Snow Sharks succeed, grow swimming culture in Flagstaff | Local

ZACH BRADSHAW Special to the Daily Sun

In May 2021, the Flagstaff Snow Sharks Swim Team roster consisted of 120 athletes. Today, that number has grown to more than 190, with a waiting list of over 50 athletes.

A member of USA Swimming and a SafeSport-recognized team, the Snow Sharks are quickly gaining popularity for kids ages 3 to 18 who want to learn to swim or practice competitively. The nonprofit organization practices year-round at both Flagstaff High School and the Northern Arizona Wall Aquatic Center.

But why has the club grown so large in the past year?

One reason is the team’s success. The nonprofit has seen a lot of achievement from its competitive team, as nine swimmers qualified for the Arizona Age Group State Championships in March with multiple top-8 finishes. Twenty swimmers qualified for the state regional meet in February.

The Minnows School, which provides swim lessons for younger kids, had 20 swimmers move up to the competitive team in the past year.

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That type of success keeps swimmers coming back to practice everyday, according to Martha VanLuvanee, the team’s administrator.

“The competitive and Minnows teams are going places,” she said. “The teams are running smoothly. We want kids to learn and grow, and the kids follow through.”

Athlete success and a culture of determination can make the team a place where swimmers thrive. But like most youth sports clubs, the coaches are the backbone.

Lauren Gross, a parent whose child swims with the team, said the coaches create a comfortable atmosphere that promotes swimmers to follow their goals.

“The coaches do a great job of bringing everyone together and cheering the kids on,” she said. “The common goal is that everyone is improving and making sure everyone is working for something.”

Whether it be trying to swim a personal record or clinch a championship meet time, the athletes know that the coaches are pushing them to try their best in anything they do.

“The coaches teach lessons in and out of the pool and promote doing good things for yourself,” Gross said. “Not one kid comes back upset, even if they’ve had a bad race; their coach always has something positive to say about the race and how to improve.”

Minnows School Coordinator Clare Alden, who has been with the team since 2015, said coaches give their full attention to the swimmers, allowing them to reach their goals.

Swimmers are excited to go to practice and push themselves everyday.

Coaches look to create a safe, fun atmosphere that can “improve all aspects of the swim environment to support swimmer success,” Alden said in an email.

Nicholas Reed, coach of the competitive team, said a specific group and age level is assigned to each coach — which allows them to closely bond with their swimmers.

“I understand what they need from me in order to reach their goal,” he said.

Reed said his group of swimmers writes “goal cards” at the beginning of the long- and short-course seasons that help him to follow workouts and track each swimmer’s progress.

Both Alden and Reed praise the swimmers for being motivated to come to practice everyday. The key to the team’s success is the strong relationship between the swimmers and their coaches.

As the team continues to grow in size, it looks forward to the competitive summer season and continuing to build on successful spring competition. The Far Westerns Championships meet, which takes place in California in July, is the next event the competitive team has its sights set on. Four swimmers have already qualified.

“We have all worked extremely hard to support the kids and encourage them to do better,” Reed said. “I’m excited for the swimmers to go out and show off all of the hard work they have put in.”

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