Two years ago, the Black Mountain Stingrays were little more than a vision of head coach Beth DuBrock. With 23 children and no league membership, the swim team was simply participating in exhibition matches throughout the Western North Carolina.
But just before the beginning of last season, the Stingrays joined the Tarheel Swim League and nearly doubled in size to more than 40 members. Last week in a meet the team hosted at the Black Mountain pool, 83 children were on the roster.
“We have a lot of young swimmers,” DuBrock said of the Stingrays. “Around 85 percent of them are under the age of 10.”
The young core of swimmers puts DuBrock and her team on track to achieve her goal of bringing a youth swimming team back to the Swannanoa Valley. She was inspired to resurrect the Stingray name to honor the Black Mountain team that she competed against as a child as a member of a McDowell County swim team.
DuBrock insists that children signing up know how to swim. But she allows her swimmers to improve at their own speeds.
“We want to make this about fun,” she said. “I don’t measure our growth by whether or not we are on top in the conference. I measure our growth by the progress our swimmers are making individually.”
DuBrock, along with coaches Danny Little, Ryan Lucas and Karen Moseman, works with the children to teach them strokes and proper technique.
“There is a little bit of competitiveness in everybody,” she said. “Nobody wants to do something (and) not get better. So there is a level of competition, whether they are competing against other athletes or just competing against themselves.”
The team’s ability to attract more participants has led to an increased workload for DuBrock. But she has received significant help from parents of new swimmers, as well as from the “seasoned” parents, as she called them.
“The parents have been absolutely wonderful,” she said. “Even if we had one swimmer on the team, if we didn’t have 20-something parents we wouldn’t be able to do it.”
According to DuBrock, parents and supporters of the team have cultivated an environment that resembles a swimming community, which could be the key to additional growth. In spite of the rapid increase of kids on the team, DuBrock said there is room for more.
“I feel as though any child that wants to be in water and has no fear of water should be given the opportunity to learn how to feel comfortable in it,” she said. “As long as I have (the) parks and recreation (department) working with me, giving me ample time slots to work with people, I will never have enough” children.