Published in the August 17, 2016 edition
By MARK SARDELLA
LYNNFIELD — The coming school year may see an exciting development for local swimmers – expansion of the Pioneers’ co-ed swim team into a co-operative program with students from Wakefield Memorial High School (WMHS).
WMHS Director of Athletics, Health and Wellness Brendan Kent stated at the Aug. 9 Wakefield School Committee meeting that for the first time WMHS could have a boys’ swim team starting this year.
Kent said that he had been approached by a number of Wakefield parents about the possibility of having a boys’ swim team at WMHS. There have been a number of boys who compete in swimming elsewhere and would like to compete for WMHS, he added.
Currently, there is a WMHS girls’ swim team that competes in the fall.
Lynnfield only has a co-ed program which competes in the winter.
Kent also noted that not having a boys’ team presented Title IX issues for WMHS. Title IX is the comprehensive 1972 federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity.
Kent said that he sent an email to all WMHS parents in grades 9-12 on July 25. The email asked parents if they had a son who would be interested in joining the swim team if WMHS was able to offer boys’ swimming. He said that 18 parents responded that their son would be interested in joining such a team.
Some considerations when starting any new program, Kent said, include sustainability, enrollment, funding, coaches and facilities.
Pool time for practice is hard to come by and expensive he said.
“The MIAA allows schools that are just starting a new program, or struggling to field an existing program, to co-op with another school for a combined program,” Kent explained. “This allows schools the opportunity to build up their programs and ensure that their programs will be sustainable, before breaking off on their own. This also allows students at both schools to compete on a team that otherwise might not exist without a co-op.”
A co-op would allow Wakefield to see if its program is actually sustainable without having to invest so many resources, Kent said. By teaming with another school, Wakefield would have enough swimmers to field a team and allow students to compete.
Throughout last winter and spring, Kent said, he asked every Middlesex League school on a monthly basis at each league meeting if they would be willing to serve as a host school for a co-operative boys’ swim program with WMHS.
“Unfortunately,” Kent said, “no Middlesex League school was ever in need of a co-op, and no school was willing to host Wakefield High School.”
After investigating what schools outside the Middlesex League could be a good fit, he learned that Wakefield Academy director Jeff Boyd is the head swim coach for Lynnfield High School. Wakefield Academy is an after school program for students in middle school.
When asked about a co-op, Boyd expressed great interest in teaming up with Wakefield, Kent told the School Committee.
“Mr. Boyd has struggled with some lower enrollment numbers on his swim team in recent years, and he believes that both schools would benefit greatly from a co-op,” Kent said. “Having worked with many of our WMHS students in the past, Mr. Boyd is very excited about the possibility of coaching some of them on his swim team.”
Team supported by school administrators
Kent noted that Wakefield Superintendent Dr. Kim Smith and WMHS Principal Rich Metropolis have both already pledged their support of a co-op boys’ swim team with Lynnfield High School.
Lynnfield High School Principal Robert Cleary and LHS Athletic Director Michael Bierwirth have also both given their support to move forward with a co-op swim program between Lynnfield and Wakefield, Kent added.
Pioneers would be host school
Since Lynnfield has an existing program, the Pioneers would be considered the “host” school. This means Lynnfield would be the school that needs to officially apply to have a co-op team, which would first have to be approved by the Cape Ann League, then District A, and then the MIAA.
If approved, the team would compete in Lynnfield’s league, the Cape Ann League, not the Middlesex League.
Boyd said that he was thrilled by the co-op plan, which he called a “perfect idea.” He noted that since Lynnfield High School’s swim team is co-ed both boys and girls would compete together.