When Tirian Chang was a baby he would float around in his mother’s arms at the Madison Area YMCA pool when he took “Mommy and Me” swim classes with his mother, Paige. Imagine the thrill when the Mariners swim team member, now 8, butterflied his way to 1st place at the N.J.Y.M.C.A. 8 & Under State Championships hosted by the Somerset Hills YMCA Swim Team at Raritan Valley Community College. He also placed 6th in the 50-yard Freestyle and 8th in the 100-yard Individual Medley. A modest Tirian says he’s just having fun and enjoys being with his friends at practices and meets.

All the Chang kids learned to swim at the Y. Even their mom, Paige, took swimming lessons at the Y a few years ago—by the same teacher, Carmen, who taught her three sons, and currently, her 4-year-old daughter, Cordelia.

“Growing up, I was not comfortable with swimming, so I knew that, for safety, I wanted for my kids to be at a point of being able to swim laps,” says Paige, noting that her son, Atticus, 12, is also on the Mariners swim team. Paige adds that part of what she likes about the Y’s aquatics program is that even though her son, Ransom, 10, is not on the swim team, he can still practice his skills since the pool is available for lap swim time. It’s also an opportunity for Paige to practice her swimming and spend time with him.

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“The Chang family is a staple at the Y,” says Madison Area YMCA Director of Competitive Aquatics Jon Siegel. “On any given day, they might all be in the pool swimming as a family. Paige and her husband, Ming, are generous volunteers with their time, too. They’re always working for the team, whether it’s a pizza party, timing at a meet, officiating a meet or marshalling swimmers,” he says.

“The kids' lives and mine, now that I am swimming as well, are richer because of learning how to swim at the Y,” says Paige, who is also a Y swim official.

The YMCA competitive swimming program wouldn’t be possible without a large commitment on the part of volunteers as the program uses only volunteer swim officials—and it’s not easy for volunteers to become Y swim officials. Certification involves attending a 4-hour course, that culminates in a written test, followed by apprenticing at five meets. Candidates then must take another 4-hour class and another written test.

The families whose children are on the swim team are a close-knit group. Many of the kids have grown up through the Y’s aquatics programming starting with “Mommy & Me” and classes, progressing through group lessons and onto the Mariners team.

Turning to Jon’s work with the Mariners, Paige says, “Jon is a great coach. He lets the kids join the team for fun or to be more competitive. It’s so important for kids to be comfortable and to have fun—it’s mentally healthy for them. Jon provides a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.”

Tirian and the Mariners are headed to a meet in North Carolina at the end of March. We’re looking forward to hearing great things about the team’s accomplishments!