Villa Aquatic celebrates milestone -- Gazette.Net


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Pools all across the area are swelling with a familiar buzz this week, one that has swimmers dusting off their uniforms in preparation for the Northern Virginia Swim League’s 2013 season kickoff on Saturday. But there are members of a certain pool between Main Street and Braddock Road that aren’t treating this season like any other. To the denizens of Villa Aquatics, the summer of 2013 will be enjoyed under the umbrella of a special milestone.

The Villa Aquatics Club is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Amid all the hoopla that comes every year with summer reopening, the pool’s 240 member families are taking a step back this month to reflect on the sustained impact their pool has had on the community of Fairfax Villa.

Jim Sabatino, a member since the pool opened on July 4, 1963, appreciates the local influence of Villa Aquatics.

“It’s just been a revelation,” Sabatino said. “It’s been the summer center piece for many of the families in this community.”

Sabatino, a real estate agent, remembers when the five-acre parcel of land was donated by the area’s builder/developer for a community pool. Construction for the pool was immediately underway, and due to its embedded location at the end of a cul-de-sac away from a main road, Sabatino went around the neighborhood making sure people knew about it.

Sabatino and other charter members also quickly heralded the creation of something else: the Villa Aquatics swim team, which joined the NVSL the year after the pool opened. The pool and the team grew rapidly together in the late 1960’s, speeding their development further with the arrival of Kevin Adams, the current pool manager who served in that capacity in addition to swim coach duties from 1970-1996.

Sabatino and Adams have worked side by side through the years to ensure that the quality of care for the pool and the team has never diminished. Their scrupulous attention to detail has rubbed off on the rest of the board and helped portend more success in the years ahead.

“There was a lot of thought that went into the adoption and creation of the administration of the pool,” said Sabatino, who served as an NVSL volunteer official at the pool for 40 consecutive years before forgoing those duties this year to tend to his wife’s illness. “All potential changes have been considered with research and done with diligence that should continue. That’s been the rule of the board. You don’t make drastic changes until you try to see what adverse effect it would have without that rule.”

Even with the advances in technology that have simplified race operations, Sabatino says the organization seen at Villa Aquatics’ weekly swim meets is largely the same today as it was 49 years ago. Emphasis has always been placed on the competence of race officials, who are trained to put forth the same effort and dedication as the swimmers they are timing.

“The biggest thing for an official is that I want to leave an event and not have anybody know I was there,” said Roger Wray, a longtime member who serves as the pool’s operations manager. “When you’re out there you’re an official of the NVSL. As a referee you watch the other officials, and if you see them doing the wrong thing, you coach them. If they’re not coachable, you replace them. I’ve had no qualms about asking an official to leave the deck.”

Last year’s success has swimmers and officials alike gearing up for competition in a new division this summer. The Gorillas begin their foray into Division 9 this Saturday, when they travel to High Point Pool for a showdown against the Dolphins.

“We’re really excited because last year we went undefeated in Division 10, so we want to continue that momentum,” said Michael Cosgrove, who enters his second year as head coach after swimming for the Gorillas for 10 years. “I think last year got the kids really excited about the team and about swimming again, so we want to try to carry that over. We’re really looking forward to that.”

Villa Aquatics, which will celebrate its anniversary with a picnic on July 3rd, isn’t the only area pool recognizing a milestone this summer. Sully Station II, a Centreville-based pool competing in NVSL’s Division 4, will have a gala on July 13th to celebrate its 20th anniversary.

Chris Campbell and his wife Lori recall convincing members of the relatively new Sully II community to form a swim team 21 years ago. Now, as is the case in many other areas, their pool’s swim team attracts the largest volunteer entity the community has to offer.

“It’s just really a cool thing for us to have seen all those kids come through and be friends with their families,” Campbell said. “Everyone comes together for two months, and you’re really together everyday for two months, and then a lot of those folks you really don’t see a lot the rest of the year. We’ve been able to develop some really strong relationships with some great families. Watching those kids grow into their own and have some fun while they’re doing it has been great.”

neilerson@fairfaxtimes.com