Garden City “A” Swim Team continues lapping competition
Garden City has a long and storied history of athletic excellence. But when it comes to the Garden City “A” Swim Team, the recent string of success this squad has earned since 2014 earns significantly high marks. Having capped off the recent season as Division 1 champs, the “A” Team has won 27 consecutive dual meets. Led by coach Andrew Salecker and assistants Matthew Giordano and Caitlin Powderly, the “A” team consists of roughly 85 swimmers ranging in age from six to 16. The “B” team consists of an additional 100 members led by head coach Lauren Oleksiw and assistants Caroline and Caity Bianchi. For Salecker, it’s the combination of dedication, hard work and discipline that’s led to this level of consistent high-level success.
“The kids have done an unbelievable job and they work really hard at practice. They practice four days a week, Tuesday to Friday, really early in the morning, starting at 7:45 a.m. and they swim from 8 to 9:30 a.m.,” he explained. “Then they have the meets early Saturday mornings that start at 8 a.m. That’s during the summers when everybody gets to sleep later. It is the dedication of the kids that really allows them to do such an incredible job.”
With tryouts for Garden City Swimming starting in June, the actual season runs a solid two months. During the off-season, swimmers continue their quest to maintain their excellence by attending stroke clinics and hitting the pool for other club teams. Both the “A” and “B” teams call the Garden City Pool home and not unlike where they train, these squads have been around roughly five decades. This program has not only served as a feeder stream of talent for swim teams affiliated with the Long Island Aquatic Center (LIAC) and local schools like St. Anne’s, Chaminade, Kellenberg and Garden City, but the current coaches have also been members as well in their younger days. It all gibes well for Salecker, who is finishing his seventh year as a coach for the “A” team as well as being an English teacher and tennis coach over at Chaminade.
“I always enjoyed swimming and I love working with kids. All six of the coaches love having the opportunity to get up every morning and work with these kids,” the Garden City native said.
With all the hard work that goes into making the “A” and “B” teams so successful, the coaches face a unique set of challenges in making sure their charges get the best out of this experience.
“I think swimming can be a really difficult sport in that is so focused on just the individual. A lot of our swimmers are parts of other teams as well, like basketball, soccer or football. With all those different sports, you kind of have your teammates. And we have that on our team as well. It’s great that everybody is contributing. But when you get up there and swim your race, it’s really you against everybody else, but also you against yourself,” Salecker said. “Every time you get up there on the blocks, it’s an opportunity for you to set your own personal best time for you to beat yourself. It’s a challenge getting the kids to understand that they really have to mentally be there. Because swimming is such a mental sport, you really need to know that you can do it and are confident. Getting the kids to that level, because it’s kind of a different experience than other sports, it can sometimes be challenging. Once they get it and get into it, I think the best thing, and I think I can speak on behalf of all the coaches, is getting to see the progress. Not only throughout the season, but the progress made over the past few years.”
As someone who has been swimming since he was 6 years old and spent hundreds of hours in the pool taking lessons in his younger years and later swimming competitively, Salecker is on point with the mission statement the Garden City Swim program has—making sure team members finish the season better than they started in regard to faster swim times and improved technique.
“I think working hard and believing in yourself are important. I believe that swimming is half a mental game,” Salecker said. “You’ve got to know when you get up there on the block, if you look at the person next to you and think there’s no way you can beat that guy, then you aren’t going to be able to beat that guy. You’ve got to be confident when you go out there and give your best effort.”