Inspiration In and Out of the Pool

More than just your average swim team, Race Swami prepares young athletes for life beyond the pool. Race Swami began when Matt Finnigan saw few affordable, year-round swim opportunities for young people serious about the sport. This sparked the idea for Matt and his wife, Mary Chris Finnigan, to start Race Swami, a swim program for lower income children and youth with a bigger picture in mind: to help improve the lives of their swimmers both in and out of the pool.

Within two years, Race Swami had about 20-30 swimmers participating on the team. Partnering with the Northwest Recreation Center and Steiner Aquatic Center on the west side of Salt Lake was crucial to having sufficient lane space and spreading the word about the program to community members. In 2019, Race Swami has grown to serve approximately 100 kids annually through their seven training groups. 

How does Race Swami support their swimmers financially? Through the Salt Lake City Youth Athletic Grant, Race Swami provides scholarships for qualifying participants in financial need. The Salt Lake City Youth Athletic Grant is a partnership between Salt Lake City and the Community Foundation of Utah to award grants to youth athletic organizations - like Race Swami - that benefit low-income athletes residing within Salt Lake City Council Districts. Since 2015, Race Swami has been awarded over $30,000 through this grant program. These funds can be used to cover monthly dues (which are already lower than other local teams), equipment the swimmers need including fins, goggles, snorkels, and swim bags, and tech suits, which can cost upwards of $100 - a hefty expense for many participating families.

In addition to providing financial support, Race Swami emphasizes the importance of personal growth, commitment to the team, and parent involvement. One Rose Park local on the team worked diligently to reach her goal of qualifying for a big meet. She was required to have a tech suit to participate in the upcoming competition, but the suit was unaffordable for her family. Matt saw this athlete work hard, be a great teammate, and actively engage her parents with the team. By meeting those requirements, she earned a scholarship with the Salt Lake City Youth Athletic Grant funds and received the tech suit for her big meet.

Another way Race Swami fosters personal growth in the athletes is through their enrichment program. Free tutoring, summer book clubs, and a speaker series help participants improve academically and find inspiration from local community members. The speaker series brings local leaders and experts on relevant topics to the teammates, presenting opportunities to be more engaged in their community and learn about potential future careers. To supplement the tutoring program, Race Swami recently held a six-week ACT prep course for their juniors that boosted the test scores of all participants. These enrichment programs have been a cornerstone for several college-bound athletes who had not considered the collegiate path before joining Race Swami.

Matt knows Race Swami’s greatest impact is that it provides a place for the kids to be with their friends, doing something they love, while learning and growing together. “We have a kid that is in great shape and was a team leader. Before, he wasn’t doing great in middle school, but now he’s maintaining a 3.2 GPA and is doing well in other aspects of life. He is even taking piano lessons! I think his coaches instilled in him to reach for your best not just in the pool, but in everything you do outside of the pool.”

If you are interested in supporting Race Swami, the team is always in need of more community members to be tutors, mentors, or speakers as part of the enrichment program. Visit their website to learn more.

Create your own story