Armed with a new name, a new logo, and a new coach, you can be sure Strathcona County’s SilverRays Swim Club is ready to make some waves.
In July, a merger between the two local swim clubs, the Silver Tide and Stingrays, was announced, which gave rise to the new swim club; Strathcona County SilverRays.
The club held a logo contest via social media, where all entries had to include the team’s name and use silver and blue in the design. Twenty-seven entries were submitted, which were short-listed to a top three. The board noted the winning logo was an overwhelming favourite. And the best silver lining behind the logo creation was it involved five swimmers who swam with both former teams.
Former Silver Tides Sienna Cyca-Loree and Mackenzie Pearson, along with former Stingrays Tanya Berry, Amelie Provencher, and Halle Gizowski collaborated together to create a smooth sweeping string ray design, which weaves in waves around it. The group said they were inspired by other ocean photos and overall “just wanted something pretty”.
“I really like the logo. I think it will look nice on our caps and hoodies,” said 15-year-old Cyca-Loree.
All of the swimmers seemed pumped about the merger and didn’t view their now peers as former competition. So far, the SilverRays have just less than 100 competitive swimmers signed up for this season, and it’s still taking registrations, dependent on availability within cohorts.
“It’s better because there are more kids to swim with and get more advice from,” noted 14-year-old Pearson.
“It’s fun because there are more people. There are more people to talk to and train against,” said Cyca-Loree, adding she’s looking forward to learning more about her new teammates.
New head coach Mark Chantaj outlined how these five girls worked together on the logo illustrates how appropriate the merger really was. With parents and swimmers crossing paths from either former club for years, it only made sense to pool resources and come together, he noted.
“The girls were already friends. It’s great to see this level of excitement from swimmers right out of the gate,” Chantaj said.
All of the swimmers were happy to be back in the pool.
“I’m excited to get back into the routine of things. Before, when COVID was starting, we had to train on our own and that wasn’t very motivating. When you’re in an environment with your friends, you’re more motivated to improve. It’s a lot more exciting than doing nothing,” said 15-year-old Provencher.
Currently, the club is operating out of the Kinsmen Recreation Centre until January as renovations continue at their home base, Millennium Place.
COVID-19 has obviously changed much of how everything is handled on deck and in the lanes. Before even going to the pool, all participants need to fill out an online health questionnaire before each practice. Swimmers are required to enter at a designated side door, they need to wear a mask when they walk into the building and while in change rooms. Practices are divided into smaller cohorts, which have certain pool times to ensure they’re not mixing with other cohorts. Coaches are physically distancing and wearing masks when appropriate. A maximum of 15 parents, physically distanced, is also being capped from the viewing area. The team also has the pool to themselves during practices, with no public lane swims or other uses allowed at the same time.
“Having the swim club operating is largely dependent on procedures being followed. No one wants the swim club or the facility to get shut down for something as silly as some individuals not following safety procedures,” outlined the head coach.
“It’s a lot different than what it was like before. There are a lot more things to remember when you’re coming to practice,” said 14-year-old Gizowski.
A packed pool deck of parents, swimmers, coaches, judges and timers during swim meets will also be a thing of the past. During COVID-19, the SilverRays plan to compete in virtual swim meets, where swimmers’ times will be posted online for other clubs to compete against.
“There isn’t as many swim meets to train for so it’s not as stressful and it’s harder to set goals, but we’re doing more training than what we did last year. We’ll have more time to focus on our stroke and do other things outside of the pool that we didn’t do last year like yoga,” said 14-year-old Berry.
The online swim meets, about one every month, will not be sanctioned by Swim Alberta, but the coach is looking to think outside of the box and work with other swim clubs from across the province to engage swimmers this season.
Overall, Chantaj is hoping to provide some stability and normalcy to swimmers’ daily and weekly routines.
“The kids who typically play sports and those who are swimmers are definitely active, I don’t think sitting around at home for four months was the best experience for the vast majority of swimmers, myself included. When we were allowed to start participating again in activities, that was a big relief. Now, it’s about establishing a good routine, creating that positive environment so the kids can have fun and work hard. We’re not trying to do too much, too soon. Everything is organized and safe and we’re not going to try to over complicate things with the program and practices at the pool,” the coach explained.
The club’s eight-week swim school also launches in October and spots are still available.
For more information on Silver Rays, go to silverrays.ca, look for @silverrays_swimclub on Instagram or find them on Facebook.