When Jimmy Adams first became coach of the Derby Dolphins four years ago, there were roughly 70 swimmers participating in the club.
The team is now well over 100 swimmers and brought the second-biggest roster in the Great Plains Swim League to its league meet at Haysville this past weekend.
“It’s been steadily going up and this is the biggest year I know of,” Adams said. “We’ve had really good parents on our board, so they’ve done an awesome job growing the sport and club. I just show up and coach them. They don’t get as much credit as they deserve.”
The Dolphins took second at the league meet. They’ll send 30 swimmers to District Championships this weekend and team coaches estimate that 200 performances at league were personal bests for swimmers.
From the 8-and-under division through 18 years old, each level of experience brings its own challenges. Adams, who already coaches the boys swimming team at Derby High School, said he enjoys seeing the lightbulb come on in and out of competition.
There is an undeniable challenge in helping a young swimmer learn new strokes and understanding what events they want to participate in. However, Adams and assistants Melissa Rogers, Lindsey Hostetler, Danny Smith, and Sam Pinkerton take a hands-on approach in helping swimmers stay engaged at a young age.
“I feel I’ve got the best assistant coaches in the league,” Adams said. “They work with the kids and if they’re receptive, like in any other sport, they’ll get a ton out of it.”
Between a high-school roster at DHS that continues to explode in numbers and the growth of the Dolphins, Adams said he credits word-of-mouth marketing from the families already in the program.
“We don’t really advertise too much,” the Dolphins’ coach said. “We get the word out there and as one family does it one summer, a couple of their friends [join the next] … I really feel it’s the family atmosphere that we’ve tried to build the last couple of years that has paid off.”
Coaching the Dolphins also keeps Adams engaged with swimmers who may someday be a part of his high-school roster.
“Now I’m getting to watch some of these kids as 8-year-olds and possibly be with them until they’re seniors,” he added.
The Dolphins swim in six events per summer ahead of their postseason schedule. They hosted four events at Rock River Rapids, while also traveling to Valley Center.
While not every swimmer in the program will participate through their educational career, Adams said he encourages families to give the program a try.
“They grow so much,” Adams said, especially of his younger swimmers. “In the first week of practice … I broke the 50-meter pool down into five sections so they could swim from one point to the next. Now these kids are doing IM’s at meets and the personal growth along with physical strength, it all around benefits them.”