Freshman treads the challenges of starting a swimming club during the pandemic


Texas Wesleyan Rams Swim Team Vice President Raul Caballero Montes and President Brooklynn Rowe pose together in the Sid Richardson Building. The only officers the swim club has is a president and vice president who act as the coach and assistant coach. Photo contributed by Brooklynn Rowe

President of the Texas Wesleyan Swim Club Brooklynn Rowe talks with lifeguard and Wesleyan alumnus David Owen. The swim club will meet Monday and Wednesday afternoons in the Sid Richardson Building’s pool. Photo by Hannah Onder

Incoming freshmen biology major Brooklynn Rowe was sad to see a pool, but no swim team at Texas Wesleyan. Rowe, a former member of Burleson Centennial High School’s swim team, decided she wanted to change that her first semester.

“I was a swimmer in high school,” Rowe said. “I did it for about three or four years, and I always loved it. I figured there was more people like me wishing that there was a team, so I figured that would be perfect to at least start a club.”

Rowe’s Texas Wesleyan Rams Swim Club started practices in the Sid Richardson Building’s pool earlier this month, but Rowe began working on the club back in July 2020.

Rowe first thought of leading a club after interviewing for the Student Government Association’s Freshmen Representative position over the summer.

“I got like a big feeling of I want leadership, and it’s so cool to have,” Rowe said. “It was about the beginning of July, and I didn’t get enough members until the end of July, so that’s when it became official.”

Rowe started with two contacts, Lexi Barlow and Bethany Bordelon. With their advice, communication with the Coordinator of Student Activities Sami Waygood, and the power of Instagram, Rowe managed to collect enough members and sponsors to start her club.

“It [starting the club] was a little difficult at first,” Rowe said. “I just started following everybody [from Wesleyan] that I could that was in my suggestions on Instagram. Then I started posting about it [the club] and putting it on my story, hoping that everyone would see it and advertise for me. It really worked out, and a lot of people started reaching out to me.”

Sophomore biology major and SGA Athletic Representative Raul Caballero Montes heard about Rowe through a GroupMe and liked her vision enough to join on as the swim club’s vice president.

“It is a really good opportunity for the school,” Montes said. “As a student-athlete and the student athletic representative for SGA, we want to make sure that the university has involvement with all of the sports. Currently, we don’t have a swim team; with the swim club, we want to start building one as one of our long-term goals.”

The club also found advisors with both Gayle Anderson, an administrative assistant for exercise and sports studies, and Aaron Whaley, the director of the Morton Fitness Center, after multiple recommendations from students and Sami Waygood.

“She [Waygood] told me there was a student that was interested in starting a swim club and was basically putting feelers out there for anyone that was possibly interested in being an advisor,” Whaley said. “She knew that I am very into fitness and doing a lot of stuff outside and that I do a lot of races. She knew that I was trying to do an Ironman, which got me into swimming, so she thought I would be a good person for that.”

Whaley, who has been at the university since 2003, said he was happy to bring his expertise to an organization that promotes wellness and activity.

“I had really no clue going in what the expectations were [for the club], but she’s [Rowe’s] got some really lofty goals that I think will take some hard work just knowing the history with this campus with clubs and organizations,” Whaley said. “I think with someone like her being on top and leading this thing that it will be successful.

According to Brooklynn and Montes, one element that has also complicated getting the club up and running is COVID-19 and the campus restrictions.

“We were actually planning to start practices earlier, but due to the pandemic and the school’s guidelines, we were not allowed,” Montes said. “Now, we’ve worked hard to make sure that all of the security measures are fine, and we are starting practices.”

Brooklynn said that the biggest challenges were figuring out the meeting spaces, locker rooms and members’ safety.

“The biggest struggle was knowing if I could actually have a club going on, especially in person,” Rowe said. “The lanes aren’t very big, but they’re definitely at least six feet apart, so that was my biggest concern. Also, just trying to ease people into coming because they were concerned about COVID, and I totally understand that.”

Rowe said they’ll be using bathrooms to change, wearing masks until they’re entering the pool, having hand sanitizer and wipes available at the practices and keeping people and their belongings six feet apart both in and out of the pool.

“Having actual competitions and fundraisers is probably the biggest concern right now,” Rowe said, “but once COVID restrictions are lifted, we can get everything truly up and running by having the locker rooms available to us and people able to physically bond with each other in the pool and not being worried about being too close to each other. It will definitely be more of a team atmosphere.”

Rowe wants the club to have the feel of a sports team with practices and competitions, so members are prepared for when the club becomes an actual sport’s team.

“I’m definitely planning on having competitions with people,” Rowe said. “I would like to challenge the swimmers because even though it’s labeled as a club, I want it to have a team mentality. I would love for people to know the feeling of what it’s like to be on a swim team, and what it’s like to participate in competitions, and to know the accelerating feeling that you get when you’re racing against someone.”

Students don’t need to have any prior swimming experience to join the club, said Montes.

“We’d like to provide an outlet for students so they can get out of academic affairs and get a bit of relaxing time with a sport,” Motes said. “Brooklynn is giving students tutorials, so people can learn the techniques, exercises, and how the practices are going to look like. Don’t be scared if you like swimming, join us.”

The swim club will meet on Wednesdays from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. and Fridays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Students can join by reaching out directly to Rowe through phone, email or Instagram or by requesting membership on Ramspace.

Sophomore biology major and SGA Athletic Representative Raul Caballero Montes joined the swim club as Brooklynn Rowe’s vice president. “I wanted to support her,” Montes said. “I decided this was a good opportunity to make sure to remind every freshmen and incoming student that they can have support from other students, mentors, etc.” Photo by Hannah Onder