After almost 20 years of nurturing Beijing’s Dragon Fire Swim Team, founder Kevin Hua is expanding the team not only beyond the pool, but beyond the city limits. Starting August 27, Dragon Fire Shanghai will take its first dive into the pools of the British International School (BIS) in Shanghai. Though the expansion is a big step, Hua is still taking time to nurture the Dragon Fire’s Beijing programs. In addition to the school year swim practices, Dragon Fire is developing a kids’ gymnastics program slated to begin this October.
This is not the first dry-land activity that Dragon Fire has organized; the Dragon Fire Softball League meets every Sunday from 9am to 12 noon at the Asia Games Center. Aquatically inclined grown-up are also welcome to join adult swim training every Saturday at the Western Academy of Beijing (WAB) from 9:30am to 10:30am.
Currently in the middle of the summer sessions at the Canadian International School of Beijing (CISB), Dragon Fire holds practices during the school year at WAB, CISB, and Beijing Rego British School. The 2012-2013 season starts Monday, September 3 at Beijing Rego British School.
Hua founded Dragon Fire in 1994, and the first season started with only 20 kids. Without a consistent place for the team to swim, Hua held practices in the pools of various local villas. The team started to truly grow as parental support helped catapult the club into international school pools. “Now we have 300 kids,” says Hua, “and 14 instructors.” Before he was a coach, Hua was a competitive swimmer. He started swimming at 5 years old and swam at Beijing Sports University. “I trained all day like four times per day. I lived in the swimming pool,” says Hua, adding that though he ranked well, it wasn’t quite high enough to swim professionally in China.
Dragon Fire holds monthly in-house swimming competitions among its more than 300 swimmers, and team members also attend international competitions in Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Singapore. Despite the competitions, “Dragon Fire is like a big family,” says Hua, and is active in caring about the greater community. “We raised money for local schools, and we raised about RMB 100,000 for the Sichuan earthquake.”
Dragon Fire offers baby swimming lessons for children who are 3 years old, and lessons for older kids are grouped by both age and ability. Hua explains that instead of the Chinese training method, which emphasizes frequent, hard training at a young age, at Dragon Fire “we focus on technique. After [a child is]13 years old we do more lap training and drills.” Instructors are an international bunch, and Hua says some of them are national champions in their home countries. All are certified instructors and are excellent at interacting with their swimmers.
Prices for joining depend on how many times a week a child dives into the pool. Once-a-week rates are RMB 120 per dip, and go as low as RMB 80 per session for those who attend four or five times per week.
For more information on Dragon Fire, email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit their website, or call 136 0106 4534.
Photo courtesy of Dragon Fire Swim Team.