A dozen swimmers from the West Kootenay and Boundary are set to make a splash at the BC 55+ Games in Vernon Sept. 12–16.
Swimmers from Greater Trail, Nelson, Grand Forks, and Castlegar have been training with the Cocoons Senior Swim Club all summer in preparation for the Games, and will join approximately 3,500 athletes from age 55 to 90+, who will compete in 27 sports and activities at the 30th anniversary of the event.
The swim club’s name is derived from the 1985 Ron Howard film, “Cocoon”, where a group of seniors are rejuvenated by swimming in a pool suffused with mysterious properties. The properties in the Castlegar pool seem to have the same effect.
“They have a lot of fun,” said Cocoons swim coach Leslie Beatson. “But this isn’t like adaptive swimming, they swim the individual medley, 800-m freestyle, this is very competitive swimming.”
Beatson originally joined the team to help her daughter Samme, former Trail Stingrays coach, train the athletes. For the past two years, the Rossland resident has coached the Cocoons, which meet every Monday at the Castlegar Community Rec Complex for team training, then swimmers continue in their respective pools during the week.
“By implication they just keep inviting me back and now I’m just so invested because there has been so much improvement and they are really enthusiastic,” said Beatson. “There’s a lot of really good individual stories of health and wellness among the participants.”
Swimmers from Zone 6 formed the Cocoons Swim Club after the first BC Senior Games (the precursor to the 55+ BC Games) in 1987 with Bill and Marg van Yzerloo as the founding members. After Bill’s passing, Marg continued as co-ordinator until 1996, when Barb Roberts of Rossland took over for the next 20 years. Roberts had to step down following shoulder surgery last year, with June Johnston now carrying on as co-ordinator.
In the early days, the Castlegar Complex provided lanes for the group to train on Wednesday mornings, and a lifeguard was assigned to coach the group at no expense.
The team has come a long way since then, reaping success at each BC+ Games and other Masters level meets across North America, and receiving a BC Gaming Grant to fund a swim coach.
Beatson, a professional leadership consultant and coach, approaches the swim team with the same conviction she would any athlete, but finds her swimming apprentices even more diligent and committed.
“It’s like coaching any adult but that group is particularly appreciative,” said Beatson. “They’re grateful and they adopt things so quickly. They really want to learn how to be faster and more efficient, and they do the drills, they make the changes.”
The Cocoons also welcome younger (under 55) swimmers that are in training for future Games, and are affectionately known as the “farm team.” Others swim for pleasure and general well-being, and, for some, the competitive nature of the Games is still compelling, even though many haven’t a competitive swimming background, says Beatson.
“It’s pretty rewarding as a coach,” said Beatson. “They’re so serious about improving. Most of them have come to swimming older in life… . and that’s the rewarding part, is seeing these folks make progress and many are overcoming other things.”
The Zone 6 team’s partnership with the Castlegar Complex and their coach has the Cocoon swimmers rejuvenated and ready for their next challenge at the BC 55+ Games.
“Her (Beatson’s) exceptional training of senior swimmers and the partnership with the Complex has enabled these senior swimmers to excel beyond their wildest imaginations,” said the Cocoons’ Linda Lawson in a release.
Anyone interested in joining the Zone 6 Senior Swim Club can contact Johnston at 352-2373 or through the Castlegar Recreation Complex. Sessions will start again in October at the Castlegar pool.