A local branch of a statewide swim program has made a splash among youth in Bayonne, as well as Jersey City.
Mike Stankiewicz is the Program Director for the Bayonne Division of Scarlet Aquatics and runs the local branch of the aquatics club alongside Head Age Group Coach Jessica Beach. In an interview with Bayonne Community News, Stankiewicz described how the swim program has evolved since he came to helm the team with Beach’s help just one year ago.
“I was working for the Rutgers Head Coach,” Stankiewicz said. “I worked with him for about five years and then went out to Illinois. Then COVID hit.”
Stankiewicz was the head coach for a team in Illinois, until a little after the COVID-19 pandemic’s onset in 2020.
“It wasn’t really working out between me and them,” he said. “We had a difference of opinion moving forward. It was a blessing in disguise because it gave me an excuse to come home that I really wanted. From there, it was just picking back up where I left off with the family.”
Back in New Jersey, Stankiewicz said he was glad to return to coaching swimming again, but in an environment he enjoyed. Soon he became involved with the Scarlet Aquatics program and the rest is history.
“The kids were a little bit down from COVID, but they were excited and willing to have the new training and the new atmosphere and the new push,” he said. “We’ve been working really hard and we just had three of our boys come back from sectionals and do really well for themselves. It’s been a full circle trip from start to finish and we’re very happy to have gotten through our first 12 months with the kids.”
Helming the Bayonne division of Scarlet Aquatics
So far, Stankiewicz said the team has improved tenfold since he has arrived.
“They’ve learned a lot more,” Stankiewicz said. “They are much more mature athletes than we’ve ever had. We’re really excited now to try and focus on rebuilding the little kid groups from a perspective of size, and just trying to get more of the community involved in higher level learning.”
According to Stankiewicz, the organization is not officially associated with Rutgers University, despite the name, however it does have four separate divisions, with one at the university in New Brunswick under Tom Speedling, as well as others at the Newark Academy under Bill Deatly, Paramus under Ken O’Reilly, and Bayonne.
“In between the four of us, we’ve been around as different teams where we merged as one Scarlet organization,” he said. “So Scarlet as a whole has been around since 2012 or 2013. But Scarlet Bayonne has been around for a long time.”
In Bayonne, the aquatics club uses the Lincoln Community School and 16th Street pools. Stankiewicz added they also uses New Jersey City University and St. Peter’s University pools in Jersey City as well.
“Right now, we’re looking to build our foundation here for the long run,” he said. “The last coaches here were on their way out a little bit, and the team was in disarray when I got here. So we are looking to build deeper with one location, but as time goes on we’ll figure it out. For right now we have four pools we use.”
Open to youth of many ages
The ages of those in the club range from the youngest at four years old to the oldest at 22.
“It really just matters in regards to what is this child trying to accomplish and what their ability level is,” Stankiewicz said.
Scarlet Aquatics is hosting a tryout for ages 10 and under on May 31, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the 16th Street Pool.
“That’s where we’ll kind of really reinvest in the community, a little bit more in the younger kid perspective, and try and focus on broadening our younger kids,” he said. “That’ll be our tryout. At this point, we’re taking a mass influx of kids. We just got a lot more pool time and pool space since we had a good year.”
The club competes in qualified meets and invitationals against other USA Swim Club clubs. Locally, the meets are broke up in age brackets up until to age 13, after which USA Swimming allows swimmers to qualify for any level.
“We have meets that we qualify for as well as invitationals, and those will be held at like sectional trial levels,” he said. “We’re a talented organization and as long as we continue to work on the foundations we have, some of these kids have the potential to go on an be national ranked… We’re very talented but we needed a lot more knowledge and training as always.”
Attracting new members
According to Stankiewicz, the team has learned a lot, but still has much to learn.
“What I would really more importantly like to do, instead of just necessarily growing outright, I like to respect that knowledge source a little bit more and just teach the community how to swim,” Stankiewicz said.
“Stankiewicz hopes to also grow the team not only by working with the existing members, but also attracting new members.
“We’re really hoping in the next season to build out a little larger in size,” he said. “I would like to have a stronger presence right up against our borders a little bit in the Staten Island and potentially even Hoboken area as well. We’re looking to grow as much as possible, so that way we can serve as many of these kids as we can.”
The team started with 48, and has since almost doubled to 76 and growing. And while the organization is ready for the open tryouts this summer, plans are also in the works for the upcoming years.
“We’re pretty happy with the growth rate of the team,” he said. “So at this point, we’re open arms. We’re really just trying to figure out how big of an interest the community has and whether or not we need to be prepared to grow in the next one or two seasons and take on even more swimmers.”
Giving back to the community
Another thing Stankiewicz and Beach do is work as assistant managers at the 16th Street Pool. They hope to continue to spread their swimming knowledge there as well.
“We definitely do hope to be doing a little bit of work with lessons at the pool, helping our lifeguards teach the lessons to the kids, that way we can just be starting with a little bit more well-rounded individual,” Stankiewicz said. “The hope is that the swim team does fantastic, but really the way to do that is by making sure that the swim team is knowledgeable and has a little better of a starting point.”
While competition is an important aspect of it, at the end of the day Stankiewicz is aiming to teach young people how to swim.
“We are a highly competitive swim team, and while we want to be teaching everyone in the area that wants to swim how to be a competitive athlete, we do also want to spread the foundational elements of swimming,” he said. And parents on the team can attest to the skills being taught to their children while on the team.
David Schierholz’s 13 year old son Nikolai currently swims on the team, and his older daughter Alexandra Sasha was also part of the club before going on to join the team at Bayonne High School and becoming captain prior to graduating. Schierholz touted the program for helping their successes.
“It’s hard work,” Schierholz said of the training and practice at Scarlet Aquatics. “It’s physical energy expended at a time when P.E. isn’t cutting it at school. The swimmers are a bunch of smart, capable, and nice bunch I want my kids associated with.”
For more information on Scarlet Aquatics, contact Beach at 503-559-0344, email email@example.com, or visit teamunify.com/team/njbms/page/home
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.