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Dolphins support well-rounded swimmers

By: Ray Hacke, Special to the Loomis News
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It wasn’t too long ago that Ben Emard was swimming for the Loomis Basin Dolphins. Now that he’s the swim team’s head coach, Emard is committed to maintaining the emphasis on having fun and building friendships that made his experience with the Dolphins so enjoyable. “I was on the team when I was 7 and I graduated high school when I was 18,” said Emard, who graduated from Del Oro High three years ago. “I had a great experience when I was there. I made a lot of friends.” That’s not to say that the Dolphins do not care about helping their swimmers improve their skills in the water or helping them be competitive. Jason Armes can attest to that. Armes joined the Dolphins – or LBD, as the club is sometimes called – when he was 4, the youngest age at which swimmers can join the club. Armes, who just graduated from Del Oro and has been an associate coach with LBD since his junior year, qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section meet in all four years of high school and took third in the 500-yard freestyle at this year’s Sierra Foothill League meet. “The Dolphins gave me the foundations of swimming,” Armes said. In the end, however, the Dolphins aren’t dedicated to producing the next Michael Phelps or Dara Torres, Armes said. “The main thing with being a swimmer with LBD and being a coach is that it’s about swimming, but it’s also about family and fun,” Armes said. “You make a lot of friends. “You start when you’re young, and when you grow up around all these kids you become friends with them. You compete in the same sport, go to the same high school, and when you’re a junior in high school, you can help coach the team if they hire you, so you end up working together.” There are two types of swim teams, according to Armes: competitive and rec league. The Dolphins definitely fall into the latter category. “Competitive swimming is a lot more intense,” Armes said. “They swim and go to meets and that’s it.” LBD, by contrast, offers a variety of activities that swimmers and their families can take part in, from camping trips to movie outings and even visits to the SunSplash waterslides at Golfland in Roseville. “Most of the really fast kids are in year-round programs,” Emard said. “We focus more on having a family- and fun-oriented environment.” Still, swimming is at the core of the Dolphins’ program, and practices are held at Del Oro’s pool throughout the day. Older kids are in the pool as early as 7:15 a.m., according to Emard, and the last age group of the day, the 9- and 10-year-olds, wrap up practice at 7 p.m. The practices fit neatly into Emard’s work schedule, since he happens to be the manager of Del Oro’s pool – which is also where the Dolphins’ home meets take place. About 180 children are currently involved with LBD, which has a seven-meet season that begins near the end of May, according to Emard. The season will conclude with a league-wide meet that starts at the end of this month. Emard said he knew the moment he became an assistant coach with the team that he wanted to be the Dolphins’ head coach – and it’s a gig he wouldn’t trade for the world. “I enjoy the experience of teaching the kids,” he said. “It’s very rewarding.”