After being to the last Friday, the Lake Ridge Lancers are now negotiating the terms of their possible return with the LRCSC board.
The first step in those negotiations was last night's emergency meeting, open to all pool members. Though the Lancers have not yet officially decided to return, Lancer President David Ross, Vice President Lori McDonald and LRCSC Board President Patty Parker said the meeting went well.
"The meeting was cordial and informative as members shared their concerns and proffered suggestions," Parker said. "These were recorded and will provide the baseline for effective negotiations between the Swim Club and Swim Team Boards of Directors to begin in the near future."
"It was significant that no one expressed a sentiment that the swim team was not an asset to the club, and no one said that they wanted the swim club not to host the Lancers," Ross said. "Both Patty Parker and I expressed our commitment to work together to try to find an agreement to benefit both the team and the club."
Stephanie Schaefer, who is both a swim club member and a swim team parent, served as moderator and asked for positive solutions to issues between the swim team and swim club. She handed out lollipops to those who might be tempted to speak out of turn. About 40 to 50 pool members were in attendance, and several others submitted opinions in writing.
"It was a very good meeting," McDonald said. "As ugly as it's all been for the past few weeks, I think it needed to happen. The issues are larger than just the swim team, but we're what kind of brought the issues to the forefront."
Pool members expressed frustration about club finances.
"One of the members asked for an audit of the 2012 finances," McDonald said. "People were frustrated because there was all this talk about money, and they want to know where their money is going."
Members also complained about lack of communication.
"All this stuff was going on, and people had no idea," McDonald said. "People were saying, 'We didn't know when the swim team was having meets.'"
That information would normally be in a newsletter, but the LRCSC did not send out any newsletters this past season.
"As of yesterday, the pool sent out an email and voicemail to the members to inform them of the meeting," McDonald said. "The pool said they would have more news on their website."
Several club members also said they wanted to become more involved in club and swim team operations, Ross said.
A member also suggested having a third party moderator help with negotiating a financial contract between the swim team and swim club.
"We've been asking for years to sit down and hammer it out, and it just never happened," McDonald said.
Currently, the swim team has more families that are not members of the pool than it has member families, she said. Some at last night's meeting wanted to impose a cap on the number of non-member families allowed to register for swim team, bringing the ratio of non-member families to member families to 50/50.
McDonald said the registration process would have to be changed to reflect that.
Both Ross and McDonald said the team has no concrete plans at this point, but are optimistic that negotiations will be beneficial to both sides. Parker also shared in this optimism.
"It was a productive meeting in that it brought swim club and swim team members together for a common goal," Parker said. "It also provided a forum which specifically outlined issues to be addressed in our dual board meetings so we can begin to move forward toward a pleasurable 2013 swim season that is enjoyed by all. We appreciate the time members took to attend the meeting and share their thoughts."
Ross said they would only make plans to look for another home for the Lancers if the current negotiations did not work out.
"If we need to cross that bridge, and I am optimistic that we will not cross that bridge, then we will explore other options," he said. "I'm certainly hopeful that that is not an option we will have to pursue. I'm committed to bringing the team and the club to an agreement. I'm committed to both a vibrant swim club and a vibrant swim team, and I think we can certainly have both and we should."
"I'd like to see us remain at the pool," McDonald said. "It would break my heart to leave. But the way it's been going the past couple of years, it's broken my heart to stay. I'm torn myself, between something that my kids have grown up with, and wanting to see it be better. But we'll swim on, hopefully here."
The pool board and swim team board will have a joint meeting on Aug. 13 at 7 p.m., and the pool board will then meet on Aug. 22.
Editor's Note: At the time of publication, LRCSC Secretary Bob Buckley did not respond to multiple requests for comment. He was on vacation, and his comments, submitted a couple of days later, appear below:
"I have just returned from a long overdue vacation with my family. Spending time with my six year old son and five month old daughter, I realized the importance that youth sports plays in their development. My son is just start to swim and my daughter already enjoys the water.
I did not attend the meeting on Monday night. I have not talked to anyone, yet, but everything looks more promising for rest of this summer and next summer.Both LRCSC and the Lancers know the current relationship isn't working. I am looking forward to the joint board meeting next week and the board elections. I am expecting the results of the joint board meeting to yield mutual benefits for both LRCSC and the Lancers. Joint marketing efforts will definitely make for a better relationship at the LRCSC . Sometimes you have to look at the problem upside down to yield better solution."