By Ginger DeShaney
The swim team at the Edgerley Family Boys & Girls Club South Boston has been working out and practicing … without a pool.
And while that’s been a challenge — along with the COVID-19 pandemic — it hasn’t deterred these determined members.
The boiler for the pool went out several weeks ago but because of the pandemic, it’s taking a while for it to get fixed, said Tia Ferrie, the Club’s aquatics director and swim coach. So while Tia and the members wait patiently for the pool to reopen, “We switched pool workouts to dry land workouts,” Tia said, noting they usually do a lot of dry land training anyway.
The workouts include calisthenics, rope jumping, and other exercises. The last 20-30 minutes of each practice, they play COVID-friendly games.
“They want to come to swim practice,” Tia said, noting she was worried the members wouldn’t come back with the pool closed. “They are still showing up, which is awesome.
“And kids want to sign up for the swim team even during the pandemic!”
Tia has divided the swim team members into three groups to comply with COVID protocols. There are 26 kids between the ages of 7 and 17 on the swim team, but about 22 show up every week. Some swim team members took the season off because of COVID.
Swim team captains Owen Rogers and Cat Lee have been very helpful to Tia and assistant coach Sarah Mogan.
Tia and Sarah offer special events for the swim team. Last week, they decorated the pool area for Valentine’s Day and hosted a Valentine’s event. “We are trying to figure out ways to reward them for showing up,” Tia said.
Last year, members of the Paul D. Buckley swim team earned their way to the Boys & Girls Club national championship in Florida. But 10 days before they were supposed to leave, the state shut down because of COVID-19. “The kids were super bummed,” Tia said.
And with the pool currently closed, the members have missed out on virtual meets. “Once the pool reopens, we’ll get right back to it,” she said, noting she is hopeful that will happen in the next couple of weeks.
When able to use the pool, the swim team will follow strict protocols, from stickers denoting where they can sit and put their belongings, and sanitizing stations throughout the pool area, to only four people in the locker room at a time. The pool will be divided into socially distanced sections. The kids wear masks until they get in the water, then get new masks when they get out of the pool.
The swim team members are in good spirits and staying patient, Tia said. But some have expressed concern about forgetting their swim techniques. She assures them they won’t forget.
When the team members do their workouts, Tia is right there with them, leading by example and setting the tone.
Tia has come full circle at the Club.
She was a Club member as a kid and was part of the swim team. She went to the Gavin (now Up Academy) for middle school and walked to the Club after school. “Once I started on the swim team, you couldn’t get me out of the club.
“The universe brought me back here.”
After graduating from East Boston High School in 2008, she attended Bunker Hill Community College and then Bay State College for fashion merchandising, focusing on the visual aspect of merchandising.
She put her degree to work at DSW, Bloomingdale’s, and West Elm. “But I always kept my foot in the water,” she said, noting she always continued to be involved in aquatics.
That involvement included working for DCR during the summer months as a lifeguard/swim instructor and working part time at Harvard/MIT and a handful of YMCAs, to then becoming full time with Boston Centers for Youth and Families for seven years as a lifeguard/swim instructor/swim coach.
In June, Tia will celebrate three years as the full-time aquatics director at the Club.
Tia loves what she does. “I love the members. I love doing what I can for the members and giving back to the community. I’m grateful I can do that, especially being a club alumni.”
In addition to leading the swim team, Tia supervises CPR/First Aid training for the club staff and manages all aquatics programming, swim lessons, lifeguard training, and rec times (open swim) for members.
Swim lessons are offered to all members, ranging from kids who are petrified of the water to kids who are ready for the swim team.
Swimming is such an important life skill, Tia said. “We get kids from all over the community; we’re helping them with a skill that has lifelong benefits. That’s why I do what I do.”
There’s more to swimming than winning a ribbon or trophy. “Living in New England we are surrounded by water,” Tia said. “There are so many unfortunate drownings. It’s super important to have that life-saving skill.