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Dolphins busy week culminates with two-day invitational in Tracy
SWIM--Dolphins pic 2
Manteca Dolphins co-head coach Chabre Basile gives instruction to swimmers in the pool during a recent practice. Ready or not, the Dolphins dive into the Mid-Valley Swim League season on Saturday at the Tracy Triton Invitational. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

Times are set. Events have been scheduled. And trucks, trunks and RVs have been loaded down with coolers, swim bags and pop-up tents.

The Manteca Dolphins are ready to begin the Mid-Valley Swim League season, but that’s not to say the coaches don’t wish they had few more days to prepare.

A busy calendar, coupled with one of the MVSL’s largest rosters, have left many of the Dolphins brass – from the board members to the coaching staff – feeling a bit winded before the season’s first call.

No matter.

As co-head coach Jason Beier so often says from his perch atop a diving block, when you get tired …

Just keep kicking.

The Dolphins dive into the new season Saturday at the Tracy Triton Invitational, a two-day meet held at the Pinkie Phillips Aquatic Center on the campus of West High. The invite includes all the usual suspects: the host Tritons, Turlock/Hughson Sea Dogs, Ceres Dolphins, and Ripon Sea Lions.

“My expectations are to see good, quality swims. We’re not worried so much about the times. I believe if you practice the times will be what they are. Time isn’t the issue,” said Beier, an East Union assistant now in his second year with the Dolphins. He shares coaching honors with Chabre Basile; Melissa West is their assistant.

“We want quality strokes and (swimmers) doing things efficiently and correctly. I’m not going in thinking we need to have X, Y and Z happen for us to win. Those things are a byproduct of quality swimming.”

The Dolphins rank among the largest teams in the MVSL.

The large volume of swimmers is a byproduct of the team’s overall success in 2013. The Dolphins enjoyed a resurgence under former president Lori Brubaker and a revamped coaching staff, finishing third in the conference with championship meet-best six high-point winners.

Those results spawned positive publicity. The end result was a huge influx of new swimmers. The Dolphins have 237 registered swimmers, two-thirds of which are 12 years old or younger.

“Winning definitely creates notoriety in our world,” Beier said. “The better we swim – the more kids surprise themselves – of course they’re going to talk about it. That encourages other kids and parents to try swimming.”

While more is better, it doesn’t often mean “easier.”

For instance, a large roster makes week’s like this last difficult for only three coaches. (A fourth coach, assistant Niki DeGeorge, will join the staff in June once she finishes her sophomore year at UC Davis.)

In a nine-day span, the Dolphins will have competed in Time Trials and an MVSL invitational, practiced four times and completed a swim lap-a-thon fundraiser.

If that weren’t enough, the coaches have had to shape this week’s practice plans to address the stroke-and-turn violations that led to disqualifications at Time Trials.  It’s a common practice, especially with new swimmers, but having only a week to iron out the major kinks has been a challenge.

“Do I wish (we had more time to prepare the kids for their first invitational)? Yes, that would be better,” Beier said. “But at the time same time, I’m happy with how the kids did at Time Trials; with how they swam and their times. Overall, from where we started at the beginning of the year, it was exciting to see them swim as well as they did.”

A lifelong swimmer who cut his teeth in the Dolphins program and trained beneath the late Ervin Zador, Beier is well aware of swimming’s one truth: It’s rarely easy.

“It’s been stressful, but you don’t want to let the kids down. You do all these work and get certain things accomplished so that those surprises and goals can be met,” Beier said. “From a coach’s perspective, there’s always more to be done. You’re trying to coach as hard as you can – without going overboard – to get things accomplished.”

The payoff comes this weekend.

“This is the time when kids come up and they’re smiling because they did something they didn’t expect to do,” Beier added. “This is when you get to have fun, relax and see kids surprise themselves because of all the hard they’ve done.”