Blue Thunder makes a big splash on youth swimming circuit

by Dan Holland

The Blue Thunder Swim Team, which practices at the city’s natatorium, has been instructing children from ages 5-15 in swimming technique for more than 15 years, according to one of its coaches, Suzie Horejs, who was a member of the team during her youth.

“At the meets, the main thing we want is for the kids is to have fun,” said Horejs, who lives in Broadview Heights. “Just put in the time, have fun, and it’s not all about what place they finish in. As long as they can improve their time from the last time they had and do their best, that’s the most important thing. If they have fun, then we have fun.”

The team, which joined the Recreational Suburban Swim League three years ago, placed second out of six teams at the RSSL Championship meet held July 29 at the North Olmsted Recreation Center. Practices are held on Tuesday and Thursday nights, and the team participates in at least one swim meet each month held at a variety of locations.

The team, which consists of approximately 30 youths evenly divided between boys and girls, is also open to non-residents, with a slightly higher participation fee charged by the recreation department for non-residents.

“We get kids not only from Broadview Heights, but from all over,” said Horejs. “The program is through the rec center, and I’m also a lifeguard here; not just a swim coach. We have kids on the team coming from Cleveland Heights, Bath Township and a number of cities. All are welcome; we welcome everyone with open arms.”

During practices, which are divided between age groups 5-9 and 10-15, coaches work with each swimmer on developing all necessary swim strokes and overall technique, said head coach Kyle Sarver, who swam competitively during his time at Parma Senior High School and Hiram College.

“We teach the kids all the techniques, and we work on a lot of development and sportsmanship,” said Sarver, who lives in North Royalton. “It’s a more laid-back environment. We take swimming and take it a step back and have a lot of fun with it. The kids all get along and cheer each other on at the meets.”

A third coach, Colin Weitzner, also lives in North Royalton.

According to the city’s recreation department website, all participants must be able to swim one length of the pool using the front crawl. 

“Some kids join the team without knowing all of the strokes,” said Horejs. “So, along with stroke technique and endurance, we have to teach some kids exactly what each stroke is and how to do it, because a number of kids come in only knowing front crawl or freestyle.”

“The kids are the reason I keep coming back year-after-year,” said Sarver. “There’s nothing better than taking a love you have for a sport and being able to give it back to the kids and see them have just as much fun as I did as a kid. That’s the most rewarding part of this; watching the kids’ progress. Some of them start young and stay with us the whole time, and we create that relationship. It’s not just a swim team; it’s more like a family.”

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Photo above: The Blue Thunder Swim Team, which joined the Recreational Suburban Swim League three years ago, placed second out of six teams at the RSSL Championship meet this summer. Photo submitted.