Whether you come down to the Beach Series to support your family, friends, or to give yourself a slap on the back, there are a group of incredible attendees who we should all be applauding.
The Seal Team, under the guidance and support of their team coach, Sarah O’ Dwyer, founder and Head Coach of Seal Team Open Water Special Needs Swimmers, are a group of four young men; Tate, Troy, Josh and Shazeel, with special needs. They compete each week in the Beach Series, as well as other demanding sports competitions, so trust us when we say they’re likely to give you some tough competition in the water.

From Sunday afternoon ocean swims to Saturday morning pool training with Sarah (and almost every day in-between) these boys really put in the hours. Their determination is especially praise-worthy when you consider some of them, like Tate, have Soto Syndrome (Cerebral Gigantism) which results in weak muscle tone, low social skills and developmental delay, and Troy who has Microcephaly. His brain will not fully develop so he struggles with developmental and cognitive delays as well as vision and hearing problems. When you consider just how hard it is for these guys to comprehend what the rest of us would consider simple instructions, you start to grasp what a big achievement it is for them to attend events as demanding as the Beach Series. They have both cognitive and physical disabilities so Sarah really puts in the time and effort to get them into a position to compete. But don’t go easy on this daring quartet, they’re turning into an amazing group of capable swimmers.

In fact, since partaking in events such as the Beach Series, which we must remember are against dozens of contestants without special needs, Sarah has seen significant improvements in all areas of the boy’s lives. With increased confidence, improved social interaction, and better communication being just some of the beneficial changes she’s witnessed.

Previously, without the Seal Team, none of these lads would’ve taken part in any sporting competitions other than those for individuals with special needs, but by providing the opportunity to take part in mainstream events, Sarah has seen her entire team go from strength to strength. Open Water is not part of the Special Olympics, so swimming mainstream is their only way of getting competition experience. Special Olympics athletes only compete against special Olympic Athletes, so the Seal Team really are breaking down barriers.

It’s awesome that events such as the Beach Series are all-inclusive, so no one gets held back or refused the chance to do something they love. Not only do the guys now function better in social situations, every member has aspirations to face bigger and harder swimming challenges.

Josh, who only started open water swimming in October, is now independently competing in 500 metre ocean swims at the Beach Series, and will move to one kilometre for the 2019 season. Team mate, Shazeel, having started last April is moving up to 1.5 kilometres this year, and Troy and Tate who have both been swimming for four years, intend to up their distances and continue to take part in various nationwide sport events.

Aside from enjoying the Beach Series for its competitive side, and the opportunity to get out and improve their swimming each week, all members of the Seal Team agree that it provides a fantastic way to have fun and meet new people. Something that has proven difficult in the past – and something we all tend to take for granted.

Those who encourage us to turn up and try our best each week, and its guys like the Seal Team; four incredible men, and equally impressive coach, Sarah, that we should all be inspired by.

And the biggest goal of the year is just around the corner. Sarah aims to take the boys over to the Samoa Swim Series this August. If you’d like to show your support, please bring along a gold coin donation to this week’s event.

Keep up the good work, boys. We look forward to seeing you at many more Beach Series events.


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