It’s made more than just a splash.
The Blue Fins continue to distinguish themselves as one of the premier swimming club teams in the region.
Danielle Chance has been with the program for four years, and has been the head coach of the Blue Fins for the past three.
The club team has a powerful presence at the South County Recreation Pool in Punta Gorda, and although the program saw a slight dip in numbers this past year, the Blue Fins remain strong as the organization has reached out to area schools and the Youth Sports Council to increase interest and build numbers, said Chance. This summer the Blue Fins will participate in a large swim meet in Atlanta, and will take part in back-to-back meets. The program provides those who are interested in swimming with the opportunity to learn about the sport.
“Kids are having a blast,” said Chance. “I’ve never seen them happier. As far as our pool (South County Recreation Center), we didn’t hold meets for a while. Holding the meets not only gets the kids excited and interested, but brings kids from the community together.”
No stranger to the sport, Chance has been swimming since the age of eight, and swam all four years in high school, earning a full-scholarship to swim collegiately at the University of Houston.
“I basically went right into swimming masters,” said Chance. “I’ve been swimming masters for about 10 years now. I’ve done a lot of good things through there, and I feel super blessed because it’s taken me far.”
Chance and Shelley Vakil started a Masters program at the South County Recreation Pool about two years ago. It’s for swimmers aged 18 and older.
“It’s a competitive group in the pool, and we have a lot of triathletes,” said Chance. “I’ve been a head coach going on about three years. It’s been awesome and challenging. I have learned so much about swimming outside of myself and being competitive on my own. There’s nothing better than this step in my life, taking a little step down from me being competitive, seeing the kids succeed and this program grow. It’s been so absolutely rewarding. It’s been unbelievable. It’s been my baby.”
Many of the Blue Fins’ swimmers, go onto compete at the interscholastic and intercollegiate level. Jeff Cain, the swimming coach at Charlotte High School is a major advocate for the program, said Chance.
“We do see a lot of high school kids come out for the swim team during the summer to prep for the next season,” said Chance. “Some of these kids stick with the program and become superstars. Not every kid has to be one. It’s pretty amazing, when you see a kid get in the water, who’s never put their face in, and then two years later, they’re going to championship meets and they’re on a championship team. It’s unbelievable to see the turnaround and the success.”
However, the pool at South County Recreation Center in Punta Gorda isn’t the only place the Blue Fins have a presence. They’ve branched out to Babcock Ranch, where they have nearly 30 swimmers participating. The Blue Fins are about to launch their summer program at both locations.
“I reached out to them (Babcock Ranch) initially,” said Chance. “I heard they were looking for someone to come out there to start a team. They do have a school right there in the community. They were looking for someone to come in and start a team, and we met with them. They liked what we had to say, and we started the program in January.”