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Team History

The Dolphin's Swim Team was formally associated with the YMCA.  In 2010, the Albuquerque branch of the YMCA of New Mexico decided it no longer wanted to support a swim team at the Mountainside facility.   This had been the home of The Dolphin's Swim Team for 27 years. The move was both surprising and heartbreaking for all the families that had been active participants in that program for many years.  Rather than disperse or merge with other teams, the Dolphin's decided that they would strive to maintain their own team and find a new place to call home. With the help and support of dozens of committed swimmers, coaches and parents, this team stayed together.

The first three years of our post-YMCA existence, the Dolphins were virtual nomads, roaming from pool to pool, looking for a place to swim and call home.  But through it all, our members remained loyal, and each year we had a strong showing in both the New Mexico Games and the Sundance Finals. We briefly found a home at the Kirtland Aquatic Center, at Kirtland Air Force Base. It was a beautiful facility with a wonderful and welcoming staff. However, the location presented an ongoing challenge to our non-military families who had to gain base-access every year. In this era of heightened security, that challenge became an ever more difficult obstacle to overcome.

As a result, in 2014 we moved to our present facility: the Olympic pool at the University of New Mexico. This, too, is a beautiful facility, and we hope to make it our permanent home. 

After the Dolphins were officially separated from the YMCA, and incorporated as a separate team, we wanted all our newer members to understand that this was a well-established team with a long standing record of excellence.  To that end, we asked our head coach, Robert Wall, to write a brief history of his time with the Dolphins.  He had been the head coach of the YMCA Dolphin's since the inception of the team in 1983.  The following letter, from Robert Wall, was written back in 2010.  It pays homage to his time as head coach of the YMCA Dolphins and provides some insight and history into the character and mission of this remarkable team.

To whom it may concern:

+JMJ+

 

Dear swim team families and friends,

 

This summer of 2010, my 31st as a swim coach, is a summer of transition. In this letter I'd like to share with you, in retrospect, what I believe has helped the YMCA swim team become so successful in many ways, and why the program should continue.

 

In 1983, while I was still the coach of the A-Pool swim team, the YMCA swim team program was begun with 17 swimmers, coached by Gary King, a previous A-Pool swimmer. This new swim team was excited to be a new program at the YMCA and after working out for a time began looking for other teams to compete against. Unfortunately, other teams already had busy schedules and couldn't find the time for an extra meet. Gary phoned me and asked me if I could host them at the A-Pool. The next week they visited us for a mini-meet and I had my first experience with the YMCA swim team. After that summer genesis the YMCA petitioned the Sundance summer swim league to become a member, and Sundance obliged. In 1984 the YMCA swim team competed as a Sundance member in plenty of dual meets, and in the championship meet placed fourteenth, out of fourteen teams. A real swim team was finally a reality at the YMCA and, ironically, it was the A-Pool's last season, as it was sold for its land, demolished, and replaced by a day care center..

 

In the spring of 1986 Pam Hegarty, then branch director of Mountainside YMCA, contacted me about coaching their swim team. I had plans to move to California for a high tech computer career, but reluctantly accepted her request. That decision altered the course of my life. During my first summer at Mountainside I was both aquatics director and head swim coach. Although there was much enthusiasm among the swimmers, parents, and two assistant coaches, the team lacked order and discipline, and few swimmers could compete well in Sundance.

 

Previously, the YMCA coaches had only scheduled dual meets with smaller teams, because "our swimmers don't like getting beat so badly by the bigger teams." At the A-Pool, though we had loads of fun, we were also very competitive. Since I was known by the other Sundance coaches, I was able to schedule meets against the biggest and best teams in the league. Given our new challenges for the upcoming seasons, our coaches, swimmers, and parents put more energy into practices, meets, and extracurricular activities. One swimmer at a time, one practice at a time, season by season we learned to work together with discipline and intensity, while never letting fun or competition get ahead of the other. We used swimming as a vehicle to build character in hundreds of youths, one lap at a time.

 

By working hard and having fun the YMCA soon became a more formidable team in the Sundance league. During my first ten years we placed anywhere from seventh place to third place in the championship meet. Some swimmers improved enough to join their high school swim teams during the school year. Some parents became members of the Sundance board, allowing the YMCA to become involved in many aspects of New Mexico swimming; from running a stopwatch, to running the Sundance championship meet, the largest swim meet in the state. The YMCA swim team family was spreading its wings.

 

Then, in 1995, something totally unexpected began to happen. The true power of family building would manifest itself beyond all expectations. That summer three of my past summer swimmers, who all made it to high school state finals, became my assistant coaches. They remembered how much fun they had swimming in Sundance and were home from college for the summer, excited to be coaches themselves. With their love and enthusiasm for fun-filled competition, we began to help convert even the most challenged and mediocre athletes into good and even excellent swimmers; good swimmers into Sundance finalists; and regular Sundance finalists into champions and record breakers. We finally figured out the formula! Or should I say, "the formula was always there in our midst". By supplying a qualified swim team graduate, who was mentored in our own swim team family traditions, to coach each and every ability group of swimmers, from oldest to youngest, super athletic to disabled, well-behaved to gang member wannabe's, rich or poor, all previous goals were exceeded.

 

By its outer appearance the YMCA swim team is often misjudged. Competitively speaking, it has been the dynasty of the largest and most competitive swim league in New Mexico, winning the championship eleven of the last twelve years. On a national level, to our own surprise we dominated the 2007 National State Games in Colorado Springs. Yet, it is nothing more than actively putting into practice the kernel of the mission of the YMCA; that is, to build strong families; physically, mentally, and spiritually, as wholesomely as possible, with the understanding that families are the true building blocks of our society.

 

My 24 years as a YMCA swim coach (23 as a volunteer) have been very rewarding and fulfilling. I'm hopeful and confident that its fruit will have long lasting effects for decades nationwide, as countless families put into practice our favorite line; "You don't have to, you get to!"

 

In January I was informed by the YMCA that this financially sound program of a well oiled machine of swimmers, parents, coaches (most of whom are volunteers), countless alumni, and other supporters had been discontinued. I and a number of team parents have made multiple attempts to communicate and reason with YMCA decision makers, but to no avail. Ultimately, all pleas were met with deaf ears. To this day there has been no real closure, as a sensible explanation has yet to be given by the YMCA.

 

Despite the YMCA's abandonment of such an excellent program, it is my goal to help ensure that this mission of family building continues. The only indispensable elements of this program are the families themselves and their expectations.

 

Due to the diligent efforts of various swim team families, unwilling to compromise their expectations, a new swim team program has been formed. The Dolphins Swim Team, a non-profit corporation is now official. We have taken the slot of the YMCA swim team in the Sundance league and will have a full meet schedule. We are still working on final budgeting and believe that the membership rates can actually be less than last years'. I plan to have scholarships available so that no swimmer will be denied membership for financial reasons. I intend to maintain coaching excellence with a spirit of expecting the best of every swimmer, regardless of their background. It is my intent to continue the many healthy traditions that we have developed over the years.

 

I hope that as many of you as possible will return to help the new Dolphins flourish. Remember! "The harder you work, the luckier you get!" By working together to make this summer the best it can be, it is very probable that favorable changes will come our way in the near future.

 

With heartfelt thanks,

Robert Wall