- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 4, 2006

Rodger McCoy loves to talk about how the DC Wave has for decades turned some of the worst dog paddlers into the city’s best youth swimmers.

At the 20th annual Black History Invitational Swim Meet last month in Northwest, the team competed against swimmers from as far away as California and Florida and took first place in a girls’ freestyle relay.

But financial constraints are making growth and future successes harder, so the team is now asking for more help from the city and others.

“Swimming allows me to exercise, release frustration, meet other people and gain exposure to places I may not have otherwise had the chance to visit,” swimmer Anthony Ross, 15, said at a recent hearing before D.C. Council member Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat. “It makes me feel proud to be a part of something good.”

Mr. McCoy is the team’s only full-time coach. The two part-time coaches are Crosby Treadwell and Robert Green — former team members now trainig the next generation of D.C. swimmers.

Having such a small coaching staff has temporarily dashed the Olympic aspirations of 15-year-old Kemi Watson.

She was trying to attend an Olympic training camp in Colorado, but without more coaches she and a few other team standouts can no longer attend those crucial, twice-a-day practices.

“I would never want to swim for another team because DC Wave is special,” Kemi said at the hearing. “It’s like a family.”

Parents are hoping for some volunteer help from the Marines who work and live close to the William H. Rumsey pool on Caitol Hill, where the team trains.

The team’s booster club pays for one of the part-time coaches. And most of the money for the team of 60 swimmers, from age 5 to 18, comes from the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, though nothing is earmarked.

Team officials hope the swimmers’ testimony at the hearing will lead to a more steady stream of money.

The team’s board of directors, made up of parents and led by D.C. Superior Court Magistrate Judge Diana Harris Epps, wants to double the size of the team next year and have two full-time and four part-time coaches — enough to keep practicing at the Rumsey pool, the Takoma Aquatic Center in Northwest and the Turkey Thicket facility on Michigan Avenue Northeast.

Betty Swammy, whose son, Salim, 14, has been on the DC Wave team for seven years, says the team gives the children a purpose and discipline.

“It keeps the boys off the streets, and swimming for young black kids in Washington gives them college opportunities,” she said.

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