The New Canaan YMCA's competitive swim teams recently had their Big Buddy Practice where senior and experienced swimmers are paired with younger teammates and together learn the value of dedication, leadership and friendship.

"I have been lucky to work with both groups of swimmers all season, so I have a good feel for who will work well together," swim coach Erin Ritz said.

Once the groups head to the pool, they have half an hour to work on anything they'd like; the four competitive strokes, flip turns, starts, etc.

"It is great to see what a small amount of time and attention from an older swimmer can mean to the younger ones," she said. "It is activities such as this that keep the sport fun. It gives them something to strive for, to see how far the sport can take them."

The coaches agree that the experience is humbling for the senior swimmers.

"To watch the smiling faces of the eight-and-under as they learn and have fun with their buddy means more than any race or time," said Mike Ferraro, competitive swim director. This year, Buddy Practice had 32 senior swimmers volunteer to mentor 23 beginners.

As the swim program continues to grow, Ferraro hopes to see Buddy Practice, now in its second year, continued.

"When I envision what the New Canaan YMCA and Caimans represent, an activity like Buddy Practice fits it perfectly," he said.

The New Canaan YMCA Caimans Swim Team provides a supportive, instructive and fun environment for swimmers of all abilities to grow, according to a release. Under an experienced coaching staff, the Caimans provide competitive and non-competitive programs for all ages, from developing strokes to competing nationally -- all while gaining confidence and learning the importance of teamwork.

For more information, contact Mike Ferraro at 203-966-4528, ext. 137, or