Kankakee Country Club Shockwave Head Coach Melissa Tyson cheers on Faith Wirtz as she finishes her butterfly stroke in the 100 meter individual medley at the Dolphin League Championship Meet on July 15 at the KCC Pool.
story by Anne Halliwell; photo by Aubry Gibson
The Kankakee Country Club Shockwave Swim Club has a short period of time - June through mid-July - to turn inexperienced swimmers into competitors. But the club has a secret weapon it pulls out each season: returning members. Those weapons were exactly what the Shockwaves needed this summer as they captured their first-ever Dolphin League Championsip.
Although each summer brings a new roster of swimmers to the country club pool, Shockwave Head Coach Melissa Tyson seems to rely on a core of experienced swimmers and divers, like nine-year member Faith Wertz.
Having joined the KCC swim team at age three, Wertz spent the last nine summers learning to swim and dive for the country club.
“The whole time I’ve been coaching, she’s been swimming,” head coach Melissa Tyson said. “She’s one that loves the sport - she also dives for the team as well - and so she’s a really good role model for that younger kid.”
Returning swimmers boost the team’s scores, but they may also add to its roster.
“We love to see that, because if we can get kids coming back every year, that’s a good thing,” Tyson said. “Because then they’re going to tell their friends about it too, and hopefully bring some more people to the team."
"Oftentimes, the new, younger swimmers are fired up to compete and improve" Tyson added, "and while they can learn the mechanics of each stroke at practice, their times at meets tend to be less consistent."
The older children are also likely to compete in another sport in the off-season, which keeps them in shape. Wertz ice-skates competitively, and Evita Martinez, one of three sisters on the KCC swim team, said she met some of the other members on the YMCA swim team, in gymnastics or in dance.
“Here, you, start doing 50s (at age) 11 and up,” Martinez said. “At the Y, you start when you’re ten, so, that extra year of getting prepared is really helpful.”
And although competition in the pool is one of swim team’s draws, assistant coach Alex Palacios said he hopes his swimmers also grow outside of the pool.
“From summer to summer, I think the biggest thing I see is that the want to work is there,” Palacios said. “Especially in the leadership. Because there’s kids back from when I started three years ago ... that didn’t take initiative, as far as telling other kids what to do, or letting other kids come to them, and now those same kids are the leaders on this team.”
Wertz said she comes back each year to spend time with her friends, accomplish new swimming and diving moves, and to learn from the coaching staff.
“The people are the nicest people ever - like, they’re not hard on you, but they are,” Wertz said. “You accomplish stuff, but they’re not being mean about it. And they push you to where you can go, but they make you better while they’re doing it.”
And while the KCC team has historically struggled to compete at the swimming championships because of its relatively small size, they did win the sportsmanship award for excellent self-conduct at the end of the last swim season.
“It’s all a team act,” Wertz said. “So when the team does good, we all do good.”
And that is exactly what they did - playing off that experience at the Dolphin League Championships in mid-July.
An all-around team effort found the Shockwaves sitting at the top of the leaderboard at the end of the meet, topping second-place Chicago Highlands Country Club by 50 points, 1363-1313.
With the 2017 season in the books and a Dolphin League champioinship under their belt, it should prove to be an exciting summer next year over at the pool on Cobb Boulevard.