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iBerkshires.com Columnist Section

Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Pool Pals

By Jen Thomas
04:58AM / Friday, May 18, 2007

Olivia Nuvallie and Breanne Deluca-Richardson [Photo by Jen Thomas]
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North Adams - "I never been on a team," said 5-year-old Olivia Nuvallie, of North Adams at Thursday night's Northern Berkshire YMCA Betta Swim Team Open House. "It's kind of like my first time swimming."

Along with 10 other swimmers, Nuvallie participated in a Betta team open swim and demonstration by Betta team members and learned a bit of what it takes to be a part of a competitive team.

Team swimmers range in age from 5 to 17 years old and must be able to swim the length of the pool without the help of any flotation devices, said Sandie Richardson, president of the Bettas' parent advisory board.


April Foley and Heather Foley "on the blocks" [Photo by Jen Thomas]
"We have 25-30 kids involved right now," said Richardson and added that up to 60 children had participated in the team sport in the past. As an introduction to the 8-week program, Richardson and the advisory board are offering a 2-week trial at a discounted price for parents and children who are unfamiliar with the program and the level of commitment.

"We want everyone to know how demanding it can be," said Richardson, who has two daughters on the team, Meghan DeLuca-Richardson, 11 and Breanne DeLuca-Richardson, 6.

Building Self-Esteem

A Monday "Bring A Friend" evening drew about 30 youth to the pool, and open house hours were hosted on May 16 and 17. Richardson said she was pleased with the interest shown at the May 14 bring a friend event.

"We'd really like to see more kids come," she said.

Though the team does compete with events such as the Eddie Nassif Independence Invitational Swim Meet and, when swimmers qualify, New England Championship meets, coaches and parents are more interested in teaching their children good sportsmanship.

"We run this program because it's good for kids and their self-esteem," said Coach Sonia DiSanti. "There's a focus on learning, not on winning."

The Bettas will meet at least 3 times a week for practices at the YMCA adjacent to the Brayton Elementary School beginning on May 18. Practice is usually scheduled on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Meets are on Mondays, between 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Many of the competitive meets are held out of town, in pools in Great Barrington, Springfield, Holyoke, or Keene, N.H..

Olivia Nuvallie enjoyed pool play with a floatie [Photo by Jen Thomas]


All About Friendship

"I come to practice to have fun and swim with my friends," said April Foley.

Along with the competitive component, many of the team members find the Bettas to be a great place to build lasting friendships .

"I make a lot of good, long, loyal friendships," said Meghan DeLuca-Richardson.

Many of the veterans on the team provide support for the younger kids.

"Sometimes they're a little bit rambunctious, but it's nice seeing them win stuff and get faster," said Heather Foley.

It was apparent during the demonstrations that the team members are dedicated to urging each other to be the best; the swimmers support each other with encouraging whistles and "Good Job!" cheers.

"We just want them to do the best they can," said DiSanti.

Support System


Meghan Deluca-Richardson, Heather Foley, and April Foley [Photo by Jen Thomas]
The parent advisory board for the Bettas is "the backbone" of the entire program, according to Richardson.

"They're the fundraising unit, the carpool people, the baking people…they're everyone who keeps everything going," she said.

The group is now raising money for an electronic timing system for the YMCA pool. Purchase of the system would mean an opportunity for team competitions at the home pool.

"It's a wonderful group of parents," said Richardson. "They're a great support team for the coaches and swimmers."

The success of the Northern Berkshire YMCA Betta Swim Team is dependent on the swimmers.

"It all depends on how hard they want to work," said parent Kathy Foley, of Williamstown.

To find out more about the Bettas, contact Sandie Richardson at sandie_richardson@verizon.net.

Jen Thomas may be reached via e-mail at jthomas@iberkshires.com or at 1-413-663-3384 ext. 29.
Your Comments
Post Comment
First, I want to thank Jennifer, for such a wonderful article, the kids are enjoying it, and I'm hoping that people give swimming a chance, lessons or team.
I also want to make sure, that I give kudos to the coach, Sonia, who gives a lot of her time and effort into each and everyone of these children including two of her own that are on this team. We most certainly can't function with out her love and devotion to these children and this team.
from: Sandie Richardsonon: 05-18 00:00:00-2007

When I was younger I was on a swim team and it was a great experience. I made good friends, became an excellent swimmer, and did not end up as an obese kid or adult.
from: Evanon: 05-18 00:00:00-2007

THis was an awesome article about the team and its new and old swimmers. I really loved it!!!
from: Meghan Deluca- RIchardsonon: 05-18 00:00:00-2007


 
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