MADISON, NJ - From the outside looking in, the Madison Area YMCA Mariners Swim Team is comprised of girls and boys ages six through high school age that offers year-round opportunities for competitive swimming in both YMCA and USA Swimming competitions as well as seasonal instructional clinics for aspiring competitive athletes. However, the purpose of the team goes beyond competition. At the Y, our goal is youth development, by offering the competitive swimmer a fun and challenging program, along with the Y’s Core Values of caring, honest, respect and responsibility, which will aid them in developing a blueprint to succeed in many aspects of life.   

The Mariners coaching staff stresses teamwork and individual self-improvement as each swimmer's primary goal. Jon Siegel, more well known as Coach Jon, is currently in his second tenure with the Madison Area YMCA Mariners as Competitive Aquatics Director and Head Coach. Jon returned to the Madison Area YMCA as Director of Competitive Aquatics during the Fall of 2013. Previously, Jon had been Director of Competitive Aquatics at the YMCA of Montclair for more than nine years, and prior to that, he spent eight years as Head Coach at the Madison Area YMCA. Coach Jon is a role model and encourages each team member to strive to reach their fullest potential.  

Madison Area YMCA Mariner parent and Board Member Catherine Foucher was excited to share about her son’s experience with the Mariners:  

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On the Mariners, there is room for everyone. Some athletes reach Nationals every summer and go on to swim in college, while others are there to exercise, be with friends, and have fun in the water. This inclusivity is distinctive in the world of competitive swimming, and it perfectly reflects the Y’s special role in our community. This is my son’s seventh year on the Mariners. After hundreds of thousands of yards and countless hours staring at that black line on the bottom of the pool, swimming is still a joy for him. How amazing! As he told me, “The coaches know that not everyone will be an Olympian. They make swimming fun and not a job. On other teams it’s all about your times. But the Mariners want you to try your best and if you fail, it’s ok. It’s an activity, not your whole life.” 

As the Madison Area YMCA builds for the future with our Family Center Expansion project, we are taking time to reflect on the history of the Mariners Swim Team. In the Summer of 1996 when Coach Jon was first coaching the Mariners, the team was comprised of about a dozen kids. There were no open practice lanes in the Y’s fully utilized four lane pool, and although many kids were willing to join the team, they found other teams with “home” pools. Over the years, with the support of local universities opening their pools to the Mariners, the team has grown to more than 180 swimmers. Siegel shared, “We have a really strong team. However, we are often limited on space due to having to use other’s pool time. When the pandemic hit this past spring, we were limited with our options. With the help of local outdoor partner pools, we have been able to persevere in a limited capacity. The sooner the Mariners have a home, the more stable the future of the team will be.”  

Part of the future of the Mariners relies on the Y’s expanded two-pool Aquatics Center as part of the Capital Expansion. Many of the swimmers have been waiting years to come “home” to the Family Center at 111 Kings Road to swim.  

Catherine Foucher added, “In an individual sport it would be easy to feel like you are just practicing in the same pool with other people, but the Mariners is truly a team. The friendships my son has made are the deepest and most significant in his life. We are so grateful for the culture that Coach Jon has created, and cannot wait to open our new pool and allow many more kids to experience this incredible team.” 

Siegel said, “The resilience of the Mariners Swim Team is admirable. The families and athletes’ commitment to a value-based program has kept them with us despite many hurdles. While we have never been stronger, we need more stability. Having the eight-lane pool and new Aquatics Center, will give us that.” Coach Jon added, “Our purpose is so much bigger than our new pool. The Y is eager to bring the Mariners ‘home’ to the Family Center- a place where swim practices and meets can take place, but also memories and history can continue to be made.” 

The Y’s Family Center Expansion project continues to progress on schedule and is expected to be completed by mid-year 2021. Madison Area YMCA Chairman of the Board Scot Guempel shared:  

Right now, we have an exciting opportunity for donors to help us reach our next goal. Offered by an anonymous donor, our Homestretch Gift Challenge is to reach $8.6M in our Capital Campaign by December 31. When we reach that benchmark anytime yet this year, our donor will contribute a most generous gift of $400K to help achieve a new high point of $9M raised in the Campaign! We started this effort three years ago and our donors have been with us through all phases of the project. Right now, we need your generous support, and we hope you will join us in this challenge. We are very excited about the prospects of meeting this challenge. We also realize that even after this challenge is met, we have more work to do as we need to raise another $1.5 million to renovate and refurbish the existing pool. We need the help of the entire community as we complete this exciting project that will benefit our wonderful community for decades to come.   

To learn more about our Family Center Expansion, the Homestretch Gift Challenge and to make a donation to help us bring the Mariners home, as we build for the future of our community, visit www.madisonareaymca.org/homestretch.   

As a mission-driven charitable organization and community wellness center, the Madison Area YMCA is dedicated to nurturing the potential of our youth, providing a safe space for teens, improving the community’s health and well-being, and giving back by providing support to our neighbors.