A Dip in the Pool

Merritt Clubs: Towson. (Merritt Clubs)
Merritt Clubs: Towson. (Merritt Clubs)

Despite January’s chill, now is a good time to start considering which swim camps and clubs might be best for your child or children.

Padonia Park Club, 12006 Jenifer Road, Cockeysville

Padonia Park Club CEO Kathy Angstadt reports that her location offers six pools.

“Three of which are in our ‘children’s zone,’” Angstadt said. This particular area being for children 6 and under; the other three pools for swimmers of all ages.

The swim club is the oldest component of Padonia Park Club, which was founded in 1960. In 1972, it added the Lakeside Day Camp, which  resides on the rest of the 29.9 acre piece of Padonia’s property.

What is it that makes the swim club at Padonia so  appealing?

“I think it’s the countryside setting,” said Angstadt. “And yet we’re only minutes away from I-83. That’s an asset.”

Angstadt went on to say that Padonia is also “strong on our club events; we have events for little people up to adults, and also families.”

The swim season starts the Saturday before Memorial Day and lasts through Labor Day, with the campus itself generally open from mid-June to mid- or late August.

Meadowbrook Aquatic & Fitness Center, 5700  Cottonworth Ave., Baltimore

Opening in 1930 as a swim club before burgeoning into a year-long facility with the construction of an indoor pool in 1995, Meadowbrook offers various membership and seasonal packages for those interested in diving in.

General manager John Cadigan said that what makes his club special is “the volume of water and variety of pools when open.” There are indeed five different pools; the facility also boasts one of the few 50-meter indoor/outdoor complexes in the state for truly Olympic-sized refreshing fun.

The estate is family-friendly, Cadigan said, adding that there is a separate pool for children outside, along with playgrounds, tennis courts (for both children and adults) and many activities for children whether it’s the summer swim team, summer swim lessons or summer camp that runs for 5 to 8 year olds called Camp Meadowbrook.

Camp Meadowbrook is three-hour day camp that runs weekly through the summer months (mostly June and July) from 9 a.m. to noon with a snack provided during the lesson portion.

The Michael Phelps Swim School

Operating out of Meadowbrook, the Michael Phelps Swim School is a year-round swim school for children and adults.

“We also have a small program for children on the autism spectrum,” Cathy Bennett, director of the school, said, adding there’s also classes for special needs children and adults scattered through the week.

“We base our programs on how people learn and grow,” said Bennett, who has been teaching swimming lessons at Meadowbrook since she was 13.

Now 65, Bennett is proud to have helped Michael Phelps first learn how to swim when he was at the school — then named the North Baltimore Swim School — and Phelps was a mere 4 years old.

Phelps changed the name to what it is today in 2008 and still stays involved on a consultant and marketing level, helping to expand the brand and “how we can bring swimming to more people,” Bennett said.

The Michael Phelps Swim School is not just for Meadowbrook members, though a participant must sign up for at least a month at a time.

“We want people to be super comfortable with how they are in the water,” Bennett said.

Merritt Clubs (throughout city)

Regional programs and kids club manager Maria Miller has been with Merritt Clubs for 12 years but has operated in her current position for the past “six or seven.”

During this time, she’s helped to make the kids clubs “a safe, fun place, where parents can drop off their children and enjoy their workout” at the gym facilities Merritt provides throughout the city.

In addition to offering camps during the summer and kids club location as drop-off spots for parents working out, Merritt additionally provides swim programs for kids ages 4 to 5 (a Mini Splashers Camp) and a Junior Lifeguard Camp.

The latter teaches various skills to campers such as water safety and equipment safety (ages 8 to 13).

“Our swim camps are huge,” Miller said, adding that there are other specialized camps to choose from through Merritt. “They’re great camps. We’re really just big on making a difference in children’s lives.”

Columbia  Association,  6310 Hillside Court, Suite 100, Columbia

The Columbia Association will be celebrating its 50th  anniversary this summer,  according to aquatics director Marty Oltmanns, who has held his position for the past six months after operating as the assistant aquatics director for seven years. He has also worked as a lifeguard through CA for the better part of the past two decades.

CA offers 23 outdoor pools and five indoor pools, Oltmanns reported. “What makes us unique is the number of pools and different amenities at each location,” he said.

Many pools are enhanced with ADA-approved access wading pools. Others include “splash pads” which Oltmanns said are flat water cement pads covered in play toys for “zero depth play,” which allows kids to run around and play on.

One of the highlights,  according to Oltmanns, is the Columbia Neighborhood Swim League. Each pool has a different team representing a different village; the teams compete over the summer (for children up to age 18 who can swim at least one lap).

CA also rents pools for other camps in addition to those the association hosts.


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