The will be the home for a newly-formed competitive swim team starting next month.
AAA head coach Helen Garcia said she and her two assistants announced their departure from the Piedmont team in May because the aging Piedmont pool facility was making it difficult to run a successful program.
Garcia said that, for several years, it’s been increasingly hard to run workouts in the limited space of the Piedmont pool and, consequently, several good swimmers left to join other clubs.
Last year, —which the Piedmont Swim Club had previously run—she said the team had to confine its workouts to as few as three lanes at times.
“It was a lot of crunching for space,” said Garcia, the 10-year head coach of Piedmont. “I couldn’t do what I wanted to as a coach because of that.”
Garcia said she originally wanted to expand the Piedmont Swim Team so it would use two venues—the Albany pool for the older swimmers, and the Piedmont pool for the younger swimmers.
But according to Garcia, the team’s board and membership made it clear they did not want to commute to Albany, so she and her assistants—her brother, Jesus Salcedo, and Rick Arnason—decided to make the move.
“We’ve all coached very well together, so when this opportunity presented itself, we were all committed to sticking together and starting a team on our own,” she said.
Aquatic Center Director Amanda Garcia, who previously worked as the assistant manager of the Piedmont pool, said getting a competitive swim team in Albany had been one of her goals since .
Amanda Garcia added that many member of the community had expressed interest in a competitive team, and she said she expects AAA to develop into a large program.
“I think this was a better fit for them, regardless,” she said. “The program can really expand here and there are a lot of people in this area who have wanted this.”
One community member who played a key role in getting the Piedmont coaches to start a new team was Albany resident Mehdi Saghafi.
Saghafi, whose three children are competitive swimmers, said he was in contact with Amanda Garcia since the pool opened, helping her search for coaches who would be interested in starting a new program.
After several months of no luck in finding quality coaches, Saghafi put Helen Garcia in contact with Amanda, and set the wheels in motion for the new team.
Saghafi said he wanted to help bring a team to Albany because there is no strong, competitive swim team in the area. Most of the strong programs, he said, are located east of the Oakland-Berkeley hills.
“This was not so much for us (my family) but for all the talent that’s here but never being realized,” he said. “It was about making sure someone else in Albany has the chance to reach their potential.”
Saghafi’s children currently compete for the Terrapins Swim Team in Concord and, for now, they will stay with that program because of the relationships they’ve formed with the coaches.
But Saghafi said Garcia, Salcedo and Arnason are experienced coaches who will lead a strong program in Albany.
“These guys are one of the best things we could have around here,” he said. “They have a very good balance between keeping it fun for the kids, and teaching techniques.”
Garcia, who was part of Olympic swim coach Teri McKeever’s first recruiting classes at UC Berkeley, said she is thrilled about using the new Aquatic Center.
Garcia has remained coach of the Piedmont swim team this summer, and the team has been using the Albany pool four afternoons a week, an agreement unrelated to the formation of AAA.
By running some of Piedmont’s workouts in the Albany pool the last two months, Garcia said it has helped get the word out about the new swim team.
Garcia said about 15 of the Piedmont swimmers will be making the move to AAA as well, although that number might increase. Piedmont is still interviewing new coach candidates and, depending on who is chosen, more athletes may choose to follow Garcia to Albany.
AAA will begin its practices Sept. 9, and Garcia said she is still looking for more swimmers. She said there are about 25 people committed to the team as of now, but that number is expected to grow.
The team will run eight workouts each week, renting four lanes for each workout since it has a small number of swimmers at the moment.
AAA’s use of the pool will be a welcome source of revenue for the Aquatic Center, which was .
Amanda Garcia said she didn’t have specifics for how much extra revenue AAA will bring in but, considering that the team may expand the number of lanes it uses and may hold meets at the pool, it’s a definite positive.
“It can only help as far as revenue goes,” she said.
Helen Garcia said she hopes AAA will become a part of the Albany community in the coming years, and she is dedicated to making it successful.
“We’re just really excited to bring something to Albany,” she said. “We’re in it for the long haul.”
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