Opinion: Facility would continue the goals of all entities involvedConcerns have recently been expressed regarding efforts of the school board and the City Council to have continued access to a facility that will allow them to continue their respective aquatics programs over the next few years until a permanent indoor swimming facility is available.
By: Chuck Baechler, Submitted columnist
Concerns have recently been expressed regarding efforts of the school board and the City Council to have continued access to a facility that will allow them to continue their respective aquatics programs over the next few years until a permanent indoor swimming facility is available. Those efforts have centered on the plans of the Mitchell Aquatic Club, a local non-profit organization, to build a temporary pool that would serve as their training facility as well as be a functional substitute for the middle school pool. The decisions that the members of these bodies have made have not been based upon friendship or charity towards MAC; both the city and the school district have compelling reasons to help facilitate the construction of this facility.
Despite the decision to close their pool due to budget constraints, not one of the members of the school board ever questioned the value of the swimming program within the physical education curriculum. The teachers at the middle school have developed that curriculum over the past 35-odd years and it is one of the most successful aspects of the physical education department in terms of providing fitness skills, as well as safety skills for every student who attends the middle school. That program could continue in the planned temporary pool at a lower cost to the district.
In the past, the city has utilized the indoor pool as the host location for a large portion of their summer swimming lessons, which are too large to be held at the Recreation Center. The city will also have access to this facility for that purpose once it is built. Further, the city also directly benefits from the continued development of swimmers within the MAC program in terms of staffing for all its aquatic facilities; at least two-thirds of the lifeguards working at city pools are current or former swim team members.
This facility will serve many diverse needs within our community and it is an appropriate partnership for the city and Board of Education to attempt to maintain important educational and safety training that they have undertaken in the past.
In point of fact, competition is not even the primary focus of MAC. As noted in the team handbook, the Mitchell Aquatic Club’s mission is to create, maintain and promote individual and family fitness and meaningful life skills through community based aquatic programs. It is true that competitive swimming is one of the primary mechanisms that we utilize to achieve those goals; however, it is important to note that the 50 adults who have participated in our masters program over the years did not swim competitively, although a significant number either learned to swim or substantially improved their ability to include swimming in their daily fitness plans through our program.
The 30 to 40 swimmers under age 7 that MAC has hosted in water safety programs taught by our swimmers and coaches each spring and fall over the past four years were not competitive swimmers. Finally, at least 25 percent of our athletes chose not to swim in competition; rather, they take advantage of the health benefits of swimming regularly for fitness as it related to childhood obesity, diabetes or asthma.
A temporary training facility makes it possible to continue the programming of all of these groups and directly contributes to the health, safety and quality of life in our community — legitimate goals that all elected bodies should attempt to further and promote.
Chuck Baechler is head coach of the Mitchell Aquatic Club.
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