Fins up! Sharks set for year-round swimming
Fresh off a successful first summer as a Chattanooga Area Swim League team, the Catoosa Great White Sharks are hoping for bigger and better things in the future, in and out of the pool.
To that degree, Coach Phil Donihe has begun the second phase of his plan as Great White Shark Aquatics (GWSA) is set to officially become a year-round program.
“What I wanted to do was bring something to create a safe, fun, enjoyable venue and a ministry for the kids in the area around the sport of swimming,” said the Chattanooga native and McCallie graduate. “There are a lot of youth in this area that would be interested in a yearround program.
“It’s something that’s been needed for a long time. People have been talking about it for a long time and now it’s time. We’re getting a lot of interest. We’ll have to use pools in other areas to start with until we can get a facility of our own built.”
Donihe said he has already secured the use of two indoor swimming facilities for GWSA swimmers. Starting on Sept. 5, practices will be held on Monday through Saturday at the Dalton Recreation Center pool from 6-8 p.m. Then in October, the practice sessions will shift to the downtown Chattanooga YMCA from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
However, Donihe said the ultimate goal is to one day construct an indoor aquatic center locally, adding that that the GWSA’s newly-minted Shark Tooth Foundation will work to help to raise the necessary funds. He said he has already had some very early discussions about where such a facility could be built.
He estimates that a ‘bare-bones’ facility, consisting of an inground pool, covered by a metal building, could be done for as little as $500,000, although the full aquatic center he envisions may run in the
neighborhood of $2-$3 million.
Donihe said his vision for an aquatic center would include such things such as swimming and diving lessons, the formation of a diving team, water polo, water safety, first-aid and lifeguard training, water fitness classes and plenty of opportunities for home-schooled students and Special Olympic athletes.
“Our end game would be an athletic conditioning and research facility with a fully comprehensive, multi-sport park, which we would call ‘The Podium’,” he explained. “The idea for that type of complex would be to start with the pool and build out. We haven’t cut through any red tape or anything yet. We’ve just been talking about how to start up the process because it’s going to be a big project.”
Donihe said the yearround team program will also consist of at least one USA Swimming-affiliated meet each month.
“The iron’s hot,” he added. “All that interest and excitement from (this summer) is carrying right into this year-round swimming.”
But teaching kids how to be better swimmers is only part of challenge Donihe will be undertaking with GWSA. He says the organization will be based on community service and improving the lives of families in the area, not just the kids.
“We’ll do community service once a month,” he continued. “All of our swimmers, coaches and parents will devote a practice time to working for a non-profit organization or charity in this area, starting off with Zing Ocean Conservancy.”
GWSA’s first community project as a team will be held on Thursday, Aug, 31 at Jack Mattox Park. Following a ribboncutting ceremony at 4 p.m., the group will do a park clean-up.
“Our mission statement is ‘to foster the advancement of a unified community’,” Donihe said. “And our vision statement is ‘minds of independence, hearts of service, souls of integrity’. The idea is to create serviceminded individuals that want to give back to a community.
“Do we want to create great athletes? Of course. But to be a great athlete, I believe you have to have a certain set of character qualities to go along with that.”
For more information on GWSA, contact Donihe at coachphil17@yahoo. com.
GWSA will also be holding a Spirit Night at the Chick-fil-A in Fort Oglethorpe on Sept. 26 from 5-8 p.m.