Swim squad makes a splash
THE 10 exuberant members of the Indigenous Talent Identification Swim squad have taken to water, well, like ducks to water.
The First Australians have made their mark in a large number of sports over the years since Captain Phillip organised the first game of cricket on the banks of the Tank Stream in 1788.
What else would they be doing on Australia Day?
Aborigines have shone primarily in boxing, rugby league and Australian rules and, to a lesser extent, athletics and cricket.
But given the talent being displayed by the kids making waves in the lanes at the South Tweed Heads Indoor Pool, it might not be too long before indigenous swimmers are making Commonwealth and Olympic games swimming teams.
That is the plan of the innovative program, which is aimed at introducing promising young Aborigine swimmers to formal swim squad training - the first major step to progressing to becoming an elite swimmer.
The kids, nine of whom attend South Tweed Primary and another from Tweed Heads Primary, are being guided by one of the most astute mentors in the business, South Tweed Indoor Pool's head coach Michael Thom.
Thom has been pleasantly surprised by the ability being displayed by many of his young charges.
"The idea is to give the children an indication of what is required of them if they decide they want to go on with formal squad training when the course finishes at the end of this term," Thom said.
The course is funded by the New South Wales Department of Sport and Recreation under its Indigenous Intensive Swim Program.
The talent identification course has been added to the program this year and Thom believes it should be ongoing.
"A really tremendous idea," he said.
"If the behaviour, enthusiasm and talent being shown by this group are any indication, the ID program must be a long-term plan."
The children attend the squad training once a week.
At the moment Thom is concentrating on teaching the kids stroke improvement and is also giving them the opportunity to try their hands at other strokes beside freestyle.
"We'll concentrate on that for a few more weeks and then practise starts, turns and finishes, but the main objective is to give them some idea of what is required if they want to reach their goals in swimming," Thom said.
"The kids tell me their first goal is to be able to be competitive against their schoolmates at their school carnival in first term next year."
There is another Indigenous Intensive Swim Program scheduled for November 21-23, after which another squad will be selected.