Enthusiasm for athletics is akin to "Mom" and
"apple pie" in Fairfield County. Thus it is not surprising that, in
the spring of 1949, several swimming and diving enthusiasts gathered to discuss
the formation of a league that would sponsor fun, friendly swimming and diving
competitions to be held during the summer season.
Bill Campbell, then head swim coach of the Stamford Yacht
Club, and Rocky Point member Bill Smith spearheaded the effort by inviting
representatives from Fairfield County clubs to a meeting that was held at the
Stamford Yacht Club. Eight clubs were represented at the meeting: Stamford Yacht
Club, Brooklawn Country Club, Fairfield Beach Club, Riverside Yacht Club, Rocky
Point Beach Club, Shore & Country Club, Tokeneke Club, and the Wee Burn
Beach Club. The end result was the formation of the "Fairfield County
Swimming League" (a.k.a. "FCSL") and the election of Bill
Campbell as its first president. The first dual meet schedule was set for the
summer of 1949, with the first County Championship meet scheduled to be held
At that time, Stamford Yacht Club was the only club with a
facility that would be appropriate for a championship meet: a real swimming pool
with six lanes (100 feet in length) and a one-meter diving board. Rocky Point
had a pool of sorts -- with a rock and seaweed bottom -- but, the other founding
clubs had no pools at all and held their dual meets in Long Island Sound.
Milbrook held meets in a pond until their first pool was built in 1959.
For years the "Counties" meet was the highlight of
the summer season for swimming and diving competitors and fans. It was not at
all unusual for families to plan their summer vacations around the meet
schedule, often cheering on the deck with engines running and bicycles strapped
atop the family station wagon in the parking lot or along the neighboring
roadside of the host club. "Off to catch the ferry!" was often offered
as the reason a child was being shuffled into the rear seat of a packed station
wagon, with towels wrapped snuggly around the dripping, but happy, little
swimmer. After all, he had "made it to Counties"!
Stamford Yacht Club won the championship in the inaugural
year of the championship meet, with Rocky Point claiming second place and Wee
Burn Beach Club taking third place. Stamford Yacht Club kept the title for the
next five years, allowing Rocky Point a moment of glory in 1955, but SYC
reclaimed the title the next year until Rocky Point snatched it back in 1958.
The New Canaan Field Club held the trophy once in 1959. But, since then, several
power houses have emerged, with amazingly long runs at holding on tightly to the
FCSL championship title. The Milbrook Club, who hosted its home meets in a pond
until their pool was completed in 1959, was the keeper of the trophy for most of
the 1960's (1960-68, to be exact), after which it was The Lake Club's
responsibility to polish the trophy for the 1969 through 1971 seasons. Newfield
Swim Club was the team to beat from 1972 through 1979. But, The Lake Club did
just that and housed the coveted prize for the entire decade of the 1980's and
into the 1990's, unsuspecting that Roxbury Swim Club had forged a special
niche for it to call home, and it resided there comfortably from 1991 until
2003. The 2003 County Championship meet was a "nail biter" to say the
least. At the end of the freestyle relay, the crowd looked to body language for
the answer: who won? Rocky? Roxbury, again? then, all of a sudden,
Terry Lowe was in the pool! There was no doubt! Rocky Point ended its 35-year
hiatus and captured the County Championship crown!
League membership grew slowly at first, reaching eleven clubs
on the roster by 1955. In the 1950's, when membership was still small, the
FCSL enhanced its schedule with outside meets, including championship
challenge-matches against the Westchester Swimming League (won 2, lost 2) and
"telephone meets" against leagues in places like Columbus, Ohio (won
it easily), Detroit (lost by 2 points), Philadelphia (lost by 20), and Los
Angeles ("They creamed us!"). These telephone meets featured
simultaneous starts (three swimmers per league) by firing a gun over an open
telephone circuit, comparing times, and awarding matched sets of special ribbons
at both locations. The ribbons were printed in Jackson Smith's basement, and a
good time was had by all!
Membership expanded to 26 clubs by 1960, as a result of the
great club and pool building boom of the late 1950's. When the League began,
all events were 25's except for the 16 & Under 50 freestyle. IM's were
not a part of the original format, and there were 6 & Under events across
the pool, as well as at the beginning of the meet before the lane ropes (not
lane lines!) were put up in the pool. As the League grew, so did the program:
competitive divisions were formed; new events were added; consolation heats were
added to the championship meet (1970); diving age groups were increased from two
to three, and then to four in 1977. Three-meter diving was added as an official
event in the Championships in 1974. In 1985, Water Polo was introduced to the
FCSL team offerings, with the first age-group championship series held in 1988.League
dues, which started out as $50 per club in 1949, have increased over the years
to accommodate the level of sophistication necessary to adapt to the technology
and reality of our world in the 21st century. And, it is widely
believed, League members are still having fun!
And, "fun" is a key word here.
"Fun," rather than competition, has been the objective of the League
from its inception. Fun for the children, fun for their families, and even fun
for the coaches and staff of the member clubs. Each dual meet has traditionally
been a social event between clubs, often ending with a cook-out or social
gathering of some sort. The competition is meant to be the means to the end:
fun. But, the League's objectives also include providing an opportunity to
encourage the development of skills, and a sense of self-worth and pride,
coupled with life lessons in the importance of team work and the ability to win
and to lose with grace and dignity.
"Rules don't make things right; people make things
right." But, rules are a "necessary evil" and the League has
adapted as its base the rules and safety standards established by the U.S.
Swimming, U.S. Diving and U.S. Water Polo organizations and the Department of
Health and Public Safety of the State of Connecticut. The FCSL is fortunate to
have the right people on board as well. Training opportunities for FCSL
coaches and referees have been established to enable them to perform their roles
with a level of professionalism that has served the members well over the years.
The League has enjoyed the support of parents on the deck as volunteers and as
positive role models for our children. The Fairfield County Swimming League has,
and always has had, every reason to be proud of its family of competitors, their
fans, and their coaches.
Written by Susan Guthrie Ceresa
June 2002 - August 2004
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As 31 FCSL clubs approach the starting blocks for the next season, with new procedures
for social distancing and sanitizing with virtual meets, we are still endevoring to support aquatics fun.
The FCSL Board of Governors expresses our appreciation to all FCSL supporters for their extraordinary efforts on behalf of our children.