Quinte Dolphins ride the tide to keep swim program growing 

This story was published in the Spring 2023 issue of Total Sports Quinte magazine

The Quinte Dolphins Swim Club is committed to providing the tools necessary for each swimmer to maximize their potential and realize excellence in competitive swimming at all ages and levels. 

Our club will work to ensure that our programs are offered in a family-friendly way that provide a safe, positive and inclusive environment. The goal is to foster individual confidence, develop time management skills and self-discipline within the framework of healthy team spirit.

Our focus is on the individual; our vision is for the TEAM

That’s the mission statement for the Quinte Dolphins, based in Picton at the Prince Edward Fitness and Aquatic Centre, as a dedicated group of volunteers hopes to see the swim club continue for many years to come.

Board chair Cathy Duggan said the club was treading water, though, as the COVID-19 pandemic and provincial restrictions continued. Longtime coach Jim Anfield, who also took on other tasks such as registrar, treasurer and equipment manager, kept a few swimmers in the pool when possible, but ultimately made the decision to step away, which the club understood.

“We didn’t have a head coach and then we lost a few executive members as well and we really thought it was going to be over,” Duggan said. “Another parent contacted me and said ‘I don’t want this to be over so would you work with me to try and see if we can save it.”

That parent, Beth Vader-Kuijpers, also happened to be a former Dolphin and went on to swim and coach at Queen’s University. She joined the Quinte club and coached through a season, but couldn’t commit long-term due to other commitments.

“We were in a very difficult place,” Duggan said. “Beth was great and did so much to not only coach but kind of reimagine the program with so many families coming on board, but it just wasn’t sustainable for her. It’s really difficult to hire coaches. We’re a small club, we can’t offer someone a full-time salaried position.”

That’s a struggle shared by a lot of swim clubs, Duggan noted, but fortunately for the Quinte organization Andrea Taylor stepped up and became head coach last summer.

“Andrea has been athletic all her life and has been a serious long-distance runner and equestrian athlete,” Duggan said. “She heard about our search that was not going well.”

Duggan said Taylor was willing to get the specific qualifications required to be a swim coach because as a former Dolphins swimmer she knew what a great opportunity the program is for local youth.

“If it hadn’t been for her being willing to come on board and undertake a really steep learning curve, and Beth is still a mentor to her, we would’ve been done in terms of our program,” Duggan said. “It has meant a lot for us for her to come on board.”

Despite some struggles, the Dolphins have managed to grow from about 12 to more than 50. Many are in the development program while about 12 to 14 are competitive swimmers. Their season runs from September until the end of June.

“Beth likes to say it’s one of the few sports where it’s both individual and it’s a team sport at the same time. You swim your own race or your own leg (in a relay), but at the same time there is a very strong sense of team,” Duggan said. “My daughter, the first meet she went to, she came home and said ‘I totally lost my voice because I’ve been screaming for my friends, cheering them on.’ That’s a really great aspect of swimming and it’s fun. They encourage each other, they support each other, they root for each other. If it’s not fun, what’s the point?”

There are Jr. Dolphins development programs for ages 5 to 8 and 7 to 12. The competitive program includes divisions Intro to Competition, Competitive District Team and Competitive Travel Team. 

Program descriptions, prices and schedules are all listed on the club’s website. You can also follow the Dolphins on Facebook for the latest updates.

As always, the Dolphins organization could use more help.

“It’s very dependent on volunteers, like so many things, and community support,” Duggan said. “We really value this team and we do want it to be around for a long time.”

Check out the Quinte Dolphins at quintedolphins.ca