License to Win
Swim team makes waves
PHOTOGRAPHY Kevin Syms
Kelsy Syms in an underwater dive.
They practice five days a week, 52 weeks a year. Every member of the Sun Valley 5B/YMCA Swim Team (SV5B) swims 1,150,700 yards—or an average of 697 miles a year—roughly the driving distance from Yellowstone National Park in Montana to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. And they love it! They are focused, physically and mentally tough, and they train to win.
SV5B is a USA Swimming-sanctioned, year-round program. The team (swimmers ages nine to 18) competes as part of the Snake River Swimming Association. Many members are also part of the Wood River High School Swim Team which—thanks in large part to the mentoring of impassioned coach Brian Gallagher—has taken both district and regional titles, and the women’s team owns the last five state championship titles.
He explains everything in ways we can all understand.”
-Colby Werley, sophomore
From its inception in 1995, SV5B has been coached by Gallagher, a lifelong swimmer, former Masters World Champion and two-time Idaho High School Swimming Coach of the Year. Gallagher studies and understands every aspect of swimming, believes in excellence by example and loves coaching kids. A soft-spoken mentor with a positive demeanor and easy rapport, Gallagher stresses the importance of each individual in a team environment, and teaches the kids how to set goals with no shortcuts to success.
“Brian has been such an inspiration to me,” says 15-year-old team co-captain, Lena Friesen. “He encourages every single one of us and (always) has a smile on his face. Even when I have a bad day, I look forward to going to swim team.”
By training in every daily workout, Gallagher sets the bar high, challenging the members to build the skills, determination and focus demanded for swimming competition. “I love being coached by Brian. He never makes me feel nervous or intimidated. He explains everything in ways we can all understand,” states 15-year-old Colby Werley. And according to 16-year-old co-captain, Elizabeth Fry, “he is the perfect leader because he does everything with us, has conversations with us, and never yells!” While an exhaustive training schedule rules each day, Gallagher keeps things fresh with inventive workouts that are never repeated and help keep SV5B practices spirited.
Brian pushes me to be the best I can be
and I don’t like to let him down.” —Kelsey Syms
As they build physical and mental strength, the team also learns how to perform under pressure. Most importantly, they each learn to swim the very best they can in every race. “We never doubt the hard sets Brian gives us in training,” says 13-year-old Kaedi Fry, “because we know it will help us be tougher. He always brings out the best in me.” Seventeen-year-old Wood River High School junior JT Sutton notes, “I really admire Brian’s commitment to swimming and our team. He is always there encouraging me to swim my best race and to focus on personal goals.”
Pride runs deep with SV5B swimmers, especially in this mountain community where so many other sports dominate the local news. Team members and their parents learn quickly that competitive swimming requires a great deal of discipline and a healthy respect for the training and coaching process.
Gallagher asks his swimmers to commit to train year-round, and they have been rewarded with numerous trophies and titles. They’ve also been rewarded with life lessons they learn along the way. As 16-year-old Tori Emerick puts it, “Brian’s devotion of time and patience every time I jump in the water has created a meaningful personal bond between athlete and coach. As I have grown with the team, I have discovered the importance of respect and focus.”
Author’s note: Author is Brian Gallagher’s wife and biggest fan.
For more pictures of the 5B Swim Team in action, visit their website at www.sv5bswimming.org