Spartans help Otter swimmers

Coach Steve Link preps students during a winter maintenance swim session.

Barry Stewart,

Black Press

Stroke by stroke, a bunch of kids from Hope are improving their swimming skills in preparation for the coming summer swim season.

Mattijs Schonewille and Steve Link, two local dads with a swimming background, have agreed to take on winter coaching positions, in affiliation with Chilliwack’s Spartan swim club.

Since the beginning of January, they’ve been running nine kids through conditioning and stroke refinement exercises on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The group’s program was designed by Justin Daly, head coach of the Spartans and Schonewille and Link carry it out, with a few of their own adjustments.

“We did a session in Hope last winter,” said Daly on Monday. “I met Steve because his kids were swimming there and I learned that he was an ex-swimmer and coach in Saskatchewan.

I asked him if he’d like to help coach — and then I met Mattijs at the Master’s swimming group that I coach in Chilliwack and asked him if he’d like to coach too.”

“I’ve been swimming since I was seven years old,” said Schonewille on Monday. “I was a swimming coach in Holland and after that, I was a water polo player and coach at the highest level, the European League. I played for about 15 years. In Italy, there are professional water polo players — but in Holland it’s more of a hobby.”

Three years ago Mattijs, his wife Manon and their family moved to Hope.

The couple operates an internet services business and Link is a teacher at Hope Secondary.

“The focus of our group is to work on stroke techniques — and to have fun,” explained Schonewille. “We’ll also be getting into the rules for swim meets and how to do a competition without getting disqualified.

Sessions start at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, starting with a dry land warm-up followed by one hour in the water. Kids are involved in setting up and winding up the lane markers as part of their training.

“We’ve got a pretty good group,” added Schonewille. “More than half of them were with the Hope Otters last summer.”

His daughters Sofie and Noa weren’t with the local club last year but Emma and Darby Link were, along with 22 other kids.

“We do stroke and kick tests and compare the results to the Chilliwack swimmers,” said Schonewille. “Justin says we’re doing about as well as they are.”

The 10-week session ends just before spring break, then another starts up after the break, ending in late May. With the Otters’ summer swim club starting at the beginning of May, there will be some overlap to deal with, said Otters’ president Stacey Gauthier.

“I’m yet to have a meeting with my executive,” he said. “Then we’ll have to meet with the parents to lay out a plan for the upcoming season.

“Our summer season is supposed to start on May 1 but we need to secure coaching through the summer — and this has to be discussed at the executive level first.

“The Spartans are considered a winter club that can train through the whole year,” explained Gauthier, whose son Nick is taking part in their winter maintenance program.

“They’re running a basic program for our kids, who are allowed to swim for one hour, twice a week in the winter under a coach’s supervision. If they swim more than that, they can’t compete with the regular kids in summer swimming. They’d have to swim in the O-class.

“The current session was $225 for 10 weeks, which included insurance through the Spartans.

The next one will be $175 for those who swam in the first session.

“Once the summer season begins in May, they’re allowed to swim multiple hours for up to five days a week. We only trained twice a week last year — but it’s a matter of how much time and money the parents are willing to put into it… and the pool and coaching availability.”

Check with Dan Sharrers at the Hope Aquatic Center staff if you’d like to find out more about swim programs.

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