Revised July, 2015
This handbook is intended to provide an overview of the Ridgefield Aquatic Club, its policies and its procedures in the following sections:
- Mission, Vision, Values, Goals, Safe Sport & Governance
- Practice Groups and Requirements
- RAC Financial Requirements
- Parental Roles
- Team Equipment
- Swimming Outside of RAC
Any additional questions should be directed to the appropriate staff member or Board member.
I. RAC’s MISSION, VISION, VALUES, GOALS & GOVERNANCE
The mission of the Ridgefield Aquatic Club (RAC) is to empower young people to be champions in and out of the water.
RAC is a competitive swim program dedicated to:
- Promoting the sport of swimming
- Providing an enjoyable, team-oriented experience
- Recognizing each individual and value his or her role in the success of our club
- Teaching and developing life skills
- Providing each swimmer the opportunity to succeed at the highest level possible
Our club members demonstrate:
- Commitment to the team
- A consistently strong work ethic
- Mutual respect
- Positive mental attitudes
1. Engage and energize our membership
- Create a fun, open and inclusive environment
- Challenge swimmers so they learn how to set and achieve goals
- Improve timeliness and completeness of communication
- Develop a parent education process
- Encourage active parent involvement in all levels of USA Swimming
2. Recruit new swimmers
- Market club effectively through high quality recruiting material
- Enhance community awareness
- Increase team membership within pool space constraints
3. Attract and retain high quality coaches
- Ensure coaches are valued and respected by club members
- Provide continuing education
- Pay competitive salary and benefits
4. Compete at a high level
- Place among the top 8 Connecticut teams in USA Swimming’s Virtual Club Championship & among the top teams at the Age Group and Senior Open championships consistently
- Regularly qualify a contingent of swimmers for zone and sectional competitions
- Send at least one swimmer annually to compete at the Junior or Senior Nationals
5. Ensure the long-term stability of the club
- Build long-term financial strength
- Guarantee facility access by maintaining strong relationships with area pools
We believe that the experience of children and young athletes in all organized sports should be guided by what is best for the safe and healthy development of the young person. Young athletes who participate in organized sports activities have a unique opportunity for learning. In working with each child, it is essential that we are mindful of their physical, emotional, and developmental needs. We must also be particularly diligent in recognizing the unique vulnerabilities that are an inherent part of childhood. It is the responsibility of adults to not only recognize these vulnerabilities, but to develop the knowledge and skills needed to create and maintain a safe and child-centered sports environment. RAC has adopted, and our swimmers, parents and coaches must comply with, USA Swimming's Safe Sport Code of Conduct and Athlete Protection Policies and Best Practice Guidelines, and the team's Bullying Policies, which are maintained on our team's website under the Documents Tab.
The Ridgefield Aquatic Club is a private, not-for-profit corporation that is directed on a daily basis by a full-time Head Coach/CEO. The Head Coach/CEO oversees all members of the coaching staff. RAC’s corporate affairs are directed by a volunteer Board of Directors which consists of six Officers, five squad representatives and the immediate past President. Despite the use of “Ridgefield” in its name, RAC has no relationship with the town of Ridgefield or with any of its municipal agencies beyond that of an outside group renting space in a municipal facility.
RAC Officers: The Officers of the Ridgefield Aquatic Club are the President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, Director of Communications, Director of Strategic Planning, and Head Coach/CEO.
Squad Representatives: RAC has six squad representatives to represent the 12/under and 13/over age groups.
Past President: This person serves as a member of the Board of Directors at the completion of his or her term as President.
Board Elections: The Officers are elected for two-year terms and are eligible to serve two terms in a particular office. The President, Secretary, and Director of Communications are elected in even-numbered years and the Vice President and Treasurer are elected in odd-numbered years. The squad representatives are elected to one-year terms and may not serve more than two consecutive years in the same position.
II. PRACTICE GROUPS AND REQUIREMENTS
LEVEL OF COMMITMENT
RAC is a USA Swimming program, which is the premier competitive swimming program available to young athletes across the country. There are many other types of competitive and recreational swim programs, such as YMCA and summer league programs. It is important to understand that the nature of the RAC/USA Swimming program requires a higher level of commitment from its swimmers than those in other types of programs.
Swimmers moving through the program are expected to demonstrate a progressively greater degree of commitment to competitive swimming. As progress is made, the number and length of the training sessions as well as the intensity of the competition at meets increases.
TRAINING GROUPS & ATTENDANCE
Regular practice attendance is vital to success. It is not possible to effectively plan training sessions, set goals or achieve meet performances if a swimmer does not attend practice on a regular basis. Even short, unplanned absences can take a heavy toll on conditioning, endurance, and swimming skills, which are important to a swimmer’s success. The number of practices per week that a swimmer is required to attend is determined by the training group to which a swimmer is assigned. Click on the training group to learn more about group standards and training commitment.
Age Group (AG)
Olympic Way (OW)
As a competitive swimming team, competition at meets is an integral part of RAC’s program. Swimmers are entered in meets and events that are consistent with their ability levels, individual goals and team goals. Swimmers are expected to attend all meets in which they are entered. If a conflict exists with a meet on the schedule, it is the responsibility of the parents to notify both the Head Coach and the swimmer’s individual coach as soon as such a conflict is known. In order for a swimmer to be scratched from a meet, parents must "scratch" or "un-commit" their child from the meet on the home page of the RAC website before the "scratch" deadline. Since schedules are issued well in advance of any competition, it is expected that swimmers will note meets on their calendars and not double schedule events. It is expected that once entries are submitted (approximately 30 days prior to the event) swimmers will be in attendance unless an unavoidable, last-minute situation develops. If a swimmer is unable to attend a meet after the entries have been submitted, they are still responsible for any fees connected with their entry. Failure to attend meets without notifying the proper staff personnel can be grounds for suspension from the program.
Each year is divided into two swimming seasons. From September through March, swimmers compete in the short course season, racing in pools that are 25 yards long. This is the same sized pool that is used for most high school and NCAA competitions. From April through early August, swimmers compete in the long course season, racing in pools that are 50 meters long. This is the same sized pool that is used for international meets, including the Olympics.
Times and events differ from short course to long course. Different championship qualifying times apply to each season. The Connecticut Swimming FAST database permits you to see your swimmer’s championship meet qualifications, meet-by-meet progress, and best times. FAST can be found via the “Links” section of RAC’s website or on Connecticut Swimming’s home page.
Best times information may also be found in "My Meet Results" on the RAC website and Meet Qualifications may be found on the "On Deck Parent" app which can be downloaded on your phone.
To convert times in the different courses (e.g., from short course yards to long course meters), there is a straightforward time converter in the “Links” section of our website and online at http://www.swiminfo.com/results/conversions.asp.
Finally, the Barlow Mountain pool is 25 meters long, which is a different length than swimmers will compete in during either the short course or long course season.
Swimmers are required to attend all championship competitions for which they qualify in individual events or as part of a relay. The following meets are considered championship competitions and are held during both the short and long course seasons (except for 8 & under championships):
- 8 & under championships – short course championships for younger swimmers who compete vs. other 6-, 7- or 8-year olds (each year is a single age group).
- LSC Regional Championships – last chance for swimmers to post qualifying times for the CT Age Group Championships.
- CT Age Group Championships – many of the team's swimmers train to be able to compete in these meets, held in March (short course) and July (long course), as their primary competition each season. To compete, swimmers must have swum at or faster than the published cut time for that event for their sex and age group. These times change annually and can be found on RAC’s website in the "Links" tab under “Time Standards” or on Connecticut Swimming’s website.
- Eastern Zone AG Championships – a championship age group meet for swimmers in the northeast region (Maryland to Maine). For the short course meet, Connecticut sends the top three 12/U swimmers (top two for 13/O) in each event to the meet. For the long course meet (held in mid-August), any swimmer who makes the cut-off times may compete in the meet.
- Senior Championships – swimmers of any age must qualify for this meet by achieving a single set of standards that are more stringent than those for the Age Group Championships. This is the primary competitive focus of most of the team’s senior level swimmers. This meet is also held in March and July.
- Eastern Zone Senior Championships – a championship senior meet for swimmers in the Eastern Zone who make qualifying times to compete in the meet.
- Speedo Sectional Championships – the premier senior level meet hosted in each region of the country, this meet is designed as a qualifying meet for the USA National Swimming Championships.
- USA National Championships – a long course meet held twice each year, this is the most competitive USA Swimming meet, outside of Olympic Trials. The summer-long course meet has particularly difficult time standards. There is also a Junior National and Futures meet for swimmers aged 18 & under that has slightly slower time standards.
PHILOSOPHY OF COMPETITION
In preparation for the swim season, here are some of the basic tenets of RAC’s philosophy of competition:
- The team will enter each meet with a particular goal in mind. At most meets, we will emphasize improvement of one’s times in each event. Certain meets (primarily championship level meets) will also stress racing and place finishes.
- In addition to seeking best times, the coaching staff will also attempt to have swimmers work on various race techniques and strategies that have been introduced in practice. When this happens, sometimes times do not improve the first time these new techniques are attempted. However, over the long haul with diligent practice, times will improve.
- The swimmers are taught to set realistic goals. As a swimmer gets older and more experienced, he or she is taught to relate performance in practice to his or her goal times.
- Often the coaching staff enters swimmers in different events. This not only helps promote versatility in swimmers, but often helps in the swimmer’s main events. Each coach is dedicated to developing well-rounded total swimmers that have not only mastered all 4 strokes but various races of varying distances.
- Good sportsmanship is a must. All swimmers are to respect the officials, other competitors, coaches and the facilities that we use. RAC is renowned in Connecticut Swimming for its team spirit - all swimmers are expected to encourage and support their teammates.
“Shaving Down” before a focus meet may help improve swimming performance because of reduced drag in the water and improved feel for the water. At the beginning of the season, and periodically throughout the season, the coach may discuss with the senior level swimmers, in a team setting, the benefits of and expectations for growing hair during the season and shaving down prior to focus/championship meets. This discussion can include individual questions from swimmers to the group and group answers from the coaches. The coaches may remind the swimmers in a group setting during the season about growing out their hair and shaving before the “big meet”.
Due to the sensitive nature of the subject, at no time will a coach discuss hair growth and shaving one on one with a swimmer, nor will there be “hair checks” during the season or at the focus meet. If a coach would like to discuss this topic one on one with a swimmer, the discussion must be done with a parent present. It is the swimmers decision whether to grow hair during the season and shave for the meet. At no time will a coach reprimand or badger an athlete for not complying with the coach’s expectations about hair growth and shaving during the season.
USA SWIMMING MOTIVATIONAL TIME STANDARDS
USA Swimming publishes time standards every four years for each event in each group. The times are intended to motivate swimmers to achieve new performance standards. The motivational times are based on:
- Base time– 16th fastest swimmer in each event for that age group. USA Swimming publishes Top 10 times for each event in each single age group (11-17 years of age) annually.
- AAAA– 105% of the base time
- AAA– 110% of the base time
- AA– 115% of the base time
- A– 120% of the base time
- B– 125% of the base time
Motivational times can be found on the RAC website under “Time Standards” and also on USA Swimming’s website.
TRANSPORTATION TO SWIM MEETS/CHAPERONING
For most meets, RAC bears no responsibility for transporting and chaperoning the RAC swimmers at the meets or functions connected with the meet except for normal coaching activities. The exception to the above is a “team travel meet” which the team travels to the site together, is lodged together and does all activities together. For “team travel meets” all arrangements are handled by RAC and the coaching staff, and selected parents chaperone the trip. Any team member attending a team travel meet must comply with the team's Travel Policy and sign the Liability Waiver and Medication Waiver which are maintained on the team's website under the Documents Tab.
For all other meets, it is the responsibility of each swimmer (or their parents) to have transportation to and from the site of competition and to handle their own lodging and meal requirements. At meets where lodging is necessary, RAC will block rooms at a team rate for the convenience of the swimmers, but it is the responsibility of each team member to make those reservations.
At any meet, practice or team activity, swimmers must abide by the team’s Code of Conduct which is signed each year upon registration and is maintained on the team's website under the Documents Tab. Among other things, swimmers are required to stay in proscribed areas and respect teammates, officials, and other competitors. Vandalism, smoking, alcohol/drug consumption, inappropriate language and disrupting practice will not be tolerated and may result in suspension or expulsion from the team.
SWIM MEET PROCEDURES
- A meet schedule for the season is posted on the web site during the first few weeks of the season. In most cases, this schedule is final. Swimmers will be entered in each meet for which they meet the criteria for competition.
- As meets are uploaded onto our RAC home page, swimmers are committed to all sessions of the meet for which they qualify. If a child is unable to swim one, two or all days of the meet, the parent must sign into their account and and click the "Commitment" button for the particular meet, click their child's name and "Un-commit" their swimmer for any day of the meet he/she is not swimming. If no action is taken by the parent, the swimmer will be entered into all days of the meet.
- Approximately 14 days prior to non-championship events and 7 days prior to championship meets, entry information is posted on the team website (www.racswimming.org) and e-mailed to each swimmer regarding particular meets in which they have been entered. This information includes events entered, directions to the pool, times to arrive and any other information about the particular competition. If parents would like to get basic logistical information (starting time, directions, etc.) about a meet in which their child is entered, this information can usually be found on RAC’s website or on Connecticut Swimming’s website (www.ctswim.org) in the “Meet Announcements” section.
- Swimmers are expected to arrive at the proper time and be on the pool deck ready to begin at the time listed in the meet information. It is critical that swimmers be stretched and ready to get in the pool for the start of warm-up, as a proper warm-up is instrumental to competing well. If parents encounter a problem in getting to the meet on time, they should contact a coach since the coaches have to scratch any swimmers who are not known to be competing.
- Swimmers should stay warm during winter meets by wearing the team shirt and/or warm-ups on deck. During outdoor meets, team members should stay in the shade (team tent) as much as possible.
- Coaches will tell swimmers in which events, heats, and lanes they will be swimming. Swimmers should check in with their coach before and after each race, and they should report behind the blocks several heats ahead of time. All swimmers will be expected to swim each of the events in which they are entered. Only the coach can scratch a swimmer from an individual race(s). In the case of a prelim/finals meet, swimmers cannot scratch an event or session without the approval of the coach.
- Good nutrition is critical for swimmers to perform well. Swimmers should eat a sufficient, but not heavy, meal 2 to 4 hours before competition. Meals should include plenty of carbohydrates, while meet snacks might include fruit or energy bars. Swimmers should bring a water bottle and drink plenty of water throughout the meet to remain well-hydrated in the often humid pool buildings.
- Electronic timing is provided in virtually all meets in which RAC participates. The times generated by the electronic timing system are the official times, while the buttons and stopwatches are used for back-up if the electronic system malfunctions. Only individual races or lead-off legs on relays count as official times, which are used as qualifying times, etc.
- Swimmers are expected to remain until the end of the session in which they are participating unless told differently by the coaching staff. In most cases, RAC will enter relays and most swimmers will be participating in these relays which usually occur as the last event of each session. As swimmers are expected to support one another, those not entered in relays will be counted upon to support their teammates until all events are completed. Swimmers are prohibited from leaving a competition early without permission from a member of the coaching staff.
- Swimmers are expected to wear the appropriate team attire (suit, team t-shirt, cap, etc.) at the competition site.
- To comply with USA Swimming requirements, parents are not permitted on the pool deck unless they are serving in an official capacity at that time. While often the temptation is there for a parent to come on the pool deck to “check on their child”, this is not permitted. If you need to visit with your swimmer during the meet, please designate a time and place to meet and they can come into the stands to meet with you.
IV. RAC FINANCIAL REQUIREMENTS
To participate as a member of the Ridgefield Aquatic Club, all swimmers must be determined to be in good financial standing by the club’s Treasurer. The following are the financial requirements of the club
Program Fee: Each group has a particular program fee that covers participation in that group for the year. That fee may be made in one payment or by utilizing the RAC payment plan. Development group swimmers who have never participated with a USA swimming team have the option of signing up for either the short course or long course season only during the first season in which they participate with RAC. This option does not apply to the Senior, Junior, Age Group and Fitness levels. After a swimmer has participated with RAC or another USA swimming team for at least 1 season they will be required to sign up for the entire year. A late fee is assessed to those participating in the payment plan whose payment is not received by the fifteenth of the month.
Fund-Raising Obligation: The Board of Directors will establish a fund-raising obligation each year. This amount is currently set at $250 per swimmer for the National, Senior and Junior Swimmers, $200 for the Age Group Swimmers, and $150 for the Development and Fitness Swimmers with a maximum of $400 per family. The team will establish a fund-raising plan and it is the responsibility for each swimmer and family to meet their assigned amount. Currently, the team conducts a swim-a-thon each February as its primary fund-raising activity.
Registration Fee: Each RAC swimmer is automatically registered with USA Swimming through Connecticut Swimming upon joining the team. This entitles the swimmer to participate in USA Swimming sanctioned events and provides insurance coverage to each swimmer. In addition, the registration fees provides each swimmer with two team t-shirts and cap.
Swim Meet Fees: Swimmers are charged for each individual and relay swim at each meet as set forth in the meet announcement. RAC charges each swimmer a meet surcharge of $7/meet. If the meet is outside of driving distance and the coach needs to fly to the meet, a meet surcharge of $50/swimmer will be charged to help cover the coaches travel expenses for that meet. Each family's credit card will be automatically charged on the 1st of each month. Once a swimmer has been entered in an event, RAC is charged for that entry even if the swimmer is unable to attend the meet at the last minute. Therefore the individual’s meet account will still be charged if this should occur. Also, if a swimmer fails to attend a meet without notifying the coaching staff in advance or departs a meet early and this causes a relay to be scratched due to a lack of available eligible swimmers, the absent swimmer will be charged the entire relay amount.
Refunds: Any swimmer/family is entitled to a full refund (less registration fee) through the first week of beginning of the competitive year; 75% refund (less registration fee) through the 2nd week of the competitive year; 50% refund (less registration fee) through the 3rd week of the competitive year. Thereafter, RAC does not refund program fees.
Prorating: RAC does not prorate member fees for portions of the year. Exceptions are only made when a new family (which has not been involved with RAC in the past) joins the program after the starting date of the competitive year, or if that new family chooses to swim only short course.
Financial Hardship: RAC convenes a financial hardship committee to address cases of documented financial hardship which make it difficult for a family to meet their RAC financial requirements. This committee will work with families to keep their children involved with the club and the sport.
V. PARENTAL ROLES
RAC is a not-for-profit corporation that relies to a great extent on the volunteered time of its parent members to be successful. All parents are expected to support the team by attending team sponsored events, participating in team social activities and fundraisers, and volunteering their time. It is the nature of the sport of swimming, that when a child joins a team, so do his/her parents.
RAC conducts two parents meetings each year. There is an information meeting held within the first month of fall practice and there is a meeting in July to conduct Board elections and to approve the budget for the next fiscal year. A parent from each family is expected to be in attendance at the RAC parent’s meetings.
VOLUNTEERING AT SWIM MEETS
At most of the meets we attend, we are assigned worker positions in direct relation to the size of our entry. Each parent will be expected to assist at several meets during the season. Worker positions include meet officials (requires certification by Connecticut Swimming), timers, runners and marshals. The pool representatives will contact parents prior to or at the meets to ask for help.
OTHER VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES
In addition to working at meets, there are numerous areas that parents can volunteer to help with, including:
- Board members
- Equipment/apparel managers
- Team publicity
- Spring banquet
- Social coordinators for each practice group
- Memorial Day Parade coordinator
- Grocery card sales
- Annual Membership Meeting and BBQ
MEANS OF COMMUNICATION
Website - The RAC website (www.racswimming.org) and newsletter will be the primary source of consolidated information about the team.
RAC Weekly Newsletter- The RAC weekly newsletter is intended to keep members informed by providing information about what’s happening at RAC that week such as practice changes, meet information, and other valuable information.
Email - RAC will attempt to provide all necessary information through direct emails, but the website and newsletter will be the primary means of communication. It is each family’s responsibility to provide RAC with proper email addresses and with any changes in email addresses. Click here for the coaches email addresses and phone numbers.
Phone – RAC’s phone number is 203-438-3951
Parent Mail Boxes - An individual box for correspondence to each swimmer is in the lobby of Barlow Mountain pool. Please check these boxes periodically. Information not transmitted electronically will be given out at the pool.
All team members, parents and coaches must comply with the team's Electronic Communication Policies which are maintained on our team's website under the Documents Tab.
When inclement weather causes practice to be canceled, every effort will be made to send emails and to post the information on the website. However, due to the nature of fast developing weather, call the team phone when in doubt. If a practice is canceled, that information will be updated as soon as it is known
COMMUNICATION WITH THE COACHES
A parent may have the need to talk with a member of the staff about his/her child during the season. Please do not ask your squad representative questions regarding practice and technique – the coaches are best qualified to answer those questions and are very interested in each swimmer. However, they cannot stop what they are doing to talk with parents while trying to coach others. The best way to speak with a coach is by arranging a time either prior to or after practice is completed. The coaches may generally be reached at the team office at Barlow Mountain pool on weekday afternoons. Emailing the staff at the their email addresses or leaving voice mail is another way to communicate with a coach. Often it may be best to set up a time to speak with the coach one on one. Parents are not permitted on the pool deck during practice, and they should not come on the pool deck to talk with a coach then or during a meet.
VII. TEAM EQUIPMENT
REQUIRED TEAM ATTIRE
RAC requires that all swimmers be outfitted in team attire at competitions. This shall include RAC cap, RAC meet suit and RAC t-shirt. At the senior level (13/over), a team warm-up suit is required. The warm-up is optional for all other groups. RAC will provide a t-shirt and a bathing cap to each swimmer at the beginning of short course season season.
REQUIRED TRAINING EQUIPMENT
Equipment needs by group are listed on the website under the Equipment tab. Swimmers will be expected to have that equipment within two weeks of the beginning of practice for that season. Equipment usually consists of kickboard, pull buoy, fins, snorkel and equipment to wear for dryland activities (t-shirt, shorts, and running shoes). Senior level swimmers are also required to obtain paddles.
A team equipment day will be established during the early part of fall training. This will be an opportunity for all parents/swimmers to order necessary team equipment for the season. At other points during the season, orders can be placed directly with Metro Swim Shop, the team equipment distributor. Team members can access Metro Swim Shop through the club’s website. RAC currently wears only Speedo attire in meet competition.
VIII. SWIMMING OUTSIDE OF RAC
RAC is supportive of the swimmer’s desire to swim in high school or for the various summer swim teams that our members belong to. These programs work in conjunction with what the RAC coaches are trying to accomplish with each swimmer. These programs are not a substitute for training/competing with RAC, but they may serve to complement the swimmer’s growth. Swimmers are expected to communicate with their RAC coaches to discuss their outside swimming schedule and to make sure that they are still able to meet their RAC commitments.