The Crescenta-Cañada YMCA swim team, the Dragons, is going through changes this season. Despite the loss of several members and a change in leadership with a new head coach, the Dragons has grown and stabilized into an even stronger team. Dragons still stands as a predominant team in the Y League and multiple swimmers from the team continue to compete in Junior Olympics each year.
The Dragons has been a small team ever since its founding in the ’70s and has been praised for its defining characteristic: teamwork. The size of the team helped coaches not only bring out the full potential in each swimmer, but also the character of each.
Kirsten Puttler is one of the dedicated parents of the athletes.
“[The team] is a family,” she said. “Unlike other large teams in which athletes have to compete with teammates to receive the individualized attention they need, our team stands out because everyone receives personalized attention.”
Although numerous pre-national and national group athletes left the team this season, Dragons’ records show that the team remains strong. The team competed in this year’s Junior Olympics, held in Mission Viejo, where distinguished swimmers from around Southern California gathered to compete for record-breaking times. Also, 18 swimmers from the team attended June Age Group (JAG) this year, a significant number when considering the size of the team.
“Other coaches found [it surprising] that our team continues to bring such high records [despite] the big remodeling of the team this season,” said new Head Coach Chris Kang. “Structure-wise, we have gone through a lot but strength-wise, I don’t think much has changed at all.”
Try-outs for the team are held every few months and schedules are available at the Y or by (818) 790-0123. There are multiple ways for swimmers to join the team: Some take the introductory swim lessons and build their way up until the coaches take notice, and some transfer from other teams.
“This past season, there were 25 swimmers who tried out as transfers, and we’ve accepted three,” Puttler said. “It is quite competitive.”
The time required is not the only factor that determines acceptance to the team. Factors considered include the swimmer’s promptness to workouts, attendance record, work ethic, ability, endurance, maturity and space availability.
“Dedication and sportsmanship really speak out and help build our team,” Kang said. “We question whether [the athlete] is willing to contribute to the team rather than rely on mere numbers.”