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Parents unite in opposition to possible merger of swim teams

A number of area parents, concerned about the possibility the the swim teams from five different Y of Central Maryland centers would merge, attended a meeting on the issue at the Catonsville Family Center Y on Feb. 4.
A number of area parents, concerned about the possibility the the swim teams from five different Y of Central Maryland centers would merge, attended a meeting on the issue at the Catonsville Family Center Y on Feb. 4. (Lauren Loricchio, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Parents with children on the swim team at the Catonsville Family Center Y are up in arms over a possible merger they believe would combine teams from five different Y locations.

The Y, meanwhile, says changes are being considered, though it is yet to be determined what they will be or if they will be implemented.

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About 50 concerned parents and swimmers packed a preschool room at the facility, at 850 South Rolling Road, on Feb. 4 to learn about a proposal to combine teams from different Y of Central Maryland centers.

Parents said it was their understanding a merger would combine the swim teams from Y of Central Maryland's facilities in Catonsville, Towson, Randallstown, Carroll County and Howard County.

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Sara Milstein, chief marking and development officer for the Y of Central Maryland, wrote in an email that the organization is still in the investigative phase and does not know what centers would be involved.

"We do have to apologize profusely to each and every one of you, because the information that we did send out, there was conflicting information, there were gaps in the information," said Dawn Chrystal-Wolfe, district executive director of centers in Catonsville and Carroll County. "We don't have all the information. We don't have all the answers."

Chrystal-Wolfe told the parents a group has been assigned to make recommendations about the merger, and nothing has been decided.

Children ages 4 to 18 have an option to swim competitively in USA Swimming, the national governing body of swimming, or they can elect to participate in dual meets only. Those who register for USA Swimming are required to pay a $75 fee plus additional fees for each race.

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Those who elect for dual meets pay a club fee of $400 to $600, Milstein said in a email.

Some parents expressed concerns that fees may increase.

"This is not about fees or revenue for the Y," said John Hoey, president and CEO of the Y of Central Maryland. "This is us trying to balance the competing needs of members."

Hoey said that swim programs are a very small part of the organization's programming.

Parents said they chose to enroll their kids at the Y because of the noncompetitive option.

"Our kids aren't going to be competitive swimmers when they grow up," said Paul Hernan, a Catonsville resident with two children on the team, after the meeting. "It's a way for them to get some exercise and be with their friends."

There are currently 44 kids registered in USA Swimming at the South Rolling Road center, while 118 swimmers choose the less competitive option.

Chrystal-Wolfe assured parents that under a merger, coaching staff and swimmer evaluations will remain the same and teams will continue to practice at their respective facilities.

"One of the benefits is that we will have additional opportunities for qualifying times," Chrystal-Wolfe said. "The dual meets that we have against other Y of Central Maryland teams would not count toward district qualifying times."

However, those at the meeting didn't see an upside to such opportunities. They said they prefer not to enroll their children in USA Swimming because of the extra time required to drive them to meets.

Others agreed, saying they chose the Catonsville Y because their children don't have to be part of USA Swimming.

"Some people just want to swim because they enjoy it... they don't want to make the commitment to do all this stuff," said Nathan Pittroff, 10, a swimmer who attends Hillcrest Elementary.

Bill Lewis, who attended the meeting with his wife, Julie Lewis, said his daughter was a competitive swimmer but decided she would rather participate in dual meets, because the sport wasn't fun anymore. The Ellicott City couple has two daughters who swim at the center.

Chrystal-Wolfe said the merger is meant to benefit the association of swim teams overall. "There will be more benefits for some teams than there will be for others, which in our case there will be less than another team, but this should not be detrimental to any of our teams in any way," she said.

Many left the room wondering how combining teams will benefit their children. "The reason for doing this merger doesn't make any sense," said Julie Lewis. "I think we need to go back to the basics and figure out why we're doing this."

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