Behind the Blocks - ECA's Volunteer Spotlight

Planning, organizing and holding swim meets and team functions require many hands on and off deck.

Meet Teresa Gross!
Teresa Gross is often on deck at East Carolina Aquatics swim meets, wearing a white shirt as a judge or focusing a camera lens as volunteer photographer.
“I enjoy volunteering because it helps me give back to a team that has given to my child,” Teresa said.
ECA will be hosting new official training sessions Oct. 1-2, and Teresa encourages other parents to get involved. She recently shared seven ways that parents can benefit from becoming an official:
  • Getting to see the swimmers and your own swimmer close up, not from the stands;  
  • Learning more about the sport of swimming and understanding the rules of competitive swimming;
  • Being able to give back to the team that coaches your child;
  • Setting an example that volunteering is important;
  • Making new friends and networking with other ECA and away team officials;
  • Filling an essential role – without a certain number of officials, the swim meet doesn’t qualify as a USA Swimming-sanctioned meet and the swimmers’ times will not count;
  • ECA covers the annual cost of being an official and background checks.
Teresa also is certified to officiate North Carolina high school swim meets, and often volunteers with D.H. Conley High School, where her daughter, Kylie, is a junior and member of Conley’s swim team.
Kylie, who practices with Greenville’s senior group, joined ECA (then Greenville Swim Club) at age 6, and Teresa has volunteered ever since. Two years ago, she served as head official for ECA’s summer team, the Minges Makos.
During the week, Teresa is a full-time family nurse practitioner at ECU Nephrology and Hypertension, caring for patients on hemodialysis in Winterville, Greenville, Ayden and Farmville. She also sees clinic patients with chronic kidney disease, and moonlights at Vidant Medical Center with the hospitalist group in the East Carolina Heart Institute.
In her spare time, Teresa enjoys spending time with her daughter and husband, Kyle, and other family as well as traveling and photography.
Swim official training to be held Oct. 1-2
ECA’s own certified U.S. Swimming referee, Bob Landry, will be holding clinics for people interested in becoming certified officials on Oct. 1-2 at 6:30 p.m. in Room 142 in Minges in Greenville.
This is the first step in becoming a judge or administrative official. You do not have to be a former swimmer or know much about swimming. Anyone can do it! ECA will pay for your expenses associated with becoming registered and certified.  
Administrative Official training will be Tuesday, Oct. 1, and Stroke and Turn Judge training will be Wednesday, Oct. 2. You do not need to attend both clinics to become an official; choose the one that suits your interests.

Please email Bob by Sunday, Sept. 29, at [email protected] if you plan to attend so he can have an accurate head count for materials to be printed.


Meet Jennifer Hodgson!

Jennifer Hodgson, the parent representative for ECA’s summer team, Minges Makos, has led an enthusiastic group of parent volunteers the past three months.

With more than 40 Makos swimmers, Hodgson is not alone. “Many parents on the team help and volunteer their time,” she said. “I have enjoyed getting to know the kids and their parents.“

The Makos wrapped up competition this weekend, finishing sixth out of 11 teams at the Greenville Area Summer Swim League championship meet held in Tarboro.

Stepping up to serve as the Makos parent representative seemed like a natural progression for Hodgson since her children have been involved with summer league the past five years. She and husband Steve are parents to Lauren, 14, Ava Lynn, 11, and Brennon, 10.

“Volunteering is a value and something that I enjoy,” Hodgson said. “I enjoy sharing my time, compassion, and talents with our community. I enjoy meeting new people and seeing all the good that this community has.”

As parent rep, Hodgson attends year-round GASSL meetings where she provides representation on the board and coordinates often with Scott Pake, ECA’s general manager.

She also works with the Pitt County Schools with their academic activities, helps facilitate the Eastern North Carolina Parkinson’s Support Group, and is involved in pilot projects to help increase the safety and inclusivity of Greenville residents.

“At a very polarizing time in our country, I have a privileged position to be an ally for members of marginalized groups in our community who need support and act as an advocate for all members who deserve to feel safe, supported, included, and welcomed here,” Hodgson said. “My time is the most valuable resource I have to offer.” 

Hodgson got involved with ECA about six years ago, when Lauren decided to trade her dance shoes for fins. “I have been involved with ECA in some capacity ever since,” she said. “I believe every child should know how to swim well and ECA has helped my children to gain competency as swimmers.”

Hodgson is a professor at East Carolina University, where she directs the doctoral program in medical family therapy in the College of Health and Human Performance.

In her free time, she enjoys working out, spending time with her family and playing with their dogs, Cookie and Bear.


Meet Megan Bowen!

Megan Bowen likes helping East Carolina Aquatics in any way she can.

That often means being nimble, and sometimes doing more than one volunteer job at a swim meet.

“I recognize how much work it takes to make things happen, whether it is swimming or anything else,” Megan said. “I just enjoy helping depending on what is needed most.”

Megan’s daughter, Madison, began swimming with ECA in 2014. Megan and her husband, Joey, have been involved since. “Swimming is very important to my daughter, so I want to be a part of that.”

She enjoys the time spent with her swim family.

“Most days we feel like our lives revolve around swim between practices and meets, and we LOVE that,” Bowen said. “We have made great friends through swimming since we spend so much time with the swimmers and their families.”

Off deck, Megan is the business administrator for a construction company in Morehead City. She also serves on the ministry council at Emerald Isle Baptist Church, where she teaches children’s church and helps in the nursery.



Meet Heath Clifford! 

Being a volunteer has given Heath Clifford an opportunity to give back to a sport that has given him and his children many positive life experiences and lessons.
Heath, a naval officer, aerospace and operational physiologist and water survival specialist, received orders for Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point last year.
After learning he would be moving to eastern North Carolina, he contacted Carteret Coach Christy Whaley, who had coached the Cliffords’ previous swim team in Memphis, Tennessee.
Heath and his wife, Krista, have two children Sarah, 17, and Ethan, 13, who swim competitively.
After talking with Coach Whaley and several other ECA coaches, he and his family decided ECA was the right fit for what they were looking for in a competitive team program.
Heath has national and LSC officials’ certifications that allow him to contribute in several ways for ECA: meet referee, deck referee, starter, stroke and turn, administrative referee and chief judge.
Many on the team have probably seen Heath at the starter’s post, where he helps to ensure a fair start for all swimmers. “The starter must know when the field is ready to assume the starting position and when the field is ready to receive the starting signal. But most importantly, know when it is necessary to intervene so that these two goals may be realized,” he said.
Heath has an extensive background in exercise physiology and sports medicine. Before his military service, he worked as a certified athletic trainer and rehabilitation specialist, including the swimming and diving programs at the University of Arkansas and the University of Louisville. He also served as a USA swimming age group coach in Yuma, Arizona.  
Since joining ECA, Heath said he has met many wonderful and dedicated parents, coaches and officials, making the family’s transition to the area a joy.
“It takes a village to raise a child. Likewise, it takes a village to run a successful swim meet and swim program,” he said. “Every role is critical, from board member to timer. I would encourage all parents, when able, to do what they can to assist ECA.”

Meet Kelly Reed!

East Carolina Aquatics is a stronger team financially because of Kelly Reed.

Kelly, who is an accountant, assists in monitoring and overseeing the team’s yearly and month-to-month operating budget which provides the foundation for ECA programming. She helps analyze and explain expense, income and accounting information for the ECA board.   

Kelly got involved in ECA about two years ago when her daughter, Elizabeth or “Liz,” joined the Minges Makos, ECA’s summer league team. Liz, now 11, fell in love with swimming and decided to swim year round. The Reeds have been part of the ECA family since.

“Being a part of ECA means teamwork, new friends, fun, and realizing hard work really does pay off,” Kelly said. “It really is something to see when a swimmer meets their goal. We are very happy and proud to be a part of ECA. I cannot thank the coaches enough for all they have done for Liz.”

Kelly said she volunteers with ECA to show her support for Liz. “I want her to know that her father and I support her 100 percent,” Kelly said. “Volunteering also allows me to help others, to give back to the community, and be a blessing to others.”       

Kelly and her husband, Casey, volunteer at ECA home swim meets. Kelly, who is currently a stay-at-home mom, also is involved with Riley’s Army and the Chicod School PTA. The Reeds have a 4-year-old daughter, Emma Grace Reed, who is Liz’s biggest cheerleader.


Meet Kyle Blackmon!
At East Carolina Aquatics meets, Kyle Blackmon is often dressed in a white shirt and navy blue shorts - the required uniform for USA swimming officials.
Kyle and other judges help ensure meets run consistently, that swimmers perform their strokes correctly and uphold the rules of swimming.
The steps to becoming a judge involve shadowing certified officials on-deck for several sessions and meets, attending annual stroke and turn training, completing a background check and athlete protection training, and passing an online test.  
For Kyle, volunteering has been “a great way to meet the ECA kids, parents and be poolside for events.”
He became involved through his daughters, Lilley Grace, 14, and Bryn, 12, who swim.
“It’s been a good way to support the team that is developing my girls as young swimmers for the future,” he said.   
Kyle and his wife, Nancy, and daughters live in Greenville, where he manages Sunland Financial Services.
In addition to serving as an official for ECA events, Blackmon is a certified N.C. High School Athletics Association official for J.H. Rose High School and Christ Covenant School. He also is a church volunteer and group leader for Faith in the Field, an outdoors ministry.

Meet Amy Smith!

Amy Smith can often be found at ECA’s swim meets feeding coaches, judges and volunteers in the hospitality room or helping at concessions. She also helps host the annual team recognition banquet and other special events throughout the year.

Outside of hospitality, she has served as a timer, head timer and runner.

Meets don’t happen without volunteers like Amy.

“I really like to be involved and it keeps me busy,” Amy said. “I think it’s a great way to give back to the team and a sport that our children have enjoyed being a part of. It also gives an understanding and an appreciation of the team from a different perspective.”

Amy - who grew up in a family of swimmers - got involved with ECA about seven years ago when her children started swimming.

“ECA really has become family! Many of our dear friends we would not have met if it was not for being a part of ECA,” Amy said.  

Amy is married to Stephen and they have two children, Jacob, who swims in the Greenville Senior group and at D.H. Conley High School, and Emily. Their daughter used to swim year-round but has transitioned to volleyball for her primary sport. She still swims in the Greenville Area Summer Swim League and may rejoin ECA in the future.    

Amy is a private practice/freelance sign language interpreter who works in a variety of settings but with a primary focus on medical and mental health. She also works as a video relay interpreter. 

Thank you Amy for your dedication to ECA!


Meet Christina “Christee” Mainz!

Christee Mainz serves as the Camp Lejeune site president and has been actively involved with ECA since 2016, when the Camp Lejeune Swim Team decided to partner with ECA.

“I enjoy volunteering because the swim team is such a remarkable asset to our Marine Corps community,” Christee said. “I have a sense of pride knowing that our executive committee was able to bring ECA to our swimmers.”

Christee works closely with Marine Corps Community Services under the direction of the commanding general who allows ECA to operate as an approved private organization at Camp Lejeune.

The site committee acts as a liaison between Camp Lejeune and ECA, ensuring adherence to the swim team bylaws while meeting requirements for use of the training pool and keeping all required documentation.

The team is valuable part of life on base.

“In a transient community such as ours, we strive to provide an opportunity and environment that promotes not only a life skill, but the comradery that is essential to forming bonds of friendship,” Christee said. “Our military children are amazingly resilient. Being part of a team is often the quickest and easiest way to form friendships at a new duty station.”

Before joining forces with ECA, parent volunteers ran the Camp Lejeune swim program for more than 60 years.

“Being a part of ECA gives me a sense of peace,” Christee said. “As long as we have remarkable folks like Scott Pake and Casey Charles leading us, swimming at Camp Lejeune will continue to provide the team experience we hope to bring to our children for years to come!”

Christee is mom to Creed, who swims in the senior group.

Thank you Christee for your dedicated service!   

Today we spotlight Anna Barrett Smith, who received ECA’s Phyllis Hodges Volunteer of the Year award for 2017-2018. 

“Volunteering with ECA is one way to show gratitude for all that the program has given to my family,” she said. “It is also a way for me to show my children that I care enough to invest in their activities. Volunteering is fun and has really strengthened the bonds that I have with my fellow swim parents. A family that sweats together, stays together, right?”

Anna Barrett is described as tireless, creative and full of spirit. She has created designs and worked with vendors to produce ECA’s spirit wear, team T-shirts, sweatshirts and swim caps for several years. If you don’t see her manning the merchandise table, you’ll likely find her timing at meets.

She enjoys being a part of ECA because it “means being a part of a large, fun, extended family. I love the way that our kids support each other and the way that all the parents rally around all of our kids. It takes a village to raise kids, and I am grateful that my swim family is a huge part of my village.”

Away from the pool, Anna Barrett is vice chair of the Pitt County Board of Education. She also is mom to swimmers Sadler, Dory and Clara Pierce, and is married to Van, who serves on the ECA Board of Directors.