April 17, 2024

Former Resident Notes That There Is No Other Swim Cub Like Nassau

To the Editor:

How does one sum up a childhood of summer memories? Where does one form lifelong friendships well into old age? Where are life lessons experienced along with swim lessons, getting along and developing into one large family?

Why does one need DEI training when you’ve grown up at Nassau Swim Club?

Residing in Richmond, Va., as a parent of three children, I went in search of a “Nassau Swim Club” in the area for my children. Surely there was a small, family oriented pool offering swim lessons, a swim team, and the family atmosphere and camaraderie I experienced growing up at Nassau. Two years later, having joined our local club, I came to the realization that Nassau was itself its own entity.

Nassau — a hole in the ground of a pool, located down a winding gravel potholed road hidden in the woods, who would ever think this small swim club could amount to much? It wasn’t about winning at all costs, though we won our fair share of PASDA Championships, it was about the team, the family in which we all shared. It was the passion for the sport that caused many of us to swim 10 months during the off-season just to be at our best for the summer league season. It was about reuniting with our friends whom we hadn’t seen since last summer. It was the progression of being the youngest to the oldest and eventually that coach/swim instructor and lifeguard whom we all admired for so long.

For our parents it was knowing we were outside each day, active, learning a lifelong skill, making friends and happy. There was no place we wanted to be, but at Nassau.

One summer day my father announced we would be spending the day at a local country club swimming, playing tennis and golf. He was attempting to lure us away from our Nassau. Obviously, it was out of the question. These country club folks didn’t know anything about playing Rackety Poo, swimming relays widthwise, Marco Polo with the diving board, or flipping handstands into the pool. They simply had far too many silly rules and were constantly running to the snack bar!

Nassau was my life in the summer, from the age of 8-23 years old, starting as a swimmer and eventually serving as coach, swim instructor, lifeguard, and assistant pool manager. I even scheduled a couple swim meets against Nassau while coaching in Richmond!

To this day I continue to compete at local/national swim meets and in open water events, where I have bumped into other Nassau alums.

But Nassau wouldn’t have been the Nassau we knew and loved without our Head Lemming Bruce. We have Bruce Nystrom and his family to thank for cultivating the environment in which we all thrived. Returning year after year, Bruce gave our lives the structure and continuity in which to learn safely with a strong support of family. Nassau RIP.

Val Van Horn Pate
Formerly of Gulick Road and Stuart Road West