Nothing says American summer like cookouts, iced tea, and swimming pools. Really, it is the community swimming pool that has come to play a major role in American communities. That is very apparent in Stoney Glen where families have been cooling off by the community pool on hot summer days since it opened nearly three decades ago.
Still, what has made Stoney Glen’s community pool such an important piece of the Chester community is not the summer heat relief or the cookouts and iced tea; it is the swim team.
Since 1996, kids in and around Stoney Glen have been suiting up and diving head first into competitive swimming as part of the Stoney Glen Stingrays Swim Team. But, swim teams do not just pop up overnight. According to longtime Stoney Glen resident and active pool member Cis Collazo, it takes a community effort to make a swim team work. She says it is a lot of hard work, but it is all worth it, ask anyone involved.
“The camaraderie between the swimmers and parents, it becomes one big family,” said Collazo. “Everybody looks out for one another and everybody knows everybody. It’s a great neighborhood organization.”
Former Stingrays swimmer Matthew Johnson remembers the evenings spent at the meets and speaks of it fondly.
“I remember all the parents, everyone was doing something,” said Johnson. “They were either timing, [serving as] assistant coaches, working the snack bar.”
For Johnson, the swim team was a perfect fit. From an early age, Johnson walked on his toes and had to wear splints when he was sleeping for adjustments. As a result his balance was off, and he struggled to excel in traditional sports. Still, his competitive spirit was alive and well and that led him to swimming.
“The thing about Matthew [Johnson], I coached him from day one, and he struggled but he never gave up,” said Stingray’s coach Diane Joyner. “He worked hard, and you can see where it got him.”
Today, Johnson is a rising senior at Virginia Military Institute and holds freshman and varsity school records in the 1000 -meter and 1650-meter freestyle and 800-meter relay.
Johnson has found success in the Stoney Glen pool and later in life, and he is not the only one.
“Over the years, our team has planted the seed for many youth to go on to become proficient swimmers,” said Joyner. “We are proud to say that our swimmers have gone on to become lifeguards, high school and college swimmers, competitors in Olympic trials, and even a Navy Seal.”
As former Stingray Fernando Rubio puts it, the swim team is a foundation. He remembers watching his brothers and sisters swim for the Stingrays, and when he was old enough he took to the water like a fish. He was able to learn and compete at a high level beyond summer league. Later, when the time came, Rubio was happy to pass on what he had learned to the younger swimmers as his elders did for him.
“One of the great things about being a part of this swim team was having the chance to develop as a swimmer from an early age, then getting to coach the younger kids as I got older,” said Rubio.
Now a graduate of George Mason and accomplished collegiate swimmer, Rubio attributes much of his success to the foundation laid at Stoney Glen. He gives much of the credit to his coaches – Diane Joyner, Beth Weber, and Jeanne Mosher – for keeping it fun.
“They put in so much effort to keep us competitive and made us enjoy swimming,” said Rubio. “There were times when Coach Mosher’s son, Cory, would get the team motivated with one of his crazy chants. And this created an atmosphere that got everyone at the pool excited, including the other team.”
The coaches and swimmers were not the only ones who would get competitive. A tradition that many of the swimmers and parents looked forward to was Rubio’s dad sprinting up and down the side of the pool cheering on his son.
“It didn’t matter which race, whether summer league or nationals, every race was important to my dad,” said Rubio. “He would run up and down the side of the pool shouting ‘Andele, andele, go Fernando,’ and he was so happy and supportive after every race.”
Although Rubio’s father no longer sprints up and down the side of the pool and many of the original members who built the program are gone, Stoney Glen has continued to exude the same competitive spirit in their 20th summer.
“We’re really building excitement around the program as we welcome a new generation of swimmers,” said Joyner, who was the original head coach and is now returning after a 10-year hiatus. “It’s good to see some of the kids I coached several years ago coming back with their kids.”
For some, there is nothing else like it. Few places exist where a team of hundreds can unite as one big happy family. Stoney Glen has figured it out over 20 summers of swim meets that last into the morning hours. The Stingrays have created a tighter community and stronger citizens.
“This is really one of the biggest reasons we moved into Stoney Glen. We passed on brand new houses because I knew what kind of impact a swim team would have on my kids,” said team manager Bonnie Reed. “I told my husband, we will come into this neighborhood and meet tons of people because of the swim team, and that’s exactly what happened.”
The Stoney Glen Stingrays are currently accepting new members for 2016. You do not need to be a member of the association or live in Stoney Glen to join the team. For more information, visit www.sgstingrays.com.