CARROLLWOOD — The swim club at Carrollwood Country Club had gone from its peak in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, to a club that was down to its last few members.
Jim Kelly was the director of the program during a time when it went from more than 150 swimmers to about 30 and hit rock bottom. He stayed around and is helping rebuild the once-proud and dominant club into a relevant competitor again.
Today, Kelly is the head coach and president of the Carrollwood Village swim team that trains at the Carrollwood Country Club. Kelly has been around the team since 1972. The team is stocked with many swimmers who have college aspirations. The kids train all season and Kelly said that the program is really only for competitive swimmers now that it is back on its feet.
“It used to be easy to get swimmers to come here,” Kelly said. “It’s harder now. You have to be a member of the club and a lot of people think that must be too expensive. People think it costs a fortune to be at the Carrollwood Country Club, but it really isn’t. It’s a good deal.”
Kelly grew up in the Chicago area but moved to Tampa, where he started coaching and ended up at Carrollwood Country Club. The club changed its name and management to Emerald Greens before reverting to Carrollwood Country Club. The swim team, one of the best in the area, fell into decline until new management bought the club and the swim team started to revive.
“We have started the rebound,” Kelly said. “We have kids going from here to colleges all over the country. A lot of the kids go to college, then come back here to Carrollwood to train during the off season. It’s a full-time thing for them.”
The Carrollwood swim program is a nonprofit organization and separate from the club itself. Kelly said that there is a relationship with the club but that the swim club is private. Team members have to belong to the club, but only on a limited basis and golf membership is not an issue.
He said the Carrollwood swim team is getting better quickly. The young kids that stayed with the program through the hard times are getting older and better and the teenage teams are really starting to show some promise. Team members are at college and the younger kids are starting to make an impact.
“We like to let anyone participate but we let them know that we are out to compete,” Kelly said. “Some of the kids might not want to compete, but if we see they have talent, we try to urge them on.”
The Carrollwood Village swim team has had many ups and downs, but now is on the road back to its former glory.
For further information on joining the Carrollwood Village swim team, call (813) 961-1368.