Good Luck

August 26th, 2019

piranha team feature photoLast year’s Piranhas gathers for a team photo prior to the start of the season in the pools. Courtesy photoROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times


Two weeks ago was Memorial Day, which many consider the official kickoff to the summer season, a season that finds many cooling off at their favorite swimming hole.

This Tuesday, swimmers with the local Piranhas swim team will be hitting the pool at the Seward County Community College Wellness Center to help raise money for the team’s expenses.

The team will host a swim-a-thon from 6 to 7:15 p.m., and Piranhas Board President Mirella Buchman said the average cost for each of the team’s members is about $40 to $45 a month.

“Some of our swimmers can’t afford that,” she said. “With that fee, we pay for the pool and for our coaches. We pay for a swimsuit, a T-shirt and a cap. Some of our swimmers really want to swim, but their parents may not be able to afford it. What we do is we put on a fundraiser for every swim meet.”

Piranhas is part of the Southwest Aquatics Team, a Seward County United Way agency, and Buchman said United Way has been great about offering scholarships to help with swimmers’ costs.

“Last year, we gave out five scholarships for the summer season, and this year, we had another five kids apply for the scholarship as well. For those kids who don’t get the scholarships or can’t afford it, we provide fundraisers,” she said.

For Tuesday’s fundraiser, Buchman said each swimmer will get someone to sponsor them to swim a given number of laps.

“It’s $1 per lap,” she said. “If you give somebody $5, they’ll be swimming five laps. It’s different pricing because we have different age groups. We have 8 and under. We have 13 and 14-year-olds and 15 and over. Each kid varies. The little kids, they probably won’t be able to swim 50 laps, but they do as much as they think they can do.”

Buchman said everyone is encouraged to come out and watch the swimming Tuesday night.

“The sponsors, we’re inviting them to come and watch the kids swim those laps they have sponsored,” she said. “They can pay for the kids’ membership depending on how much they raise, or they can pay for the swimsuit or the goggles.”

Buchman said she would like to raise as much as possible, but at the very least, enough to cover team expenses.

“The only hope I’m hoping for is to raise enough funds for the kids to be able to pay for their swim season,” she said. “Our only requirement is to just raise as much as we can to pay for their fees.”

Buchman said the swim-a-thon is designed to be fun for all involved.

“We try to make it enticing for the parents because the more sponsors they get, the less the parents have to pay,” she said. “We also want to make it enticing for the kids because it’s more fun if you have a goal you have to work towards.”

The Southwest Aquatics Team (SWAT) originated in the mid-1990s in Liberal by parents one of several clubs in the Western Kansas Swim Club.

“Liberal didn’t have a swim team, so parents decided to get together and make it happen,” Buchman said. “Our values are to encourage friendly competition and provide another outlet for kids to be able to participate in swimming and other sports. We take kids from ages 5 to 18. The only requirement is they need to know how to swim prior to coming. We teach them the rest of the strokes once they’re here with us. We are a member of the USA swim team.”

SWAT takes part in swim meets every Saturday during the summer.

“This year, we actually have eight or 10 swim meets, and we’re all year round,” Buchman said. “We have a fall membership. During the fall, we do a technique season. We work on having the swimmers work on the right form, the right strokes, how to breathe. We also have a swim meet in the fall. We try to go to at least one in the fall. Around November, we usually go to Garden. They have a swim meet there we attend. We also have our pre-competition season or our spring/winter season, and it goes from January all the way up to spring break. We also have meets there as well.” 

Buchman said the team competes at districts, and swimmers can also participate in the junior Olympics if they qualify.

“A couple of years ago, we had one of our swimmers go and swim for KU,” she said. 

Buchman said different age groups have different coaches, and the team usually carries three instructors. With less numbers, though, this season is seeing less coaches. Buchman said all levels have their own unique instructions.

“Usually for our brand new swimmers, our 5, 6, 7-year-olds, they get their own coach, and it’s only one coach for five kids,” she said. “Usually, that coach gets in the pool with them. They show them the different strokes, how to breathe.”

Swimmers age 8 to 13 also have their own coach.

“They’re always watching what strokes they’re doing, make sure they’re turning their heads, the proper technique,” Buchman said. “We have another coach for our older swimmers, our middle schoolers and high schoolers. They’re more of the competitive swimmers.”

Last year’s team saw between 15 and 20 members participate in the team district meet in Dodge City and five others who qualified for a meet in Wichita.

“We had one or two who qualified to go further,” Buchman said. “They just chose not to go.”

Buchman said swimmers as young as 5 have competed at those meets, and she said whether or not a person wants to compete there simply comes down to comfort level.

“We have those kids who have been swimming since birth, so they’re really comfortable in the water,” she said. “If the parents and the swimmer are okay swimming in competition, we’ll put them in the competition. They love it. They do really well with it.”

SWAT members likewise provide community service hours.

“United Way has sponsored us in the past, so we try to volunteer,” Buchman said. “All of our kids are required to do some community service hours, especially if we have a United Way event. Other sponsors in the past have been Southwest Medical Center, Conestoga.”

SWAT’s board is made up of parents, and Buchman said the only requirement to be a board member is to be a parent of a swimmer on the team.

Buchman said adults get much out of helping with the Piranhas team. 

“Watching the kids compete is great,” she said. “Western Kansas Swim Club, we’re big, but we’re all small towns. We have Guymon, Elkhart, Hays, Great Bend, Dodge, Garden City, Scott City, Dumas. We compete with all of them, so it’s really nice when we are at the meets, we get to see all of the kids’ friends. It’s like our little family. We get to see each other in the summer and on every Saturday when we see each other at a meet. Even if our kids aren’t competing, we’re still cheering on the other kids. We’re still go over there and watch and try to cheer on the other team’s kids. It’s just great sportsmanship and trying to build relationships with the other teams. At the end, we’re all a big team, so at the end when we compete, we’re all considered one team. We end up coming together, and we’re all just one Western Kansas swim team.”

Because SWAT is a non-profit, Buchman said the team is not allowed to carry much in funding over from year to year, and this has made keeping the local team running a bit of a challenge.

“In the past, we have had other benefactors, but in the last few years since I’ve taken over, we’ve done United Way and we’ve done our own fundraisers,” she said. 

Buchman estimated SWAT is allowed to carry just less than $1,000 into the next year, and the team tries to keep about that much to help with the financial challenges of the club.

“We try not to get too low underneath that,” she said. “When we do start the next season, we can have enough money if somebody needs something. We also pay for all of our coaches’ certifications. We’ll use that money also to get our coaches certified.”

When SWAT does run low on funds, Buchman said she puts the load on her board members to come up with new fundraising ideas.

“We try to get creative,” she said. “We don’t put that on the parents or the swimmers. The board members will find whatever other funds we need to get the team going.”

Pick your language/Elige su idioma

Liberal Income Tax-front
Lib Coalition-learn & play