There’s a new year-round swim team coming to Oak Forest. Head coach Marcela Portillo said she wanted to start the Oak Forest Swim Club because she saw a need and because she loves coaching.
“My husband and I are new to the neighborhood and a lot of our neighbors told us that they were traveling far so that their children could participate in a swim team, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to bring something to the community and continue to do what I love,” said Portillo.
Portillo learned to swim with the summer league Wahoo Swim Team in Friendswood and later coached there. She was previously the assistant coach for the varsity high school team at Incarnate Word Academy.
“I’ve been coaching for about 10 years now,” she said.
Portillo’s husband Peter Lundholm will co-coach. The team’s group couch is Krystal Johnson who has been working for the YMCA for eight years as a program coordinator and swim instructor in the aquatics department. A high school USA swimmer will also help out as a junior coach.
To publicize the endeavor, Portillo used Nextdoor, made yard signs and dropped off flyers at local businesses.
“The neighborhood has been very supportive and excited to have a swim club nearby,” she said.
Portillo said that the goal is to build a competitive team. The team will be a USA Team under the USA Swimming umbrella. According to their website, USA Swimming is the national governing body for the sport of swimming in the United States. The Oak Forest Team will compete in USA meets and coaches are USA certified.
“We plan on being part of a meet at least once a month depending on the amount of swimmers enrolled,” she said.
Portillo stressed that she didn’t want to push swimmers into something they weren’t ready for.
“Depending on the skill and background of the group we get, then we’ll get a meet, but it’s really about what the kids want as well,” she said. “We don’t want to discourage them. We want the swimmers to build enough confidence, and feel good about themselves.”
Although the club is a year round opportunity, the year is divided into three 4 month sessions and swimmers can participate in one or all of the sessions. Students from six months to 18 years are welcomed. The students on the younger end will be developing water familiarity with their parent and an instructor while the older swimmers will learn and develop strokes. The club has four levels of swimmers.
For level one and two, the cost per session is $500, or $150 a month. For levels three and four the cost is $550, or $165 a month.
There is also a registration fee of $180 to USA Swimming which includes a membership, a swim suit and a swim shirt.
Because of the nature of Houston weather, Portillo wanted an indoor pool and said it was a challenge to secure one. Portillo reached out to local schools and HISD and secured a spot at Waltrip High School who will offer their pool three hours a day for five days a week.
For now, the club will be a part time endeavor for Portillo, who also runs a family business from home.
“We are really excited to bring a swim team to the community and to see the swimmers grow,” said Portillo. “This is truly a passion of mine and I really want to create a safe and fun team for everyone.”
A meet and greet will be held on August 19 near the pool at T.C. Jester Park. The coaches will bring pizza and hear from parents about what they want. Attendees are encouraged to bring chairs. The group will also brainstorm a logo for the club. For more information visit teamunify.com/Home.jsp?team=guofst.