Stingrays boast 69 swimmers, all working toward self-improvement – The Globe
Self Improvement

Stingrays boast 69 swimmers, all working toward self-improvement – The Globe

WORTHINGTON – “You have to be able to beat yourself before you can beat someone else.”

These are the words of Worthington YMCA Stingrays coach Donna Damm.

Damm is currently in her 27th year of coaching the Stingrays, and has her hands full to the tune of 69 swimmers ranging from the ages of 7 to 18. The Stingrays meet three times a week and span much of an academic year with the start of its season in October to the end of the season next February.

“It’s not about how fast you went or what place you got.” Damm says. “It’s about being better than you were the last time (you swam).”

Self Improvement is a tenet of the Stingray team which has been championed by Damm as coach.

“Swimming is something for life.” Damm says. “What I look at is not always who finishes first, but rather who finishes with a personal best.”

It is no Herculean task to join the Stingrays, just the ability to swim comfortably is sufficient for Damm. Practices are at the Worthington YMCA on Monday and Thursday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and on Tuesday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Practices are also split with the younger swimmers under 12 years old start in the first hour, and the older swimmers practice in the second hour.

“One thing I have grown to really appreciate about the Stingrays is it is a joy to be with swimmers through their entire time.” Damm says. Swimmers never move on from Damm as they do in school athletics with jumps such as junior varsity to varsity.

To start early is not a requirement. Swimmers of any age above 6 and under 18 can join the Stingrays. In fact, just this past year Simon Spittle, a senior in high school, started his first year on the swim team. Another senior, Ivy Jenson, returned to the swim team after a several years pause.

The Stingrays draw their talented team from around the area, with swimmers coming not just from Worthington, but also from surrounding towns such as Luverne, Windom, Fulda, Heron Lake, and many others.

Talented swimmers this year include senior Brooklyn Flaherty, who is committed to swim at Southwest Minnesota State University and swims the breaststroke. It also includes Roselynn Hartshorn, Hannah McNab, Maria Valle, Selma Almodovar, and Zack Bos along many others.

For Damm, maintaining perfect attendance at practice has never been pressured. Many of her athletes have commitments to additional school athletics and activities such as band, choir, orchestra, and musicals.

“No strikes against you,” Damm laughs, “I want kids to be involved in as much as possible, I think at their ages you have plenty of time to commit to one thing or another, but at this part of their life they should be trying different things and experiencing different sports and activities.”

Damm, has been at this for a while, and she is now at the point where swimmers she taught early in her years as coach, express hope that their children will one day join the team.

You can catch the Worthington YMCA Stingrays on Saturday, Dec. 17 as they host a swim meet, which funnily enough will not be attended by competitors due to cancellations. But it is this reporter’s belief that does not matter much to the Stingrays. As they have learned from coach Damm that the only competitor they should be worrying about is beating the swimmer they were in their last race.