“I always want to leave the kids learning something new,” coach Denise Gonzales said. “It’s also my goal to give the kids the tools to go on to another level, if they choose to do so. At the very least, I want them to know that they can swim and feel safe in the water.”
After competing in four dual meets, Patterson took its entire roster to the season-ending competition at Riverbank Aquatic Center on Friday, July 27.
“Each swimmer was invited to compete; there were no qualifiers for this event,” Gonzales said. “As always, I just wanted the kids to finish the race knowing that they did their best and had fun competing.”
According to Jeune Shelton, an assistant coach, the mission of the Pirates is to promote a fun yet challenging environment to teach children the basics of swimming.
The team is strictly recreational and emphasizes equal opportunity for participation. No meet scores or league standings are recorded.
“(The swimmers’) times are kept (solely) so that the team can focus on personal improvement,” Shelton said.
This summer, Patterson swimmers, including 10-year-old Melissa Striker, are learning techniques — such as the butterfly stroke and breaststroke — and practicing better ways to breathe in the pool and streamline the body.
“I think that I have improved as a swimmer,” Striker said. “We are learning the right way to move our arms and legs in the water. We learn a lot of things at swim practice.”
Gonzales said summer swimming is instrumental in getting youngsters into the pool — not always easy, given the popularity of other sports. Swim team activities provide basic instruction in technique and give individuals their first taste of competition.
Erik Estrada’s 5-year-old son, Daniel, was the youngest Pirate on this year’s team.
“You can see how much progress the kids have made over the season,” Estrada said. “I wanted to keep (Daniel) active during the summer. Swimming is great exercise for him.”
Gonzales said swimming is a good summertime pastime, because it keeps boys and girls moving. Swimmers also set their own goals to beat their individual best records.
“This season, we’ve refined what strokes and skills the experienced swimmers already know and prepared the newer swimmers to advance their skill level at the start of next year’s season,” Gonzales said.
Swimmers setting personal-record times in the season finale included Lenen Garcilazo, Gabriella Gomez, Ryan Miller, Angel Martin and Striker in the 50-yard freestyle; Katie Carman in the 25 breaststroke; Ayana Guardado and Raina Padilla in the 50 breaststroke; Akari McGill in the 100 breaststroke; Lolyn Tejada and Garcilazo in the 50 backstroke; Connie Hill in the 100 backstroke; and Sammy Mena and Daniel Estrada in the 25 butterfly.
The coach also gave kudos to the team’s parents and volunteers.
“We have an amazing group of people — swimmers, parents and coaching assistants,” Gonzales said. “They are all a part of the overall (success of the) program.”
At the end of her third year at the helm for Patterson, Gonzales — who has coached swimming more than 10 years — said she enjoyed the summer season.
“To have the chance to coach these kids — to help build them from the ground up — is an amazing opportunity,” Gonzales said. “The more successful we are in inspiring young swimmers, the more interest we will generate for the sport at other levels.”