Swim club on the brink of extinction

November 27, 2018

The Santa Fe-based Northern Aquatic Club will shut down after 10 years because of acrimony with the city government, its head coach said.

The perennially competitive Otters squad, which had some 50 members ranging in age from 5 to 17, fell victim to back-and-forth disputes between coaches and staff at the city’s Salvador Perez Recreation Complex, where the team practiced.

Coach Miguel Castillo, 61, said he felt it was in the best interest of his health to hang up his whistle, citing long-simmering tension with city staff members that occasionally bubbled over, as it did in one particularly heated incident this month.

Castillo and another coach were ejected by staff from the pool area for what staff said was rude and belligerent behavior. Staff called the police. No charges were filed, but Castillo said he felt pool workers overreacted.

The troubles stem at least partly from Santa Fe’s lack of swim space, with different clubs, scholastic teams and individual lap-swimmers vying for limited lanes with limited hours.

“We just can’t do this anymore,” Castillo said. “This has been a real passion. It’s something I love. … I love coaching swimming more than anything in the whole world that I’ve ever done.”

City staff members say they hope to meet with Castillo and other representatives to try to come to some sort of agreement about how to move forward with the swim club intact.

“We’ve set up a meeting to express our concerns and hope for a reasonable resolution for the sake of the children,” said John Muñoz, the city’s parks and recreation director. “We’re willing to work through our concerns and issues. We’re looking at it from the kids’ perspective. That’s the most important thing.”

“The intent is, ‘Let’s work together. Where do you think we could’ve done things differently or better? And here are our concerns and needs as well,’ ” Muñoz added. “I think we can resolve it or at least have some sort of understanding or consensus.”

Castillo sounded less optimistic.

“At this point, it’s final,” he said, referring to the end of the team.

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