The Bulkley Valley Otters held their first home meet of the season this past weekend at the BV Pool and Rec. Centre.
Sixty-five kids from around the Bulkley Valley came out to compete in the friendly and for many of the younger kids in attendance, it was their first chance to race against their peers in a timed setting.
“For the little guys, we’re here to see how well they can swim, not how fast,” Otters head coach Tom Best said. “For a home meet like this it’s a great chance for the young kids to get their first racing experience and the older kids can treat it like a practice.”
Swimmers competed in mostly short-distance events, but all of the various techniques were covered.
So far this season, the Otters swim club has had their share of success.
At their most recent meet in Prince George the club swam as part of the Points North team that finished second overall in the meet. Three swimmers from the Otters won events in their age groups and another four had top-three finishes.
In the past year the club has doubled in size and is now the second largest in the northwest region, but Best isn’t content to stop there.
“This is another building year,” Best said. “I think we have more building years ahead of us, but generally I think people are pretty happy with the way things are going and parents are happy with the way their kids are being treated.”
Best has the help of three other coaches, two of whom have Canadian university experience in the water.
“We have an excellent coaching staff, they all help out tremendously. I always see really well done practices.”
The club has a reputation of succeeding at distance races, but Best insists that their focus is on skill development, using the 4×100 individual medley, which incorporates all the major disciplines (fly, breaststroke, backstroke and freestyle), as a basis.
“We have a lot of really good distance swimmers, but we actually swim less distance then most other clubs around here,” Best said.
“We want to make sure these kids are competing in everything and learning all the skills they need.”
Best is also encouraged by the numbers of younger kids who’ve signed up with the Otters in the past two years.
“The majority of our program is with younger kids, under 10. With the younger kids, it gives us a chance to start working with them early on and that will help them develop into better swimmers in the long run.”
They’ve also changed their teaching style in recent years, opting to include more peer work in the curriculum.
“We like to make sure the older kids are helping the younger kids,” Best said.
The Otters will wind down towards Christmas, but get back into full swing in January to prepare for upcoming regional and provincial tournaments at the end of the month.