“Even lifeguards at swimming competitions take notice of our coach’s positive attitude,” says Christi Detwiler, mother of 11-year-old Waterdawgs team member, Lindsay. “They compliment the team saying, ‘this is what everyone wishes their coaches were like’.”
Established in 2009 as a registered USA Swimming Club, the Waterdawgs have sent team members to state in every Season.
“At competitions, everyone looks at the Waterdawgs and says, ‘you guys came out of nowhere’. They can’t believe how well we compete for such a young team,” says Thu Scott, mother of four Waterdawgs team members.
The Waterdawgs were given a boost last year when Olympian swimmer, Kim Rhodenbaugh Macklin, conducted clinics during the Waterdawgs Swim Camp. She helped swimmers learn the correct form up front so they didn’t have to unlearn bad habits later.
Coach E.J. also breaks down the swimming strokes into small parts. “This gives kids bite-size milestones to accomplish. They celebrate each step they achieve and feel good about themselves. I love to see the smiles on their faces when they finally get it right.”
These feelings of accomplishment are key to a child’s self-esteem, especially in girls. According to research from the NYU Child Study Center, “Girls’ self-esteem peaks when they are about nine-years-old, then it takes a nosedive.” They’ve found that female athletes do better academically and have lower school drop-out rates than non-athletes. The study supports regular physical activity to “enhance girls’ mental health, reduce symptoms of stress and depression, and make them feel strong and competent.”
“Swimming especially gives a sense of accomplishment and self-fulfillment while encouraging team work,” says Sandy Bourgeois, a local Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Play Therapist. “Swimming is about beating your own time—achieving to do better while encouraging team members to do the same.”
Bourgeois’ insights resonate with Waterdawgs parents. “The physical well-being and strength I see in my daughter feeds into her self-esteem,” says Detwiler. “At the meets, the kids cheer on team members who are racing. They support each other and know someone is cheering for them.”
The Waterdawgs swim team is open to all ages, but focuses on the pre-high school age group, grooming swimmers for the Altus High School team.
“Because of the Waterdawgs, ninth-graders come to our team ready for competition,” says Linda Wiginton, head coach of the Altus High School Swim Team.
As a swim club, the Waterdawgs is a private organization that relies on dues and fundraising to ‘stay afloat’.
“The goal is to keep the kids in the water,” says Scott, who is also the fundraising chair. “We are the ones responsible for the pool rental and paying the coaches.”
The largest fundraiser of the year is the Annual Swim-A-Thon on April 28. The Waterdawgs are augmenting this by co-hosting a community event that same day with the Red Cross called Swim-A-Cross. Money raised will benefit both organizations while promoting pool safety and emergency preparedness for tornado season. Altus groups and businesses are encouraged to form relay swim teams to compete and determine who ‘rules the water’ in Altus. The minimum donation for each team of five members is $100 with an individual-swimmer cost of $50.
To register a team for Swim-A-Cross, or if you are interested in trying out for the Waterdawgs swim team, please call 480-1614.