It’s Fun to Swim at the YMCA

its fun to stay at the YMCA
Photo Courtesy: YMCA swimming and diving

By Olivia Wile, Swimming World Intern.

Though the Village People were probably not referring to competitive swimming when they wrote the song “Y.M.C.A.” back in the 1970’s, they weren’t quite off the mark. From regional league championship meets that allow swimmers to face friendly age-group competition to challenging but achievable national qualification standards, the Y provides many opportunities for swimmers.

This is not to discredit USA Swimming, however. At around 400,000 swimmers strong, USA Swimming provides its own benefits for athletes.

Head Coach of the York and York County YMCA John Nelson explains, however, that YMCA swimming has a bit of an edge over USA: “A YMCA can provide USA Swimming, but USA Swimming can’t provide what YMCA swimming can.” So what does a YMCA swim team provide? Read on to find out!

It’s Easy to Get Involved


Photo Courtesy: Taylor Brien

Nelson believes there are many reasons that teams are set up for success because of the Y, one of the which is its low cost: “I think one of the biggest benefits of YMCA swimming is the ease of getting involved in competitive swimming. You don’t have a big registration fee.”

This is perhaps why Olympic Gold Medalist Mark Spitz learned to swim at the Sacramento YMCA back in 1958. There are also little to no fees to compete in league meets in addition to the chance to be matched up during age-group competition. “Two YMCA teams can duel each other, and they don’t have to pay a fee,” said Nelson. “They have the structure in place to make it very accessible to the whole world.”

Head Coach of the Hilliard Ray Patch YMCA Brian Dickmann also expresses the value in these league meets. “The dual meets and association invitationals provide a great outlet for competition on the local level,” said Dickmann.

The Qualification Standards are Achievable

ymca nationals

Photo Courtesy: Alex Waldron

Arguably one of the biggest advantages of YMCA swimming are the qualification time standards for the short course and long course national meets. “A huge advantage of that meet is that it gets you exposed to a national championship without having to be crazy fast,” explained Nelson. “If you look at the long course Junior cuts, they are right off of Olympic Trials cuts.”

“In regards to the comparisons between YMCA and USA Swimming, the times needed to qualify for the Y Nats meet are historically easier to make than Junior Nationals on the USA side,” said Dickmann. “That really is the only difference at the national level; there have been numerous national age group records set at the meet.”

He’s right: when looking at the difference in time standards between the YMCA National Meet and the USA Speedo Winter Junior Championships, there is a significant gap.

Despite this gap, Nelson re-emphasizes that the strength of the YMCA National Meet has never been compensated: “A lot of times in the 200 IM the 400 IM, these events are being won with times faster than the actual Winter Juniors. So it’s not like it’s a slow meet by any means.”

There’s a Strong Team Environment

Members of the Midland University Swimming Team join others in diving into the new pool at the Dillon Family YMCA Aquatic Center on Tuesday, Feb. 6, in Fremont, Nebraska.

Photo Courtesy: Midland University Communications

Though exposure at this national championship meet is important, head coach of the Sarasota YMCA Brent Arckey says the team atmosphere is everything. “College coaches can find times anywhere these days,” said Arckey. “The atmosphere and team championships are the biggest benefit.”

Arckey says the YMCA National Meet allow him to bring close to 50 athletes to compete each year: “There are very few meets that you can bring a large group to and the energy is very high at the national meet. The team atmosphere of YMCA Nationals is biggest draw.”

Nelson agrees, explaining that YMCA Nationals allows his entire team to have a championship experience. “We do have swimmers that could go to Juniors, but we only have four or five of those kids,” said Nelson. “This way we can take 20 kids to a national championship, and I think that’s a big advantage the YMCA has.”

Dickmann also brings up the element of fun that YMCA Nationals provides for its athletes such as the Athlete Village – a place for swimmers to camp out between events. “The Athlete Village is a subculture upon itself. The kids really have a lot of fun throughout the week with the different events that are planned, such as the athlete parade,” Dickmann says.

It’s Fun to Swim at the YMCA

From low costs, national exposure, friendly competition and the option to also be involved in USA Swimming, it truly is “fun to stay at the YMCA.”

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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Sarah See
5 years ago

Amelia Mills

Amelia Mills
5 years ago
Reply to  Sarah See

Sarah See stop

Mike Griggs
5 years ago
Reply to  Sarah See

But we already knew this, right?

5 years ago

awesome true..wish other people felt this way!!

Helen Lowe Fischer
5 years ago

Cassandra share?

Noelle Tolbert
5 years ago

We have had such an amazing experience swimming with the YMCA. Can’t imagine swimming anywhere else.

Dave Hedden
5 years ago

Marissa Vallejo

Marissa Vallejo
5 years ago
Reply to  Dave Hedden

Definitely true

Bob McKeon
5 years ago

I swam at the flushing y – it was one of the best things I did – best friends – nationals etc was great experience- still connected to my team mates going back 40 plus years

Michelle Fessler Kerr
5 years ago

Best times of my life we’re at Y nationals. Yes it was back in the 80s but still fun!! Go BNY!

Kelly Curran Burk
5 years ago

Diane McCracken Kathleen Ober Kimberly Frantz Ploskonka

Kimberly Frantz Ploskonka

Wow! They’re adorable!

Kellie Corcoran Walters

Kids from the Kennett Y!!

Spy SwimTeam
5 years ago


Paige Haden
5 years ago

Michael Fleming ?

Barb Kaminski Westwater

West Suburban Y, BNY, Downers Grove Y (swam and coached!)

Pat Collins
5 years ago

Funny that one of the pictures is of Berkeley Aquatic club swimmers at Rutgers taken years ago