Fins up! Sharks set for year-round swim­ming

Walker County Messenger - - Sports - By Scott Herpst

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.

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