To the Editor:
The Roosevelt Island Marlins Swim program is a not-for-profit parent-run organization, serving the community and attracting swimmers from various age groups and with different athletic goals.
The Roosevelt Island Marlins Swim club has always been a community-oriented program and it is becoming more so every day. As everything in life evolves, so does the Marlins family. During the Sportspark closure from mid-August 2016 through May 2017, the Learn to Swim (LTS) program was shut down for nine months. It took an effort to revamp the class schedules, and the program itself, in order to achieve the ultimate goal: safely fit in all the kids who were happily and eagerly waiting to join the program once the pool reopened. Our goal – to ensure that the quality of classes was still of the highest standard in the city and the most affordable for families – has been met. We have achieved this through the hard work and determination of numerous dedicated parents.
The program was expanded from having three practices each week to six times a week for LTS groups. Additionally, the length of classes has been extended from 30 minutes to 60 minutes for Beginner 1 and 2 groups and, for the Intermediate group, from 60 minutes to 75 minutes. Also, per the vision of Coach Roman, a new group of Future Marlins was formed for young swimmers 6-10 years old. The major focus of this group is to work on skills necessary to make a smooth transition from the LTS program to the miniMarlins – our youngest competitive team group.
The goal of all these changes was to:
• maximize the use of the pool in order to provide as many class options as possible;
• strengthen the safety of swimmers by reducing student-to-teacher ratio for all Beginners classes by about 50%;
• focus our LTS program on affordability, interest in swimming as a competitive sport, and teaching in a manner that progresses to lap swimming safely;
• preserve a great resource where our teenage residents of the Island can partake in their first work experience.
This board is dedicated to providing equal opportunities and access to all of the swimmers regardless of their goals, and we are proud to state that we are on the right path. Since May 2017, we have:
• introduced Teen Masters, a group of kids passionate about swimming where competition is optional;
• enhanced our competitive swim team, which excelled with real professional practice, which enabled them to win many medals this year;
• currently enrolled over 160 kids in the LTS program.
The results of all these improvements and great efforts of all the instructors, coaching staff, and the board was rewarded in March 2018, when our youngest swimmers, who started in the Beginner 1 group in May 2017, brought home medals from the Metro Under 8 Championship.
Under the guidance of our head coach, Roman Sludnov, the RI Marlins competitive team won 21 medals at the Junior Olympics and Zone competitions in spring of 2018, even though the Marlins were the smallest club represented at the meet. As a role model, Coach Roman is an inspiration and, for two years, the Marlins have been able to attract kids from other neighborhoods with goals and dreams as big as only kids can have.
We were very fortunate to be able to acquire the services of Roman Sludnov, a former Olympic swimmer. Coach Roman brought new strength, vision, discipline, and dedication to our club and helped enormously in the organization. He also brought a strong work ethic and no tolerance for parental interference. The organization of practice is, again, the responsibility of a coach in any sport club. From today’s perspective, and in our strong belief, none of this was possible when the club was run by Olga Seliger (formerly Shchuchinov), who was used to instructing the coaches on which groups her kids should be in or how hard the practice should be. These decisions are clearly the responsibility of a coach and is something this board firmly stands by.
This juncture is where problems arose. It is evident and obvious now, in our strong and clear opinion, when parents like Olga and Yuri Seliger could no longer have it their way with the new direction of the club and coach Roman, they were displeased and, as a result, coach Roman received more than 500 text and email messages from them, as they were constantly placing demands on the coach and the board. Additionally, Olga Seliger organized a few confrontational situations and, as a result, resigned from the board. It is our position that it is unbelievably selfish of any individual to turn around the organization of the whole club to suit their family. Our focus is on all the kids of this community with different athletic goals.
It is also extremely unfortunate that a few families, with anonymous status, used this situation to try to diminish the results of the kids who worked very hard to achieve their goals. Through a pointless, scandalous attack in a local newspaper (The WIRE), these parents exposed all children of RI Marlins to unnecessary stress. This is just an example of their disregard for this team.
In addition, it is truly sad to see the attempts of these parents to try to shame the kids of Roosevelt Island Marlins who dare to have Olympic dreams and aspirations. It is also unworthy of a majority of Marlin’s families who work hard daily to make this a good program for the Island and their kids. Especially considering that, in January 2017, Olga Seliger, at the time a member of the RI Marlins Board, shared the same vision for the team (mswire.nyc/issuepdfs/3708.pdf): “[We are] delighted to end 2016, with four-time Olympian Roman Sludnov as a new head coach,” said Marlins Board President Olga Shchuchinov. “He shares our vision and mission to qualify more Marlins swimmers this season, and then aim for higher goals.” Shchuchinov described Sludnov as a strong leader and a good mentor.”
Ultimately, as stated in an article in SwimSwam, “The most important result of the short-course season is the birth of a strong team where most of the members learned how to set goals and accomplish them. We are very proud of all of our swimmers and their accomplishments. The Marlins are a team where every swimmer, through their mutual support, contributes to the team’s development. The Marlins are a team where coaches grow professionally. Doubling the number of JO participants, compared to the last year, is a clear indicator of the successful efforts of athletes, coaches, and parents.” (tinyurl.com/WIREswim)
Roosevelt Island Marlins
Board of Directors