West Coast Wind -Frequently Asked Questions:
What is “Winter Club” and how does “Winter Club” (aka: year- long competitive programming) differ from “Summer Club” in official status and purpose?
“Winter Club” (aka: year-long competitive programming) begins in September and generally ends in late July (although it may end earlier depending on the club or athlete’s needs/wants).
“Summer Club” begins in May and ends in early August.
In the “Summer Club” competitive season athletes train from 3-8 hours a week (May-August) and have the option to compete almost every weekend of June and July, with the Regional Championship meet culminating the season for most athletes on the August long weekend, unless the athlete makes Provincials in which case they will continue to train for the initial weeks of August and culminate their competitive season at Provincial Championship in mid August. After this, these athletes are given the option to maintain their progress in the sport by doing a Fall and Winter maintenance program within their BCSSA club. This maintenance program is ruled to not exceed two hours of coached training per week. This ensures that all athletes return the following summer with an equal amount of training time.
Note: There are exceptions to the two hour rule, specifically in terms of swimming lessons/lifeguard training.
Note: “Summer Club” athletes only train and compete in 25 meter pools.
The “Winter Club” has a consistent competitive season throughout the months of September until the end of July, with no restrictions on training hours. They train anywhere from 3-8+ hours a week and compete on weekends throughout Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer. Generally these swimmers take an “off-season” (or rest) in August.
Within “Winter Club” programming, swimmers are encouraged to train and compete in different sizes of pools which is why they experience two separate seasons throughout their Sept-July programming.
The first season is “Short Course” season (occurring approx between September-February) where swimmers are training and competing in 25 meter pools. The second season is “Long Course” season (occurring approx between February-July) where swimmers are training and competing in 50 meter (aka Olympic size) pools.
Of course, many facilities and teams do not have access to 50 meter pools to train. It is normal for swimmers to train in 25 meter pools throughout the entirety of the year and compete in 50 meter pools during the long course season.
There are different time standards/records as well as Regional and Provincial meets for each season. So in January/February the short course season wraps up with “VIRs” -Vancouver Island Regionals- followed by Provincials. Then, in February, long course season begins and in July this season wraps up with another VIRs and Provincial meet.
When athletes begin competing in any sport they generally make big goals and develop big dreams that suit their passion. In the sport of swimming, often these athletes begin looking at how they could become professionals in the sport, swim in “varsity” (collegiate teams), and of course, how they can make the olympics. Like any sport these big dreams require big commitments, perseverance and opportunity for growth/development. So, many swimmers that achieve this big dreams enroll in “Winter Club” programs as they offer the consistent training and competition schedules which are necessary to provide this continuous/long-term growth.
It is possible for “Summer Club” swimmers to achieve these dreams and reach these goals. In fact, I know of a swimmer from the Vancouver Island region that swam only in “Summer Club” and went on to swim varsity, then make the Canadian Olympic team. It is possible. However, it is far less common.
Note: The governing body of a “Winter”/Year-long program is Swim BC, whereas the governing body of “Summer” club is BCSSA (BC Summer Swimming Association).
Do “Winter Club” swimmers and “Summer Club” swimmers train/race different strokes and events?
Both “Winter Club” and “Summer Club” swimmers do (train and compete) the same strokes:
However, the two clubs differ in the events that are raced:
Summer Club races are:
(Division 1-3 → 8-12 Years Old)
100 IM (Individual Medley)
(Divisions 4+ → 12-13.5 Years Old)
No 50s for strokes other than Freestyle and Butterfly
200 IM (Individual Medley)
(Division 5+ → 13.5 + Years Old)
All of the same as above with no 50s for strokes other than Freestyle and Butterfly
Winter Club races are:
All ages are able to swim any/all events (but there is NO 100 IM)
200 IM (Individual Medley)
400 IM (Individual Medley)
How does “Winter Club” (aka: year- long competitive program) differ from “Summer Club” in programming/intention?
As noted above, “Winter Club” offers more options for stroke specialization in terms of distance. It allows swimmers to decide whether they prefer longer or shorter distance races and so programming is created for swimmers to explore all of their options and determine their preferences. Also, given that this is a year long program there is more time to intentionally correct/refine stroke technique, build endurance and improve overall strength/athleticism. On the side of all-around athletic development, having this time allows for more team-building, mental/emotional sport training and practice with goal setting.
What does “Winter Club” look like in other cities?
In most cities/towns athletes are provided with multiple sport programs. The average swimmer will begin with swimming lessons, learn that they enjoy swimming and decide to join a competitive program. Usually, the “Winter Club” is known in its community, and runs throughout the year with programs for kids ages 5+. These clubs are generally quite large and accommodating to all types of swimmers at all ages. This means that the average swimmer would begin their journey in the sport at any point of the year within the program that is closest to them in location and at the time that suits them.
Note: In Victoria in 2018 there were 4 different competitive “Winter Clubs” running in different parts of the city at the same time out of multiple pools. Tyee Aquatic Club alone hosted their program out of 3 separate pools with a coaching staff of 6+ lead coaches. Island Swimming hosted out of at least 2+ pools with a coaching staff of 10+ coaches along with Pacific Coast Swimming.
Of course, the “Summer Club” winter maintenance programs were also running out of their own pools as well.
Thus, in most cities/towns, the “Winter Club” and “Summer Club” will run happily side-by-side with swimmers choosing to join either program or both depending on what their school year is like, the other sports commitments they are in and what they are hoping to attain from the sport of swimming.
So why is the WIND exclusive (having limited spots and training groups)?
Powell River has tried to create a “Winter Club” in the past in order to provide our community with the opportunity to train/compete year long. Unfortunately, creating a new sport program (especially one that runs for most of the year) is a lot of work and difficult to do/maintain. Thus, past attempts didn’t come to fruition.
Last Fall, driven equally by stubbornness and passion, we were able to create Powell River’s first “Winter Club”. However, being new and fresh, we are still learning how to run and maintain the program. Thus, we need to grow slowly in a manageable way. Being that this is only our second year we are aiming to just double our registration to keep the program manageable for our directors and coaching staff.
Ideally, in years to come, our program will be larger and welcoming to swimmers of all ages and abilities without limitation.
What will it look like for your swimmer to swim for both the summer and winter program?
Many of our “Winter Club” swimmers (Wind athletes) have come over from the “Summer Club” (POW) program. Thus, they of course have ties to both teams and may potentially want to swim for both teams throughout the calendar year.
Over the months of September until May, the “Winter/Wind” swimmers would only train with the Wind (4x a week). Then, when May comes and the “Summer Club” (POW) competitive season begins again, the swimmers will continue swimming with the Wind, or some with POW, or both.
During the May-August “Summer Club” season, these dual-club athletes would maintain registration with both programs and thus could compete in both “Summer Club” meets and “Winter club” meets – or neither if they choose.
In they do choose to compete in both types of meets they would maintain their regular status with Swim BC (“Winter Club” meets), but with BCSSA (“Summer Club” meets) they would become “O-Cat” status rather than “S” status.
What is “O-Cat” and what is “S”?
The “O-Cat” status stands for “Open Category”. This status is given to athletes that have trained over the 2-hour-per-week rule during the Fall/Winter off season. This is, again, to ensure that athletes are competing fairly with their peers. The “S” status signifies a “Summer” swimmer, ie: one that trained within the 2-hour-per-week rule in the off season.
As an “O-Cat” swimmer you are divided into 3 divisional categories during the summer season instead of 8 age categories/divisions and by gender.
The division/categories are:
O1- ages 8-12
O2- ages 12-16
O8- ages 17+
How will it affect their experience in summer next year?
Many “Summer Club” athletes that transition into “Winter Club” consider how transitioning to “O-Cat” status will affect their experience in summer swimming. The facts are, that essentially it is all the same except there are usually less swimmers in your category to race at meets (until Provincials, where of course, there are many more).
However, the experience of racing with lots of people in full heats that you would normally get in the summer as an “S” swimmer, you would now get throughout Sept-July at the “Winter” meets.
If they decide winter isn’t for them after year one, what will summer look like?
If a swimmer decides to train with a “Winter Club” over the course of a year, then swim with a “Summer Club” over the summer, they would be classified as an “O-Cat” for that summer season, however in September the slate is wiped clean and so long as they do not train over the 2-hour-per-week rule in that off season they would return to being an “S” swimmer for the following summer.
How are athletes divided into racing categories?
In “Winter Club” swimmers are divided into racing categories generally based on their age and time. However meets are consistently run differently. Time standards are provided based on gender and age, and there are not “divisions” like in “Summer Club”.
How do swimmers “make” Regionals and Provincials?
A big difference between “Summer Club” and “Winter Club” is how swimmers gain access to Regional and Provincial Championships.
In “Summer Club” any swimmer can attend their area’s Regional Meet, and they make Provincial Championships if they achieve a “PQT” Provincial Qualifying Time or touch in the top 3 spots in a finals race.
In “Winter Club” a swimmer needs to make/achieve specific standard time to attend Regional Championships, and they also need to make/achieve other specific standard times to attend Provincial Championships.
Note: Swimmers can achieve their Provincial standards at any meet throughout the year, it doesn’t need to be at Regionals. These standards are provided on the Swim BC website at the beginning of each season.
Is it still fun?
We do our best to ensure that every swimmer feels seen, valued and affirmed at practices and meets. Swimming is an incredible sport, and we want to ensure that above all else our athletes continue to grow in their love for this sport. That is our top priority.