SUNNYSIDE The Sunnyside Sharks summer swim team has been a Mid-Valley Swim League powerhouse for several years.
This past summer ended on a high note, the team having earned runner-up honors for the sixth season in a row.
“It takes a family to run a team,” said Charla Broersma, mother to two of the Sharks’ assistant coaches and one of the swimmers.
Those two assistant coaches, Brittany and Marisa, are former competitors. During their years on the team the two set many records.
The young women agreed with their mother’s assessment, stating the swimmers, families, board members and coaches feel like a large family.
They aren’t the only coaches who started out as Sharks. Former coaches David and Patrick Elerding are other prime examples of the swim team’s legacy.
Although planning, preparation and fundraising must be done to keep the team going, those involved say they are passionate about the program.
Board Vice President Todd Newhouse said he is passionate about the swimming program as both a former Grandview Neptune and a parent.
“As a swimmer, I didn’t see all the efforts of the kids and volunteer parents,” he said.
“Now I see how everyone works together and I like it,” said Newhouse.
Especially impressive to him is the effort and dedication of the competitors. The members of the Sunnyside team are up early every morning during the summer season, practicing and working hard.
“It’s good to see that effort pay off. If a kid, especially as young as 8-years-old, is willing to do that much work, I am willing to put in my time to foster that work ethic,” Newhouse said.
He said he believes the work ethic of the youngsters involved in swim team will pay off, helping those youngsters later in life.
“They will be willing to put in the extra effort when they are in college and when they are working,” Newhouse said.
The president of the Sharks Board of Directors this past season, Kyle Bunch, said the team doesn’t just foster a work ethic in the youngsters, but other life skills, as well.
“We are giving kids in the community an opportunity to stay busy in the summer, helping them to accomplish goals and learn sportsmanship,” he said.
Planning to provide them those opportunities begins in January, long before water fills the city pool. That is also when the board decides who will fulfill which roles.
The behind the scenes work, all completed on a volunteer basis, paves the way for a successful season, he said.
Bunch said serving on the board isn’t as much work as some might believe because there are many volunteers.
The efforts of board members help to drive the success of the team, while helping to alleviate worries for the coaches and families alike, he said.
Included in the preparations for the season, said Bunch, are the contract for use of the pool, insurance, fee evaluations, planning fundraisers and deciding who to approach for sponsorships.
All of that is done with the idea that youngsters in the community will benefit from the Sharks program and the sport of swimming, Bunch said.
The team must have fundraisers to pay for use of the pool and purchasing any supplies needed during the season, he said. But, the result is 100 or so children can compete in a summer sport.
The team’s biggest fundraiser, an annual raffle, is typically organized by Sunnyside Noon Rotary Club. This year, the club raised more than $5,000 for the team’s expenses.
“It’s been a big help,” Board Secretary Faith Smeenk said.
The team, she said, will be hosting the Mid-Valley Swim League championship meet in 2017. Because it is such a large event, adding to the team’s expenses, Smeenk said the board will need to begin planning its fundraising efforts for that event, as well.
During the board’s planning this past year, it was decided there would be three coaches, but a fourth was added due to the number of swimmers registered, Smeenk said.
Coaching the Sharks this past summer were Mollie Pearson, the Broersma sisters and Payton Sample.
Marisa Broersma said teamwork and communication led to many successes this past summer.
She said the board improved its communication with the coaches and it was extremely helpful.
“The board has been good about telling us about concerns from parents,” Broersma said, noting the board members act as a buffer for them.
Newhouse said that effort was the result of a lot of work, educating parents and letting them know they should direct concerns to the board and not the
“When parents directly address the coaches it can create a lot of drama… Acting as a buffer can help coaches be more effective and less stressed,” Newhouse said.
Marisa Broersma said another key to success this past summer was “…there is no hierarchy among the coaches.”
She said Pearson served as head coach, but allowed the assistants to work in a manner that best suited their swimmers’ needs.
“She would provide us with a workout and we could modify it to fit our age groups,” Broersma said of Pearson’s leadership.
Pearson credited the assistant coaches for working hard and making certain her philosophies were adhered to when it came to workouts.
“That really led to many of the records that were set this (past) summer,” she said.
One of those philosophies, said Pearson, included working more diligently to ensure no swimmer fell through the cracks.
“It’s particularly important to help ‘middle range’ swimmers because they may not need the most help, nor may they be the very best. But, they may need extra encouragement,” she said.
Those swimmers add to the overall success as a program and contribute to the team’s family atmosphere, Pearson said.
Throughout the season the successes of the swimmers are celebrated with ribbons for surpassing personal best times. The swimmers also have an opportunity to qualify for the AAU Junior Olympics via the regional meet in Toppenish.
As to what motivates the board members and the coaches, Newhouse said there is a legacy to be maintained.
“It’s a standard that has been set and we want to keep in place,” he said.
That standard will continue in 2016, when Grandview hosts the Mid-Valley Swim League championships.