and then five or six weeks of really improving our legs. We are really looking for that to be a weapon coming up into the fall. It’s probably really going to help. The other thing I did say is because we have all of our groups broken up in such a manner, in such a way on our pool deck, spread out among the 23 lanes that we have, whether it’s one per lane or two per lane on opposite sides, we really found both at the AK site as well as here that the atmosphere of all our training groups is really quite canny, they are really healthy. If you look at it, the kids are really supporting one another, they are really motivating each other and they are really, really good solid training groups. It’s really the first time in the club after 20 years that we really have on all-cylinders, whether it’s age group, pre-age group, pre-teen, swim lessons, senior program that we have had this healthy a membership. I think a lot of that has to, of course, be the parent-leadership at home. But the kids really missed the swimming over the summer. I think they missed some of that interaction they had and it’s really come out. One of the things we talked about as a coaching staff is another benefit from the summer was the fact of our attendance. We had people not miss any workouts for 15 weeks. We’re not talking about a few athletes, we are talking 60 to 80 percent. Those that did miss only missed one or two. That consistency coupled with working on the legs on a daily basis, we are really at a place we really can say that we really moved forward and improved, not only the base level training but overall program as far as our legs and what we can do hopefully coming into this fall season.
“The atmosphere again is 100 percent, looking great. We are very excited that we started and again we had to have an ending point to start for the new season. We picked Monday, August 31st, it really worked with some of the different things that we’re doing as training. So we started with Week One, previous with that what we did spend a lot on before we started our new season the whole month of August you might have seen a change in the kids’ energy levels. We did a lot of technique and kind of talking and discussing. As you probably know, some of the kids had small, quick Zoom meetings for 15 minutes on some days where we really went over the stroke. And as you probably know in some of the lineups we have outside the pool where the kids are socially distanced, we tried to do some of extensive talks and we hit all the strokes as well as IM. We went through IM transitions, distance free training, talked about freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly. We tried to refine that. And again, I think because it was right before or during the kids were kind of in school, the kids really got a lot at the beginning of August, the first couple of weeks as far as their stroke improvement. Coupling that with the legs and training environment, it’s really been a pleasure to work with the athletes, doing what we are doing and moving forward.
“The other thing we did because we have only had four meets, actually six meets, over the summer, what we tried to do at the end of August and we are trying to do it now with some different types of test sets that are trickling down from senior to age group, we tried to make some things a little bit more challenging. We tried to do a couple things without so much using blocks, but trying to create more like meet atmosphere during practice where there were meet warm-ups, then there were sets where we just basically go up and get up and go fast with a lot of rest in between or smooth swimming going back and forth. So we introduced some of those and again that competitiveness, we really tried to call out times and talking to the athletes, ‘these are your goals, this is what we want you to do,’ but we try to find how to accomplish that within a practice, having more rest. I think some of that has really kind of matured our entire group. It seems to me they are getting a little more confident when it comes to practice and moreso, getting confident in doing something very fast, taking six minutes of doing easy swimming and then coming back and repeating that, much like they would do in a swim meet if they had 15 to 20 minutes between races. As far as that, training those sets and trying to keep the kids a little bit more engaged and understand we are going to have competition again. It’s going to be the goal of our staff, after we talked a little bit about the fall meet schedule of 2020, we are going to find different ways to try and motivate those athletes throughout the entire week so when we do race on a Friday-Saturday or Saturday-Sunday that they are ready to go and they really take advantage of the opportunity in the meets that they have as far as competition is concerned.
“Moving on to the fall schedule and I know we kind of have a schedule up there, but as you probably know things are still kind of different facilities not being open, different organizations, different municipalities and different counties all having separate rules, we kind of have a skeleton schedule. We will get the schedule out probably in the next couple of days. My staff has it. But we basically have kind of looked at it and there are a couple of small changes that we are having to do.
“To kind of go into the fall schedule, we started off the summer, of course, with our in-house virtual meets. We now will be moving on and doing a couple of meets, one on Oct. 2-3. It will be a virtual dual meet against Sarasota Y. I am trying to find some good competition throughout the state, throughout the country on the East coast who we can do this with. This virtual meet will consist of us having a competition, kind of a college format, a two-day format. It’s as close as we can get without being totally official and getting in all the events. For our 13-and-overs on a Friday evening and Saturday. You might have already seen it on Team Unify and I know some of our coaches are starting to do the entries for the athletes now. The middle school kids or the 12-and-under kids will be going on a Saturday morning and we’re going to run through the high school order format. 12-and-unders will be able to do four races for the meet and 13-and-overs will be able to do three races per session. This will be the first time, too, we will be doing some relays. There will be an “A” and “B” with our fastest athletes. They will be socially separated as far as the blocks and lanes that we are doing. We are definitely looking forward to that Oct. 2-3.
“We will be following that up with another virtual dual meet (Oct. 23-24) with the Mason Manta Rays, they are from Ohio. It’s a very, very, very good competitive club. We will be doing the same format, we may have some tweaks in there. I actually feel that our athletes have the familiarity of the format will actually help us a little bit in October. So the kids will kind of go into it with open eyes, will compete against another club and we will put all the points together. We basically are scoring Top 10 and then they will have an idea. I think we will do even a little stronger on the 23rd and 24th. They can do different events still but they will still be swimming up to six races for the 13-and-overs and four races in the one session for the 12-and-unders.
“Then in November, we are looking at the 20-24 for an age group specific dual meet. This is where we are going to invite some clubs to our pool, being that hopefully things kind of keep continuing with numbers going down with COVID and nothing changes as far as Broward County, city or even organizational-wise. If we feel it’s safe, what we would like to do is a couple of dual meets where we bring in a bunch of 10-and-unders for a set of races. They will get up and perform together with another club. Then we are going to do the 11-12 age group in another session, then we will do the 13-14 in another single session and then we will finish it off with a 15-and-over. As of right now, we have Plantation committed in 13-14 and 15-and-over. We are trying to keep it pretty much small.
“So that will be the first two meets in October will be virtual meets, then the one in November we will start bringing in some local competition to swim against age group-wise. We are still trying to keep the numbers on our pool deck about 120 to 140 including officials and timers as well as the different age groups.
“The meets in October and November will not be capped for our club. It’s not like the last meet where we had 30 athletes in and that was it. These meets will be open so you don’t have to stress out about entries. I know it’s locked right now as far as Team Unify. Like I said, our coaches are working on the entries, but it will be for our entire membership. We are going to be running heats. It will be a little different from the first round. We will have heats but we will have kids separated on the pool deck with social distancing marks. That’s how we will be doing that session. We probably will have old school meet marshals, too. We had a couple of coaches, Coach George was out there for the other meets, influencing and making sure the kids’ masks were on and that sort of thing. We’ll go over different protocols a little bit later on for the meets.
“Furthering on, we are still going to Winter Champs, Dec. 10-13, right now and Holiday Champs at Sunrise, Dec. 18-20. As discussed to our athletes and kids, we are very firm on peaking our club somewhere in the beginning part of December, whether it’s Dec. 10th or 18th, we will be peaking all of our athletes. It will be like the 16th or 17th week of training in the fall season. We are really looking for us to get up and perform, whether it’s our tech suits for our 13-and-overs or basically getting ready. We will be peaking for that part of the year. Both of those meets we don’t know what the caps are going to be, but we have been in communication with the meet hosts. We have reserved spots there.
“There’s also another meet that we have been working on. One of the Southern Zone committees are putting together a Florida State Championship, basically four sites set up in the state of Florida. There will be sectional level cuts. One of those level meets will be hosted at our facility, four a couple of counties on the west coast as well as all of Broward County and us. Another pool will be Sailfish Aquatic Park. They are looking somewhere in the Sarasota-Clearwater area and another one in Gainesville. They will be run similar at the same time and all the results will come together at the very end. We are very lucky and fortunate enough that we will be able to have one of those meets. Some of the safety precautions for the meets which we know now is a women’s prelim session and men’s prelims session and then a combined final session on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There will be more details about that meet, but that’s in a nutshell our fall 2020 meet schedule. And again there are some different safety precautions we’ll probably have to have and they will be in the meet information.
“Looking over the summer and what some of our officials had to do and our volunteers and looking toward the future, we do have a huge commitment from our officials, a huge commitment from our Booster Club as far as creating these situations, creating these meets. And, of course a huge commitment from our staff. Coming in I know some of the meets start at 6 a.m. for warm-up and 6:50 a.m. start which is kind of early. The October, November and December meets will be a little bit closer to what you guys are used to.
“As far as spectators for any of these meets we are going to try and improve our ability to film and stream these meets and put them on different types of social media. At this point as far as Broward County and I am pretty sure it’s going to stay that way, there has to be different types of permits to set up for special events. I don’t have spectators. We are keeping the meets safe. It’s worked really well and again we are going to try and improve our skills as far as commentating and trying to get a little more video technique out there so we can have people at least virtually watching some of these meets when they are going on.
“The other aspect is we are opening up for 12 timers for a lo of these meets. As things if keep improving we will be able to open up to more volunteers so that’s a real good way of getting those hours.
“Something we will talk about a little bit later as far as our Booster Club. We are starting a new year as of Sept. 1 which I will explain a little bit later after we over the meets. So again we will get these meets out next week. There’s just a couple more dates that need to be cleaned up so they can be finalized and set in stone, so you guys can all plan. The October meets, again, we are starting meet entries already currently.
“With that being said, and again I’ll be brief and I will get this out to you guys on email. Basically, our 2021 home schedule has been approved by the Florida Gold Coast. We are basically hosting eight meets ranging from our January meet to a BB Championship in February. Again some of the meets may have to change as far as meet information but we are quite confident that we will be able to host these championship meets at our facility.
“Also, we have basically March 19-21 we will have Senior Champs again. We are very fortunate and lucky again where we have Senior Champs for not only March of 2021 but we’ll have it in 2022 in short course season as well. We have kind of moved on and done some planning in that aspect. Moving on from there, we will have a dual meet again where we will bring in other athletes. We will keep you abreast of that.We will have a Developmental Meet in August 2021, moving on to our Distance Challenge in October and then we have our Last Chance Prelim-Final meet that we have in November. We did pick up another meet, too, the first week of July, the BC Championships for Broward County. I just put that out there so just so you guys know but it also ties in a little bit also with the Booster Club as far as the meets are concerned that there will be hours available in the future which again we will talk about that a little more. We will get the 2021 home meet schedule skeleton out to you guys.
“Moving on from there, as far as safety protocols, we are still in Phase One of our swimming safety protocols, the one that we put out as far as the directions being in the parking lot, trying to do the best we can with social distancing with masks, limited bathrooms and sanitizing coming in and out. We are not stopping any of that as of this point in time. We’re still for the most part in there at that time, trying to keep everything safe at our facility and we’re working with the City and having them approve what some of the things we are doing as well as Coach Lou with the safety protocols at AK Sharks.
“If it wasn’t for you guys, the parents, keeping your kids entertained at home and all the different things that we’ve had and also at the pool. Again I feel so lucky and fortunate that we are all taking care of our membership, taking care of our kids, both here at practice but also at home. We have been very fortunate and lucky throughout this pandemic as far as the program. I want to continue that so we are going to take slow steps forward to really try and keep everything safe here at the pool.
“As you probably know in Broward County and some different things in Dade, they will be making some more announcements. Private schools are in session, whether it’s at school or at home. As of Oct. 5th, there is a plan out there and you will be able to opt to go to school or stay home. Again there are so many different schools, there are so many different things going on, even at our own Charter School. So Oct. 5th there may be some safety protocols that we will be doing as far as dropping off and picking up, depending on times when school is in session and where everything is going on. We won’t be changing any of the practice times. About a week and a half to two weeks around Oct. 19th, there could possibly be some changes but keep in mind we will remind you there may be some different protocols when it comes to dropping off and picking up. But once again we have been very fortunate with it working very well, even during the rain delays for the most part pretty good as far as the social distancing when it comes to as many athletes and coaches as we have with cars picking up. We have been very fortunate with a large parking lot that we have been able to manage that. Countless hours of Maria going out and sanitizing and managing, and George and people who have coordinated all the different things.
“There will be updates, again Oct. 5th kids go back to school so you may have some drop-off and pick up changes. Of course, we have already looked into Daylight Savings. We are starting to think about that as well.
“Real quick, some of the resources we have and I really do want people to take advantage of some of these things. Whether you know it or not, Sharon Robb, she is in charge of our Sports Information. She writes a blog and does stories, she has interviewed our kids, she keeps a handle on things. She really keeps me and other staff members abreast when it comes to the high school meetings, school meetings, USA Swimming and convention meetings, all the different things that are going on, whether it’s our staff meetings, team meetings, our zoom classes, what we did with drylands back in April and May. But please if you don’t already have the RSS feed and not getting those stories, it really is a way to kind of keep you engaged of what our club is doing. So that’s Sharon Robb and we will get that out on Remind if you don’t already have the RSS feed. If you are not getting information or not somehow seeing the stories, it’s on our website homepage, Facebook…we try to get it out as many places as possible but you can get it directly on your phone. And again it’s really a great tool to understand when we are having these meetings, different changes in the schedule or different things that are going on with the high school season which is still kind of crazy with the different things that are going on but I know there are different committees working hard to try to have some type of season.
“Also, we have Natasha Moodie, she is our college prep specialist. She has a whole list of facts plus the newsletter that goes out. It is mandatory for anybody that is a freshman, even eighth grade, but freshmen for sure to be a part of that. We want to keep our student-athletes informed, we want to keep them informed about academic scholarships, about different changes in the recruiting world that’s changing on a daily basis. We want to make sure they are informed about the different colleges and universities that have different programs that are coming up soon. The process of getting to that next level of swimming has been a goal of my entire program. It’s about getting the age group swimmer to the senior program and then it’s about getting our senior athletes prepared to go to Division I, II or III or junior college. That is the program’s philosophy. Natasha and the rest of our staff have done some great, wonderful things through our newsletter and education. We’re not only successful but we are improving upon that success and getting more and more relationships on that second level after age group swimming and senior swimming to get to that third tier, collegiate swimming, which we are doing very well in.”
Anderson also talked about raising club fees for the first time since 2016 and will have more details in the coming weeks. He then opened the zoom up for any questions from the parents.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org