by Jared Kaufman, Katz JCC Aquatics Director
The Katz JCC Sharks Swim Team has been a main staple of the Health & Wellness Aquatics program and dates back over 20 years to the old JCC building on Rt.70. In that time, the Sharks have become a competitive and recreational program for children of all ages to expand their swimming knowledge, work on their strokes and build endurance and speed all while doing so in a fun, team building environment. Our team has historically swam against other JCC’s in the Mid-Atlantic region and just this year joined the Greater South Jersey Swim League, a competitive league situated all across South Jersey.
Our season runs from September through March and includes between 6-10 swim meets per season as well as all-team social events including an end of year swim team banquet. Our program has also included an inclusive swim team for swimmers with special needs and allows those swimmers to practice regularly, work on their strokes and endurance as well as compete in swim meets throughout the year.
Hundreds of JCC swimmers have called themselves Sharks over the years, but very few have been able to say they were both a swimmer and coach. In the 2017-18 season, we were pleased to bring a lifelong member of our team to the coaching staff, Julia Orel. Her lifelong experience on the team helped shape the person she is today, and this is what Julia had to say when I sat down with her:
“At a very young age, I developed a love for swimming. Always wanting to be in the pool, surrounded by water and my parents’ encouragement, had me joining the Katz JCC Swim Team. As a member of the team, I went to practice four times a week and worked on each stroke every practice. When I would work on a certain stroke I would push myself to work harder and improve, by listening to the coach’s critiques so when it came time for a meet I would feel prepared. Not only were practices a time for me to work on my skills and stamina, but a time to socialize with my friends who I might not have seen at school. The league that we swam in always had meets on Sundays. I loved being able to travel to other states and swim in different pools and compete against different swimmers. I had always looked forward to competing, but also to improve my own time. My parents would always be in the stands cheering me on as loud as they could and even though I could never hear them in the pool, I was always happy to know they were watching and cheering me on. I would always feel super accomplished no matter how I placed, as long as I tried my best.
As I started to get older and had more homework and after school activities, going to practices became harder. I knew that I did not want to stop being a part of the team, so I got certified as a lifeguard. Once I became a lifeguard I knew I wanted to be a coach for the swim team. I wanted to help younger swimmers reach their highest potential, just like my coaches did with me. It has been an incredible experience helping kids improve their swimming, but also be able to cheer them on in a meet no matter what. This swim team has been a part of my life for ten years and becoming a coach was the last piece to complete the circle.”
Julia’s time at the J, from swim team member, to lifeguard, to coach, is just one example of how joining our Katz JCC family can help our youth develop and grow. For more information on the Katz JCC Sharks visit www.katzjcc.org/jcc-swim-team.