Watching Michael Phelps power his way through the pool in Beijing this summer has had a butterfly effect of its own: local swim clubs are bursting at the seams.
The Chelsea Recreation Aquatic Club has gone from about fifty members two years ago to about 130 this year. The Dexter Community Aquatic Club expanded its team capacity from 160 to 190. The Saline Stingrays Swim Club is seeing a “little boom” as well, according to coach Nick Munsell.
“Things have coalesced right now,” says Ken Arbogast-Wilson, president of the Chelsea club. “We had a perfect summer with the Olympics and a lot of visibility. There are parents saying, ‘Hey, my kid could be Michael Phelps.'”
Not every swimmer with an eye on the 2020 Olympics will make it. At a recent meet between Dexter and Saline, one young swimmer was a reminder that just a tiny fraction of the kids will hit the elite level. Swimming that night’s specialty stroke, the butterfly, the eight-year-old girl lagged well behind the rest of the competitors, taking almost thirty seconds longer than everyone else to finish the race.
If these parents are pushing their kids to be the next Michael Phelps or Kara Lynn Joyce or Allison Schmitt, you couldn’t tell. As the girl pulled herself out of the pool, the crowd erupted into applause.
And her mom choked back tears.