Ware Pool is home to the Swarthmore men and women’s swimming teams. It is a ten-lane by ten-lane competition pool where the Garnet train year-round. Starting in the fall of 2018, it became home to the Springfield High School swim team as well. Prior to their transition to Swarthmore’s facilities, the Springfield Delco High School Swim Team did not have a home meet for fourteen years. They can now conduct home meets and a senior night, something that was done at opponents’ facilities for the last fourteen years.
Boys’ swimming head coach at Springfield Delco, Derek Kay, is grateful for Swarthmore’s head coach Karin Colby.
“Karin has provided us with a practice facility that is accommodating, immaculate, and convenient for our schedule. She is always flexible when it comes to our needs,” Kay said.
Kay came in contact with Colby once he realized the new high school would not be building a natatorium. Springfield High School has always been without a pool in the school district so before the transition to Swarthmore College, they practiced one hour a day at the Ridley YMCA.
“I don’t recall exactly how I first connected with Coach Kay, but I’d imagine it was through Steve Talley, a member of Swarthmore’s Facilities staff whose son swims for Springfield High School. Steve is our pool operator so I believe he brought it up to me that the high school team was looking for a new home pool to train in. After connecting with Coach Kay, in the fall of 2018, we welcomed the high school team to Ware Pool for regular practices and a couple of their swim meets. The first year worked out really well for everyone so we were happy to have them back this year,” Colby said.
The result of this transition to Swarthmore has been nothing but positive for Kay and his swim team.
“We went from four wins in 2018, seven in 2019, to an all-time high of nine victories this year,” Kay said. “The attendance has been great from our fans and the feedback from the visiting team has been stellar. Visiting team coaches love the atmosphere and their parents very much enjoy attending the swim meets.”
Usage of Swarthmore’s facilities has allowed this high school team to gain traction for their program within their high school community.
“Our student-athletes finally have a place to call home and actually feel a sense of belonging,” said Kay. Because of the scheduling, the Springfield Delco High School swimmers often get to interact with Swarthmore swimmers as they enter and exit the pool.
Swarthmore women’s swimmer, Anna Kottakis ’22, feels it is very important to connect her team to the local community of young swimmers.
“I can’t imagine my own high school experience without swimming,” she said. “It is really fun to witness the swimmers on the Springfield High School team creating a really positive and fun team environment on a daily basis. It’s a really cool experience to get to talk to younger swimmers who look up to [me and] my teammates. Getting to interact with younger swimmers or even just watch parts of their practices reminds all of us why we chose to continue swimming in college.”
Colby is not sure if Swarthmore has previously partnered with any high school programs, but they worked with club swim teams on short and long term schedules in the past. Colby hopes to build on this relationship between schools in the future.
“What has made the Springfield relationship so great is that the high school student-athletes feel like Ware Pool is their home pool — something they wouldn’t otherwise have,” Colby said. “They had previously trained at a YMCA and that feels a little less homelike for a high school team. When we host their swim meets, they feel like this is their pool and they have a lot of pride in that. Hosting their senior meet is always a special meet because we get to be part of celebrating the end of their high school swimming career. For many of these student-athletes this is their last swim meet after ten plus years in the sport, and to be able to provide them with a connection to Ware Pool and Swarthmore College is a great feeling.”
Colby also noted that it has been challenging to balance time in the facility between her college team, the high school team, and open swim for the campus community. Fortunately, a large part of the high school season takes place during Swarthmore’s winter break so it is much easier to navigate that scheduling.
Kay and the Springfield swim team look forward to using this opportunity to use Swarthmore’s facilities to improve on their recent success.
“It’s been a fantastic year thus far for everything to come together at the perfect time,” Kay said. “Everyone had a hand in this becoming a reality, especially the swimmers with Swarthmore providing the environment in which they flourished. I’m confident the best is yet to come!”