EAST PROVIDENCE — The Boys & Girls Club of East Providence’s “Tidal Waves” youth swim team recently completed its best regular season in at least the last decade and …
EAST PROVIDENCE — The Boys & Girls Club of East Providence’s “Tidal Waves” youth swim team recently completed its best regular season in at least the last decade and concludes its 2022-23 winter schedule the weekend of March 31-April 2 by participating at the national championships in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Next week, nine locals, the most ever representing the Tidal Waves, join their B&G Club counterparts from the Pawtucket and Providence as well as competitors from the Jewish Community Center on the East Side of Providence to form the Rhode Island/Massachusetts (RIMA) Boys & Girls Club United Team at nationals where last year the combined entry finished fifth.
Bob Hassan, who triples as the head swim coach at East Providence High School and the summer swim director at the Bayside YMCA in Barrington, is the Waves’ head coach. Tony Fonseca, a city resident and director of the Seekonk Swim and Tennis Club summer swim program, and Alex Doty, a decorated high school/collegiate swimmer now a nurse in the East Providence School District, assist with the Waves.
The local boys’ contingent heading to national includes Nicholas Capobianco, who is also among Hassan’s top swimmers at EPHS, where he'll compete in the Senior Division (16-and-over) 500 yard Freestyle, 200 Free, 100 yard Breaststroke, 50 yard Free, 100 yard Backstroke, 200 yard Individual Medley and 100 yard Butterfly. Weston David swims in the 8 & Under grouping in the 100 IM, 100 Free, 25 yard Breast, 25 Free, 50 Fly, 50 Breast, 50 Free and 25 Fly. Luke DeMoura vies in the 11-12-year-old division in the 50 Breast, 100 Back, 50 Free, 100 yard IM, 100 Free and 50 Fly. Lucas Zonfrillo competes in the 13-14 group in the 200 Free, 200 Back, 50 Free, 100 Back and 100 Free.
From the Tidal Waves’ girls’ squad is Kaylee Collins swims in the 10 & Under 50 Breast, 100 Back, 50 Free, 100 Breast, 50 Back and 100 IM. In the same division, Helen Messitt swims the 50 Breast, 100 Back, the 50 Free, the 50 Back, the 100 IM and the 100 Free. Laina Fonseca competes in the 11-12 grouping in the 200 IM, the 200 Free, the 50 Breast, the 50 Free, the 100 Breast, the 100 IM and the 100 Free. Ambri Fonseca is in the 8 & Under division where she swims the 100 IM, the 100 Free, the 25 Breast, the 50 Back, the 25 Free, the 50 Breast, the 50 Free and the 25 Fly. Also in the grouping, Isabel McKinney vies in the 100 Free, the 25 Breast, the 50 Back, the 25 Free, the 25 Back, the 50 Free and the 25 Fly.
The co-ed Tidal Waves, which feature swimmers ranging in ages 6-to-16, went unbeaten in RIMA League meets this past winter, the first time they’ve done so in the 11 years under the direction of Hassan.
Competitors qualified for next week’s nationals in Florida based mostly on time standards, but teams are also allowed to bring others “who work really hard and deserve to be there,” Hassan explained.
“We talk about it during the season to get interest up, but towards our league championship we really start talking about nationals because we know once we’re done with our league championship we transition our focus to nationals,” Hassan said. “But we’re our skills are always improving and we’re always working on skills, working on the fundamentals. You have to get those down first before you can even think about swimming fast.”
The results this winter are part of continued uptick in both the number of participants in the Tidal Waves program and the performances of the swimmers. Hassan said the Waves had just 28 members prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020. That figure actual grew by seven the first year during pandemic even with stringent health and safety protocols in place. This year there are 55 swimmers on the squad with a majority being female. Hassan noted the club continues to seek more male participants.
“It’s grown not only the numbers on the roster, but how well we’re doing. We had 49 swimmers in our championship meet, 24 were All-Stars which means they were top five in their individual events,” Hassan said.
In addition to the RIMA League, 17 Tidal Waves team members also participated in the area USA Swimming league this past season, performing “extremely well” at the higher level of competition, according to Hassan. Five locals qualified to compete in the regional 10-and-under championship meet with another earning her way into the 11-12-year-old division.
“It’s been word of mouth and through my summer program (at the Bayside YMCA) and Tony’s summer program (at the Seekonk Swim and Tennis Club). We’ve also done some advertising, but it’s been mostly word of mouth from parents who love the program and tell others, ‘Hey, you’ve got to come swim for Tidal Waves,’” Hassan added.
The coach emphasized the Tidal Waves program is not just about the competitive aspect of the sport, but about development as well. He said as much effort is put into teaching youngsters the fundamentals of the different strokes as is about improving their times in each.
“It’s a great group of kids,” Hassan of the nine headed to nationals and those involved in the Tidal Waves program overall. “They’re hard working. We’ve had kids that couldn’t swim well at the beginning of the year who are now swimming great. Or kids who couldn’t do a certain stroke, but now are they’ve really improved. And they love hanging out together. It’s a fun group to be around."