Rookie Program Overview
Children between the ages of five (5) and eight (8) years old who are comfortable in the water and can swim or tread water without assistance, but cannot swim 25 meters of one or more strokes (free, back, breast, fly) with proper technique are candidates for the Rookies. Exceptions to the age requirement may be considered for 4 year old swimmers who are about to turn 5 and who are extremely comfortable in the water and for 9 year olds who need minimal additional instruction to learn the 4 competitive strokes. Exceptions to the age requirement rules must have the Head Coach’s and the Board’s approval. If your child is not able to swim or tread water or is extremely uncomfortable in the water, private swim lessons may be a better option. The Rookies program is filled on a first come first serve basis. Please take serious consideration if your swimmer is ready for the program. Once the program is full, a waitlist is established and will be drawn upon to fill spots vacated by swimmers whose skills were not quite ready for the program.
Practices are held at the Willow Farms swimming pool, daily Monday–Thursday from 10:15-10:45. Returning families will be given preference on choosing a practice time. Due to low water and/or air temperatures, particularly during the first weeks of June, Rookie practice may be cancelled. Additionally, if there is thunder or lightning in the area practice will be cancelled to keep our swimmers safe. Safety regulations prohibit swimmers in the water within thirty minutes of a visible lightning strike. Please check your email and the team website regularly for practice changes and cancellations. We will practice in the rain, if there is no lightning.
During the first week of practice, the Coaches will divide the Rookies into groups based on ability and the information provided by the swimmer’s parent or guardian. The grouping of swimmers is solely at the discretion of the coaching staff. Also, these groups may evolve throughout the season at the coaching staff’s discretion. Their goal is to advance swimmers in their skills to be able compete in a meet.
COACHES AND ASSISTANTS
The professional, USA Swimming certified coaching staff of the New Mark Stingrays provide instruction. Each Rookies group is led by a certified coach who is assisted by older Stingray swimmers. The coach will be in the water with the Rookies, providing instruction and technique. The Rookie Assistant will help with demonstrations and managing the young group. New Mark swimmers who are thirteen (13) and older may volunteer their time to the Rookie program. It’s an excellent opportunity for middle school and high school students to share their talents with others while developing strong work ethics and related skills. In some cases, students may be able to earn service hours for volunteering as a Rookie Assistant. Many former Rookie Assistants have gone on to become members of the Coaching Staff.
ADVANCING TO THE 8 & UNDER COMPETITIVE GROUP
Once a swimmer has demonstrated that he/she can swim unaided 25 meters of freestyle and at least one other stroke, the coach will discuss the opportunity the swimmer has to advance to the 8 & under group on the New Mark Swim Team. Both the child’s willingness to compete in a swim meet, and the volume of swimmers that are currently in the 8 & under group will be factors in deciding when and whether a child should advance.
Once the decision has been made by the head coach and the child’s parents/guardian for the swimmer to advance and will begin practicing with the 8 & under group (see website under Practices for practice times). The swimmer will then become eligible to compete in meets. Pool space may dictate that Rookies who advance to 8 & Under level still practice at the Rookie time slots.
Please note that a swimmer must compete in three dual meets in order to qualify to participate in the Conference Championships at the end of the season. For this reason, it is important for the parents and coaches to work together to advance rookies through the program as early in the season as possible, preferably by the last meet in June. Even if a swimmer achieves a conference qualifying time, he/she will not be permitted to swim in the Conference Championship unless he/she has competed in at least one event in three of the six meets.
Rookies will receive motivational awards at various points during the season. They will also receive a Rookie gift at the Rookie Relays and Awards at the end of the season. If moved up to 8 & Under practice earlier in the season, they may get the 8U participation trophy instead of a Rookie gift.
ROOKIE RELAYS AND NEW MARK STINGRAYS
At two points during the season, the Rookies will have a Rookie Relay event. These events provide the swimmer with the opportunity to showcase their learnings and growth over the course of the season. The first Rookie Relay will be held in June with the second in July. They will take place during the Rookie practice time on those dates. Parents and family members are invited to cheer on their swimmer at these events.