Surf City Yacht Club, Haven Beach Club Swimmers Know How to Have Fun While They Compete

By David Biggy | Jul 17, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy Surf City Yacht Club swimmer Allison Vile high-fives coach Linda Behr during SCYC’s meet against Haven Beach Club on July 11.

Long Beach Township, NJ — When Linda Behr first started coaching swimmers at Surf City Yacht Club 23 years ago, the main purpose was to teach others not to be afraid of the water and make sure they were safe while sailing.

“I love teaching kids,” she said following her swim team’s contest against Haven Beach Club on July 11, as the Island swim clubs opened up their seasons last week. “I love seeing somebody who is not much of a swimmer get to a point where they can do more than they had thought and keep on swimming. It’s about more than just swimming. It’s about developing confidence, strength and sportsmanship. It’s about developing the whole kid.”

It’s no wonder  so many youngsters over the years have said they love swimming for Behr. Olivia Cahn is just one of hundreds.

“Mrs. Behr is amazing,” said the 16-year-old, who’s been swimming at SCYC for eight years. “I was so nervous my first meet, and she made me feel so good about myself, just because she’s so positive and helpful. She’s the main reason I’m still on the team. She pushes us to get better. She creates a positive environment, and really makes the team feel like a family.”

Behr’s “family” didn’t defeat HBC – in fact, it lost by more than 200 points to the much larger and deeper Hurricanes – but that didn’t matter much to the coach.

“I understand what this is about,” Behr said. “It’s a little competitive and more fun than anything. It’s not as competitive as a team swimming in the winter. But we still can concentrate on improving little things like technique. We practice a lot in the bay, so that adds an element of fun as well.”

Behr knows the secret to having fun with her teams. Cahn said the coach often bakes treats for her swimmers for “Fun Fridays,” when they utilize the skills they’ve learned to have intrasquad relay competitions in addition to time trials.

“For the young swimmers, our club is a great place to enjoy swimming,” Cahn said. “It’s fun, with a competitive edge.”

Haven Beach Club’s Hurricanes also like to have fun while swimming, evidenced by the endless smiles along the north side of the pool as they cruised to victory against SCYC. But second-year coach Dan Dreher also understands that the history at HBC includes a lot of winning, and the expectation again this season is his squad will be right there again with St. Francis Community Center as the top teams in the Long Beach Island swim club league.

“We have fun, but we have big goals, too,” Dreher said. “Every season, we have a fresh mold of clay. And the biggest eye-opener I had last year was the difference in the numbers of competitive swimmers to casual swimmers. My role is to mold the two and build up our swimmers to a point that we can compete with St. Francis, because they’re the best right now. Our kids know that, but they come here every summer with a desire to get better. That’s a good thing, and we make it work.”

Cleo Cottone, a 12-year-old from Haddonfield who spends her summers at her grandmother’s house in Beach Haven, and whose dad, Richard, used to swim for HBC when he was a youngster, has been with the squad for four years and loves it.

“It’s not just swimming to make yourself better,” she said. “Becoming a better swimmer isn’t just for yourself. It’s for the whole team. I’m passionate about swimming, so I want to do my best for my team.”

Cleo and her older sister, Ava, did their best quite well last Thursday, helping their medley and freestyle relay teams to victory – Cleo also scored big points in the butterfly as an individual – and she believes HBC’s chances against St. Francis later this summer are good.

“I think we can beat them this year,” Cleo said. “We’ll see, but we will definitely have a good chance. We have a strong team this season.”

Of course, Dreher utilizes the friendly rivalry with the Sharks as bait for his crew.

“The fact St. Francis is so good adds fuel to our team,” he said. “And I’ll poke the bear a bit in practice, to remind our swimmers that St. Francis is still on the schedule and they’re the team to beat at the championship meet. But I also keep reminding them that beating St. Francis is within reach. It’s a good thing St. Francis is as good as they are, because if not for them we wouldn’t be the team we are.”

— David Biggy

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