Update, Aug. 3:
The Lake Ridge Lancers will no longer swim at the Lake Ridge Community Swim Club, LRCSC Board of Directors President Patty Parker announced Monday.
After congratulating the team on their recent White Division Championship win, Parker said that the team's size was now too great for the pool to accommodate.
"As the size of the Lancer's team has increased over the years, so, too, has its time and use of the LRCSC pool facilities," Parker said in an email. "At one time, we could easily accommodate the general membership and the swim team without inconvenience or increased costs to either. However, as we have discussed before, that is no longer the case."
The LRCSC Board of Directors decided July 25 by a majority vote that the club would not host Lancers after the close of the 2012 swim season. The swim season ended Sunday with the championship swim meet.
LRCSC Vice President Joe Mazzoccoli was not informed of or invited to the July 25 meeting. He told Patch that he would have voted in favor of keeping the Lake Ridge Lancers at the swim club, but said that even his vote would not have been enough.
"I had had some surgery and they knew that, but then again on the other hand, they knew that I was in recovery, and they should have notified me of the meeting itself, because I could have made it," Mazzoccoli said. When he contacted Director of Operations Paul Nauth and asked why he had not been informed of the meeting, Nauth told him the Board had a quorum.
"I certainly wouldn't have gone along with it if I had been there," Mazzoccoli said. "I have six kids who have also swum on the team."
Underlying Reasons for Team's Departure?
As a pool member, swim team parent, and pool board member, Mazzoccoli said he tried to understand both sides. He said the swim club's statement that the team was now too large for the pool was "not a valid reason."
"The team has grown, but only by a few," he said. "It's also been less than this in different times, but it's also been as many as this. To say that that's the reason, I would say that's a bit on the bogus side."
Mazzoccoli said he thinks the swim club has had problems with the swim team in the past.
"It just seems like — and this is just my opinion — that they just don't want a team, and why, exactly, I'm not sure," he said. "They say it's because of the abuse of the pool; they say that there are not enough members. It's been 50/50 as far as members being on the team. They've tried in the past to make it members only, but then they'd lose half the team."
In Mazzoccoli's opinion, the swim club's decision to no longer host the Lancers means that they will likely lose a significant portion of the club members.
"I know a lot of people that will not join the pool because there's not a swim team," he said.
Mazzoccoli said the swim club is holding an emergency meeting next Monday, Aug. 6.
"There's going to be a discussion on it then," he said. "I would hope that the members of the pool would speak up. The pool board members need to look at this as a community, not just as a swim club."
Dave Ross, president of the Lake Ridge Lancers Board of Directors, said he found a discrepancy between the LRCSC's stated explanation for no longer hosting the team, and the actual size of the team.
"The irony is that the club board stated the size of the team, which actually is not larger, but which is smaller than it was in years past," he said. "Four years ago, the swim club had around 320 member families, and now they have about 212 member families, so the club is also significantly smaller. We're hard-pressed to understand why the size issue is a factor."
Lake Ridge Lancers Vice President Lori McDonald said the team has hovered between 170 and 190 swimmers since 2004. The past three years, the team's membership has been at about 190. 2006 had the lowest membership in recent years, with 170 swimmers.
"We have not significantly increased or decreased in size," McDonald said.
Ross said the swim team has invested in the community at the swim club.
"Many of our families are members of the swim club," he said. "Fifty percent of our swim team members are members of the swim club, and 40 percent of our swim team families are part of the swim club."
Ross has been both a swim team parent and a swim club member for about a decade, and McDonald has been both a swim team parent and a swim club member for about 15 years.
"Obviously, I can't insert myself into what their thought processes are," Ross said about the LRCSC decision. "From my perspective, the swim team is a great marketing tool for the swim club itself. We bring in a good number of members into the swim club itself, including members we bring in through our referrals, that are not members of the swim team. We're talking about significant dollars that we contribute to the club."
Ross said the team also tried to be "good stewards of the swim club."
Before the season started, many swim team parents spent several hours on two separate Saturdays preparing the swim club for the new season.
"Nasty work, it's cleaning out gutters and raking weeds, and we do it willingly and gladly," McDonald said.
"We didn't do it for accolades, we did it to be good stewards," Ross added. "To my knowledge, on both of those Saturdays, everyone we saw participating was associated with the swim team. But they may have also been associated with the swim club itself, like myself."
Ross said he was disappointed by the decision. He was present at the July 25 board meeting, but was not allowed to be present at the session in which the LRCSC board discussed the decision that was not announced until Monday.
"The Lancers item was not even on the agenda," Ross said. At that same board meeting, a document was circulated stating that the club was losing $24,000 a year on the swim team.
Ross said that this was calculated with the number of what the swim club would gain if every swim team member was a swim club member.
"A point that we have made repeatedly, is that the presence of the Lancer swim team provides an opportunity for even the slowest swimmer to participate," he said. "It's an opportunity for kids to exercise, to receive exceptional instruction, to better themselves with a life-saving skill set."
Ross said that in the several decades the Lancers have been at the club, thousands of children have swum in the team, making friends while learning to swim.
"We exist for the children," he said.
McDonald echoed this, saying that the parents who worked with the swim team were all volunteers.
Future for Lancers
"It's quite disappointing to us both as members of the team and as members of the club that the club would make this decision without consulting the members," Ross said.
In the months ahead, Ross and McDonald will attempt to work something out with the club, but will also begin looking for a new location for the team.
LRCSC Secretary Bob Buckley voted against keeping the Lancers at the swim club, but told Patch he hoped the team and the club could come to a compromise.
The biggest issue, he said, is not the size of the team, but the fact that about 60 Lancer families are not swim club members. About 40 Lancer families are also swim club members.
"People are wondering why they're paying and these 60 other families aren't paying anything," Buckley said. "It doesn't seem fair that these 60 families are swimming for free at our club. There's wear and tear on our facility."
Buckley said he had originally come to the LRCSC board in 2008, but had resigned for other reasons, and then, a few months ago, was asked to rejoin the board as secretary.
"I found the meetings to be very frustrating because of the swim team issue," he said. "The more and more I get into it, there more there are other matters that the board needs to address. The good thing about the board's decision is that we're starting to hear from club members that want to be involved and express themselves."
Buckley said he understands the strong feelings that many swim team families have about the decision.
"Personally, my 6-year-old was upset when he heard about the decision, and he's not even a member of the swim team yet," he said. "The tradition of the Lancers is really a rich tradition, but at some time we have to tackle this issue of how to make the Lancers the team of the Lake Ridge Community Swim Club. I don't know how they ever became separate, and it must have been a long time ago. The rift between the Lancers and the swim club, it's growing and growing and growing. Just bickering back and forth."
Swim Team at LRCSC?
Buckley has explored the idea of coming up with a new swim team for the club.
"The first step going forward with this issue is talking to the older kids who swam on the team and getting them to be involved," he said. "Then I'm going to meet with the parents when the pool closes."
He's thought about setting up a scholarship fund for families to fund their club memberships.
The bottom line is that the club needs more money to run, Buckley said. "Over the last four years, we've lost over 70 members, and it keeps going down each year. The club is basically a non-profit organization, but it's never taken a vow of poverty."
There's the basic overhead of running the pool, the expense of providing activities, the expense of staying open on the weekends, and the expense of needed repairs, he said. "You can't expect a return on your investment if you're not willing to invest your money and time into a pool like this."
He said other members have also complained about how much time and space the swim meets take up.
"They set up on a Friday night, and then they're out there at 6:30 in the morning, and it's supposed to end at 1 p.m., and then the other members will come in," he said. "Now the other 200 and some members are inconvenienced by these meets, and it takes up a couple weekends during the summer, and if these other 60 families aren't paying, that fuels ill feeling."
The most important thing is communication and willingness to compromise, he said.
"It can be resolved if people are willing to sit down and listen," he said. "The good thing about the board's decision is that now we're hearing from people. I don't think this is the end of the book, but the beginning of a new chapter. It's about getting it out in the open and getting some really frank discussions and maybe resolving the issue."
"I'm not in favor of just banning the Lancers. I'm looking to cover the expenses of the club and just have everybody get along," he said.
The Lake Ridge Lancers Board released a statement shortly after Parker's email assuring parents that the team would find a new home in time for the 2013 season.
"The fact that this decision was purportedly made at the club board's Wednesday, July 25 board meeting and was not communicated until today appears to be a conscious decision to preclude any knowledge or discussion of the decision at last night's parents meeting," the statement read. "The club’s decision to no longer host the team without appropriately polling the entire membership should be a matter of great concern to all members. Now is the time for these members to be recognized and to have their voices heard, and for the club board to recognize the impact of this decision."
The statement ended with a call for club members to read the club's bylaws and attend the annual membership meeting on Sept. 3.
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