Introducing the I-League

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Lifespan Aquatics Programming's (LAP's)
I-League

(I = Inclusion) 

This I-League proposal calls for a safe, fun and efficient scholastic sports league to provide swim and aquatic experiences at schools without existing swim teams. 

Problem

Many schools and students are without quality swimming teams, experiences and opportunities.

  1. Of the WPIAL's (PIAA District 7) 142 schools, only 70 have swimming teams.
  2. In Pittsburgh Public Schools (PIAA District 8) many schools have pools (more than 15) yet few have robust swimming, diving and water polo teams.

One mission: The I-League is for kids with fewer opportunities.

The I-League is well suited for students lacking swimming support systems.

The I-League is a program designed to bridge the gap for young individuals who may have limited access to swimming resources. The top focus is to provide opportunities for school-age students who may lack the necessary support systems to develop their aquatic abilities. Let's empower individuals who opt-in with valuable skills that enhance their physical and mental wellbeing.

The I-League aims to fill some voids in disadvantaged communities and facilitate a pathways for young talent to learn-to-swim, improve fitness, become lifeguards, compete in teamwork settings with others, travel and learn to teach aquatic skills.

This league offers a wholistic system and curriculum built upon fun approaches for creating a strong foundation for overall development. 

  • The I-League teaches the teachers and challenges the participants with a full calendar of in-person and on-line practices, scrimmages, clinics, camps, readings and competitions to better condition the mind, body and spirit. 

Swimming pools are the prime setting for the I-League's in-person activities. 

Swimming pools are fantastic learning laboratories for understanding individual and group excellence. Sadly, aquatic resources are often under-utilized and closed. 

Issues of safety, insurance, access, sponsorship, recruitment and purpose are addressed and within this venture. 

League basics

Solution Concepts

The design solution addresses the problem with:

  • Enrichment by way of the LMS (Learning Management System) at Read.SwimISCA.org and its courses and ebooks.
  • Holistic ways with Swimming, Game-play, Yoga, Mindfulness, Goalsetting and Service.
  • Swimming supervision by offering lessons that lead quickly to Lifeguard classes. 

Proven, real-world, successful models to emulate and replicate: 

  1. Western Pennsylvania has dozens of viable, robust, high-school and middle-school swimming teams. More swimming teams are desired so that more students have the opportunities of stepping up and competing among the region's powerhouse programs. The functioning swimming programs host swim lessons and move students along aquatic pathways to high school graduations.   
  2. In Erie and in central and eastern Pennsylvania, as well as in Central and western Ohio, Illinois and Texas, many schools have water polo teams with college-bound aquatic athletes.
  3. Some school districts have numerous lifeguards and multiple people on the coaching and aquatic staff. 
  4. A SKWIM & Water Polo program operated for 10-summers as part of the 27-day-camp within Pittsburgh Public Schools' Summer Dreamers. At its peak, 200 students and 35 staff offered activities at five facilities.
  5. The Pittsburgh Project, another summer-time camper prototype, had robust programming in an outdoor pool leased for 15-years from the city.
  6. The Saturday Swim School, a school-year, volunteer program offered by Coach Mark Rauterkus and friends is another prototype. 

Conceptual ladder

  1. Lessons --> Learn-to-swim, U CAN Swim (system)
  2. Game play --> SKWIM, Water Polo
  3. Events --> School assemblies, practices, scrimmages, meets, races, camps, travel
  4. Literacy --> Scales with technology, such as web sites, app, ebooks, digital badges.
  5. Wellness --> Jobs as coaches, swim instructors, coaches, timers, officials, lifeguards

People can, with the I-League:

  • Make friends.
  • Get jobs as lifeguards, swim instructors, swim officials.
  • Improve fitness.
  • Travel and gain wider perspectives.
  • Learn about swimming and aquatic sport.
  • Develop the soft-skills found within sports participation.
  • Have fun.
  • Play among teammates and develop teamwork skills.

Objective: Grow participation in aquatics where none exists presently.

Prime individuals, users, groups involved directly or indirectly:

  • High school students
  • Middle school students
  • Potential coaches
  • School administrators
  • Existing Swim Teams (coaches and athletes)
  • Employers 

Key Features

Swimming, water polo and SKWIM activities are fun for many. The I-League's expert support structure can deliver rapid gains among participants. Intensive coach education and training helps to guide a new crew of local leaders through dynamic schedules packed with variety and interesting gameplay. 

Next Steps:

To make the I-League happen, buy-in among principals and districts smoothens the way to facility access. 

Willing adults are needed to step up in coaching roles, learn and help to lead with the guidance of new curriculum, virtual staff meetings and expert visitors.

Reciprocal help from existing swim teams and coaches is expected throughout the years.

Sponsorships, funding and some new, entrepreneurial revenue streams are to be established.

Make initial awareness presentations to:

  • WPIAL, PIAA, Citiparks, County Parks (Gov bodies)
  • UPMC, Forbes Foundation (Funders)
  • Swim Coaches in Pennsylvania, (Advisory)
  • Specific school districts: Pittsburgh Public Schools, McKeesport (Early adapters)

Stakeholder Maps

Membership, Commonality, Exclusivity

Stakeholders maps in circles

Relationships & Interactions

Stakeholders - relationships interactions

Core, Direct, Indirect

Core, Direct, Indirect stakeholders

Purpose pathways

  1. Water safety, comfort in water, save oneself.
  2. Aquatic culture with wellness and jobs
  3. Playing well with others
  4. New swim teams (both middle school and varsity)
  5. New water polo teams (both middle school and varsity)

At the outset, and throughout, water safety needs to an emphasis and outcome.. The water safety theme needs to be repeated often. Then the water / aquatic culture needs to take root before new swim teams and water polo teams can be launched into varsity status and full-league participation. Going from A to Z, i.e., few swimmers to a thriving varsity swim team, is a heavy lift that takes time.


Refine Presentations

  • Business plans
  • Slide decks
  • Benefit Lists

Communication Plans & Progress

  • Presentations
  • Web Landing Pages
  • Email Campaigns
  • Hosting Meetings and Events

Suggested footnotes:

  • Mention swimming and/or aquatics in the program's name.
  • Non-swimmers exist at all schools.
  • Proprietary tools are deployed within this system.

About the author 

Mark Rauterkus

Insert YOUR comments in the box at the bottom of this -- and all the other pages. Questions. Insights. re-writes, whatever.

Swim, water polo and SKWIM coach in Pittsburgh, PA, USA. Also the webmaster for the International Swim Coaches Association.

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