A great deal of fun, excitement, and learning can be found on both the land and in the water of The Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center in Scottsdale these days. The swimming pool water, that is.
Six days a week, between 5:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., dozens of young, competitive swimmers belonging to The J Swim Club eagerly show up for swim team practice in their Speedos and goggles and swim countless laps across the heated, outdoor pool. And three hours a week, when they’re not swimming in the pool, these dedicated, hard-working athletes are busy strength training on land and learning several different stretching techniques from a professional fitness trainer.
“In just six years since we started, we now have 72 kids on our team,” says proud Head Coach Thomas Meek who started working at the community center––often referred to as “The J”––in 2016. “We have many kids who are very serious competitors, but we also have many kids who just want to train with us a couple of times a week, exercise in the water, and enjoy socializing with their swim team friends…I think we’ve done a really good job of keeping the training at a high-quality level while also keeping things fun and light,” he says.
There are formal tryouts to make the team. To join, a swimmer must know how to swim all four strokes legally.
Ranging in age from 8 to 18, these swimmers travel to The J from across the Valley––from Mesa, Chandler, Surprise, and Buckeye––and a rather surprising fact is that the majority of the team’s members are not Jewish.
“We’ve had so many families contact us asking if their child had to be Jewish to join the team,” says Meek with a laugh. “The fact is that 70% of the kids on our team are not Jewish. The J and The J Swim Club are open to everyone––all faiths and backgrounds.”
A former competitive swimmer for the University of Chicago, Meek, now 27, was the most decorated swimmer in the university’s history. His junior year culminated in a National Title victory in the 400 Freestyle Relay at the NCAA Division III Tournament. Meek also qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Other nationally renowned members of the coaching staff include Thomas’s mother, Debbie Meek, and Coach Brian Hoffer, who has a 25-year career as a Division 1 assistant and head coach. Hoffer has coached Olympians, NCAA All-Americans, and national champions from more than 15 different countries. Both coaches also trained swimmers for the U.S. Olympic Trials.
“What we really want parents and kids to know about our J Swim Club is that we expose our athletes to detailed instruction around effective techniques in and out of the pool,” adds Meek. “In the water, we focus heavily on mechanics like turns, underwater dolphin kicks, starts, breakouts, and stroke technique for each distance of race. Out of the water, we provide our athletes with a comprehensive dryland program created by our partner, Nick Hadinger, with Streamline Performance. We also guide our swimmers through areas of training like recovery, nutrition, mental health, and more. Our program is mostly focused on sprint training, so our goal is to prepare our swimmers for 200s and lower.”
The J is located at 12701 N. Scottsdale Road. For more information about The J Swim Club, call (480) 481-7035 or visit vosjcc.org