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Notre Dame Academy to add boys’ and girls’ swimming

By Rich Palzewic
Sports Editor

GREEN BAY – After a two-year process, Notre Dame Academy is finally ready to add boys’ and girls’ swimming as a Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) sport.

Notre Dame Athletic Director Matt Koenig said there were many hurdles along the way.

Matt Koenig

“It’s been a long and difficult process, but I’m excited about it,” he said. “Ever since I came here, I noticed we didn’t have a swimming team. Mainly, the complications arise from not having our own pool. Forming a co-op team is also an option, but many times, schools don’t want to jump into that situation.”

Koenig said two years ago, he received correspondence from Steve Schendt, the aquatics manager at the Kroc Center.

Schendt was interested in helping get a swimming team established at Notre Dame.

“That’s when it all started,” Koenig said. “The main problem was, the Kroc Center’s pool is busy, just like other facilities. Just because Steve is the aquatics manager at the Kroc, that doesn’t give him free rein to open lanes for whoever he wants.”

Koenig said after talks with Schendt, he surveyed students at Notre Dame inquiring about adding girls’ lacrosse, cheerleading, wrestling and swimming.

“That survey went out before our spring break (in March 2020),” he said. “A week later, COVID-19 hit. Everything was put on the backburner.”

Late in 2020, with COVID-19 dying down somewhat, Koenig said he began actively searching for a pool again.

“I called YMCAs, Ashwaubenon and Green Bay Southwest high schools, St. Norbert College and UW-Green Bay,” he said. “Part of the problem is, the WIAA won’t allow two different schools to practice at the same time in the same pool – it’s considered a scrimmage.”

Koenig said he reached out to Schendt again a few months ago, and things had changed.

“Steve said a club team using the Kroc for swimming was disbanding,” he said. “It opened up practice time five days a week for us to start a team. I didn’t want to jump too far into getting a team started without first having a pool.”

After adding up all the financial numbers – bussing, pool rental, etc. – Koenig got the okay from the Notre Dame administration to move forward.

“I don’t know what kind of turnout there will be, but I’m willing to give it a try,” he said. “We have to get it started somehow.”

Koenig said there are a few ways to look at it going forward.

“We only have a verbal contract with the Kroc Center right now,” he said. “We haven’t officially signed anything. (The Kroc) is giving me a few months to figure things out and see if we have the interest. At some point, we do have to look at the (financial) numbers. We’ll be on the hook for at least two lanes, and that can be expensive – is that worth it for four or five kids? In my opinion, yes.”

Koenig said the school isn’t in a position to fully fund the entire team.

“We’ll get some financial help from the school, obviously, but we’ll also have to rely on fundraising,” he said. “We also can’t dump (the whole cost) on the parents. Budgets are set for next year, so we’ll need to get creative to fund this.”

Koenig said the least of his concerns during the process was who to compete against.

“I’ve talked to some schools, and many are willing to let us slide into a dual meet,” he said. “I’m not anticipating the numbers we have disrupting things too much. I’ll piece the schedule together after getting things going.”

An informational meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 21, in the Notre Dame commons for anyone interested.

“Anybody can attend – students currently attending Notre Dame, incoming eighth-graders to Notre Dame and sixth- through eighth-graders in our GRACE (Green Bay Area Catholic Education) schools,” Koenig said.

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