The team, which has approximately 80 swimmers, is coached by Tom Ledin and practices at the outdoor pool in Sylacauga.
“It’s great watching the kids grow, but it’s hard for them,” Ledin said. “We only get to compete one month out of the year, maybe two. We start swimming in May and then we hit district in July. Most teams swim year-round. They have facilities that have covered pools and we’re just this little rec league, so for us to take fourth place is really, really good. I was hoping for third, I knew we wouldn’t take first or second because we don’t have the numbers or the skill level.”
Ledin said it is hard to compete in district 5 against the “big three”: Prattville, Opelika and Tallassee.
“Some of these kids don’t even know how to swim properly when they get to us,” Ledin said. “We have to spend the first two weeks of practice and really teach them how to swim competitively. Some kids don’t understand the difference between swimming for leisure and swimming competitively.”
Out of the 62 swimmers entered in the district competition, 35 qualified to compete at state.
Bricen Waites and C.J. Clifton will both be competing in individual events, while all of Sylacauga’s relay teams made the cut.
The state meet will be held in Opelika July 27-28.
In his third year coaching the swim team, Ledin has continually worked to build the swim program in Sylacauga.
“I remember back three years ago, I only had 25 swimmers on my swim team,” Ledin said. “We’ve worked very hard between me and my coaching staff to get built up to where we’re at now. We had 80 swimmers this year. Every year we get more and more swimmers and more swimmers going to state. People are realizing we’ve got a good thing going. Our program that we have here is a wonderful thing.”
Ledin hopes to push for a better facility for the community during the election year and is taking steps to keep his team competitive.
“I think this last winter we tried to do some kind of winter swim team,” Ledin said. “I wanted to keep the kids in the water until it was too cold to get in the water and continue on. I want to try to do some dry-land workouts in gymnasiums. We could take the car or the bus down to Talladega to try and get some laps in. It’s a big difference this year, keeping those kids swimming so they don’t fall off and we have to start over again every summer.”
Ledin works with the help of three assistant coaches: Barrie Hamilton, Mark Edwards and Bailee Curtis. He said their support, and the help of his wife Jaime, help him focus on what’s most important.
“As a coach and coaching staff, we really have to stay on these kids and help bring them together,” Ledin said. “We try to get our ideas across to make those kids swim hard and have everyone on the same page with our system. The parents get really involved and help us out. The kids really have to listen to us so we can get them there.”
Ledin has three daughters who compete on his team, twin stepdaughters Brittany and Tiffany Lee McGinnis and youngest Lindsey Ledin. He said that although only Tiffany qualified for state, he was proud of all his children’s efforts.
Ledin tries to focus his coaching with optimism and support for his team in the short amount of time he has with them. He enjoys promoting a positive environment and hopes the program continues to grow.
“They have to believe that they can get there and that’s what you have to get through their heads is that drive,” Ledin said. “As long as they improve, that’s what we’re all about. We try to stay one big, happy family. We take care of each other, love each other and we lift each other up.”