Competitive class helps swimmers stay active during their off-season


At top, Tom Mann teaches the Competitive Swim Training Class in Turner Community Center on Tuesday. At bottom, Caroline Granger, 15, swims as part of her warm-up before class. Photo by Eve Edelheit.

Patrick Hosken | Staff Writer

Retirement for some means an end to years of hard work and heading south for warmer climates. For Tom Mann, it meant continuing to do what he loved — coaching swimmers, even if it wasn’t full time.

Mann, a former principal at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Jamestown, N.Y., did move to Florida, but he comes back to Chautauqua County in the summer to help out in any way he can at the Turner Community Center pool.

“Every summer, I’ll do whatever they want me to do, because I just enjoy working with the kids in the water, and the adults, too,” Mann said.

This year, Mann is leading a competitive swim training class that began in early July and ends in mid-August. The class meets every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon from 2:45 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. and features swimmers of all ages, from young boys and girls to those in the masters swimming class, age 25 and over.

Mann said the class aims to keep competitive swimmers active and training throughout the summer.

“When they come here for a week, two weeks, some of them even for the whole summer, they go back to their home, and they’re kind of out of shape,” Mann said. “This way, if we have an organized workout, they’re getting everything in.”

“Everything” means work on swimmers’ breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly and freestyle techniques and more. Swimmers practice these in sets of 20, whirling down the length pool and back, a total of 50 yards.

In addition to swimmers of every age, Mann said the class features athletes from all over the world.

“We have swimmers from (New) Jersey, from Qatar; we have a couple swimmers coming from Japan later on in August,” he said. “These are top-notch swimmers, all of them.”

After he retired, Mann led the Jamestown Community College swim team to win the National Junior College Athletic Association title for non-scholarship schools.

Here at Chautauqua, Mann said he enjoys coaching the swim class because he likes to form relationships with his students.

“Anyone can beat the kids up … but a really good coach knows the techniques, has read the books,” Mann said. “Therefore, when the stroke breaks apart, that’s when you want to start to yell and say, ‘Watch the elbows! Keep this up, keep that up,’ and that’s what good coaching’s all about.”

Andy Freay, Chautauqua Health & Fitness manager, said he recognizes Mann’s dedication to his students.

“It’s not a huge group, but some of the kids, Tom’s had for many years,” Freay said.

In addition to the competitive class, Freay said the pool features swimming lessons and general free swims every day in the summer. During Chautauqua’s off-season, the pool hosts the national Red Cross Learn to Swim program in the fall, winter and spring, usually helping 20 to 25 kids per session.

Freay said he’d like to see the role of the pool expanded in the future, even by attempting to become a full swimming training center.

This class, he said, is an early step to reaching that goal.

Mann said he’ll be back next summer, as always, so he can teach new students as well as continue to coach his older pupils.

“I have a lot of fun with them,” he said. “I enjoy it. Their success is my success; that’s what it boils down to.”