Moving around the side of the pool at Veteran’s Memorial Park on Saturday, June 1, Dawsonville Racers Head Coach Stephanie Morgan was a whirlwind of energy and activity as she brought together over 100 swimmers and parents to kick off the 2019 summer season.
Although the first tournament of the year, featuring teams from Cornerstone Christian Academy and Lumpkin County, emphasized fun over competition there were still a lot of loose ends to bring together as the one-month season got underway as new members of the team continued to register for events at the last minute.
“Today is all about fun. It is just a good time to get everybody back into the water and let them love swimming,” Morgan said. “It is also a good day to get a feel for what the team will look like this year.”
The Racers are comprised of roughly 50 swimmers from all ages, between 5 and 18, and the only requirement for membership is that every swimmer must know basic skills prior to joining the team.
“Everybody needs to know the free-style stroke, and how to float on their back,” Morgan said. “Ten and under must be able to swim a single lap of the pool (25 yards) and eleven and up must be able to swim two laps. Other than that, there are no requirements.”
In existence since 1998, and coached by Morgan since 2004, the Dawsonville Racers compete in the 13 team North Georgia Swim League in the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association (GRPA) District 7 alongside traditional rivals Lumpkin County as well as smaller schools such as Cornerstone Christian. The team has won two state titles, once in 2014 and then again in 2016, but despite the accolades Coach Morgan explained the team as more of an introduction to what she considers a lifetime sport.
“My goal is to create a life sport,” Morgan said. “This is something these kids can take with them anywhere, whether its on to high school or when they are 80 or 90 swimming laps in the local pool. It can go with them everywhere.”
Morgan’s emphasis on life-long participation becomes apparent when she explains that she took over the team in 2004, assuming the mantle of her former coach Nancy Horton. The connection deepens when she points out that of her three assistant coaches two have been with the team since they were four and five years old.
Operating as an almost independent entity of the Dawsonville Parks and Recreation department, the Racers have grown from an original five members in 2004 to over 50 swimmers listed on the roster at the start of the 2019 season, and Dawson County Parks and Rec secretary Buffie Hamil is quick to give the credit to coach Morgan for team’s success.
“We are just very blessed to have someone like (Morgan) to take on the job,” Hamil said. “I know it’s a big one.”
One of the newcomers to the team this year was Eisa Chapman, who transferred to the team this season after swimming for Cornerstone Christian last year. Introduced to the sport by her mother, Crystal who swam at the collegiate level, Eisa was excited about joining a team that she felt would help her grow as a swimmer.
“The coaches on this team push you harder,” Miss Chapman said. “But they are really nice about it.”
Serving as both an introduction to swimming for the younger members and an introduction to competition for the older swimmers the Racers summer season is short, but intense, featuring multi-team meets every Saturday for the next four weeks.
The season culminates with a 13-team league championship and the top three swimmers in each event will move on to GRPA State Tournament on July 12-13, but Morgan was once again quick to emphasize that personal development and the love of swimming was her focus when it came to her athletes.
“I encourage each of them to set a personal goal for the summer, whether its to lose the kickboard by the end of the season, or to be able to finish one, two, or more laps in the pool. Whatever their goal is I make them say it an write it down,” Morgan said. “At the end of the season, we pull them out and take a look, and that’s how we view the month.”