With more than 200 members, the Gonzales Dolphins Swim Team is one of the largest in its 16-team River City league, said Dawn Robert, who runs the city’s municipal pool and manages the team.

It’s big in part, Robert said, because there are a limited number of places to swim in Gonzales, and therefore, a limited number of opportunities. They cast a wide net in tryouts.

“If they can make it across the pool, they can swim with us,” said Jordan Robert, head coach for the team and Dawn Robert’s daughter.

Still, Dawn Robert likes that the club is big, she said. It’s part of her philosophy to give as many children as possible an opportunity to improve.

While it has its drawbacks — like setting practice times for daily swim practice for each of those 200-plus team members — it has its upsides, too.

For one, it teaches them some measure of responsibility.

“These kids really have to learn to get where they need to be when it’s time for their race,” Dawn Robert said.

At their practice on June 22, Jordan Robert sent some of the younger swimmers into the pool, one after another, to practice laps, and stood poolside, watching the swimmers as they passed.

“OK, everybody, I saw a lot of things that make me happy. I saw big arms, I saw you swim all the way to the end of the lane,” she said.

“But I saw some things that make me not happy,” she said, giving the swimmers some critiques to improve their strokes before sending them back to the pool for a cool-down.

“Go easy, you’re cooling down. Choose your stroke, any stroke you want,” Robert said. She leaned over to one of her assistant coaches and added, “Make sure to clarify ‘choice’ has to be one of the four strokes.”

The swimmers look up to Jordan Robert, and that’s in part because she grew up in the same program she’s heading now.

She started swimming with Gonzales’ swim team when she was about 4 years old, and moved on, eventually, to coach.

A lot of the coaches and assistant coaches came up through the homegrown ranks, Dawn Robert said, and that’s what makes it like being part of a big family.

“We have a lot of families with several kids, and if you think about it, swimming is one of the few things you can do as a family, will all age groups in the same spot. It’s a real family atmosphere, because all of these kids grew up together,” Dawn Robert said, adding that these swimmers are from all different parts of the city and go to different schools the rest of the year.

The swimmers fit into six categories, divided by age group: 5- and 6-year-olds, 7- and 8-year-olds, 9- and 10-year-olds, 11 to 12, 13 to 14, and 15 to 18.

As the season winds down, both mother and daughter agree that, regardless of wins or losses — so far, they’ve only lost one meet — the most rewarding part of the process is looking back on the year and seeing how each swimmer has improved.

“There are a couple who were not really confident at first — they’d stop a couple of times (as they swam across the pool) and get scared,” Jordan Robert said. Their confidence will build from year to year, she said, and will help them in the end with endurance when they move on to other sports during the school year. Ascension Section writer