Youth swimmers across eastern Kansas dive into the water for the Eastern Kansas Swim League when the calendar hits June.
Leavenworth County has two teams with the Leavenworth Riptides and Lansing Sea Lions.
Leavenworth High School counselor Jennifer Baptista started to get involved with the Riptides when her son started to swim with the team about eight years ago. For the past few years, she has been one of the ones in charge of the team as a parent-volunteer coordinator. She said the Riptides have a wonderful team environment.
“It’s such a wonderful team environment,” Baptista said. “You are an individual, but yet you are also on a team. So that is a pretty exciting opportunity there.”
She said the team is a family.
“I have been part of the Riptides family for many years,” she said. “I love every summer that we have returning kids and families. And that is one of the highlights for our summer since I get to see some people I don’t get to see the rest of the year.”
She also said she loves to see how the kids grow each year. Baptista said there are some that started when they were 6 years old and now are 18 and graduating. She said that was “pretty exciting” to see.
Baptista said prep for the season starts in February when Nancy Baker from the Leavenworth Parks and Recreation Department starts to get things together for the new year. Baptista, Baker and coach Conner Debban work together with getting applications and registration forms ready for the new season. The trio decides when the team will practice, how information will get out and all the other details. Debban and Baker also attend the recreation league meeting with other coaches and plan out the season.
Once the season arrives, the Riptides practice every day during the week. The Riptide swimmers will work on various exercises in and out of the pool that Debban and the other coaches prepare for the team. Baptista said the swimmers will also work on starts, turns and finishes as the Friday meets get closer. During all this, Baptista is working on the behind the scenes chores.
“We need timers, stroke judges and people who do the ribbons,” she said. “And I work the table to record their scores so the kids can see how much progress they are making each week. Because that is what we are all about. We are more focused on beating yourself and setting personal bests here. And if you win, that is more exciting. But the process is like planning a party for the pool.”
She had praise for the various parents who help out during the meets and help them go smooth.
She said that the five coaches spend a few hours during the week planning the heat sheets for each swimmer to determine what races the kids will swim in.
“There is a lot of science in where to place kids to be successful,” she said. “Like I said, it is not so much about winning. It’s about going and having fun and getting better. But we also would like them to get some ribbons.”
Baptista estimates that she spends a couple hours before each meet getting it all ready to go. After the meet, she spends a few more hours getting all the times together and photos to send out to parents and the Leavenworth Times.
The Riptides were supposed to host the Piper Piranhas Friday but the weather canceled the meet. Despite one of only four meets canceled, Baptista said it has been a good season for the team so far. The Riptides are scheduled to end their season next Friday when they travel to Lansing to take on the Sea Lions.