In recent weeks, you may have seen a new face around the pool decks of our YMCA branches. That new face belongs to Ashleigh Thomas. Thomas is the Y’s new Director of Competitive Aquatics and Head Coach of the JETS Swim Team. Coach Thomas comes to the Y with an extensive swimming background, which has included coaching stints with the Palos Orland Swim Association, Whitney Young Aquatics, and the Lemont Park District, and a decorated career as a swimmer with the United States Air Force Academy.
Coach Ashleigh’s love for swimming began early on in her competitive swimming career. At the early age of eight, she truly began to understand all the components of the water sport and had fun receiving ribbons for competitions. One day while attending her Westmont Swim Club practice, Thomas was introduced to the idea of the service academy; which encompasses the United States Military Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy, and the U.S. Naval Academy.
“I remember one day an older girl on the swim team came in with her uniform and she was in the Air Force Academy–I thought it was so cool,” said Thomas.
It was that moment when Thomas was inspired to set her sights on being accepted into the United States Air Force Academy. After a successful high school swimming career, Thomas was recruited to swim at the United States Air Force Academy. Upon graduating from the Academy, she fulfilled several years of service and later decided to follow her passion for coaching back home to the southwest suburbs of Chicago.
After moving home, Thomas coached at Whitney Young Aquatics and the Lemont Park District. Upon learning of the JETS opportunity, she knew the time was right to take the next step in her coaching career.
“I knew right away that the Y was a good organization to be a part of and I was happy with how well it aligned with my values, goals, and family,” Coach Thomas explained about her new role at the Y.
While discussing the upcoming season, it was easy to see Thomas’s excitement about the JETS and wonderful swimmers who represent the team. She is looking forward to getting to know the swimmers, their families, and working with the team’s coaching staff to build upon the legacy of the historic swim club. One way she plans to do that is by better integrating the skills of older, more experienced swimmers with those of younger, less experienced swimmers.
“I believe the younger swimmers will work with the older swimmers to learn from them and gain experience, and in return, provide the more experienced swimmers with a leadership role,” said Thomas.
With a new swim season just around the corner, registration for the JETS swim team is underway. One of the area’s most historic youth swimming clubs, the Joliet JETS Swim Team is a year-round competitive swimming program that offers instruction and training for swimmers ages five and up. Area youth who are considering joining the swim team are encouraged to participate in the team’s Fall Swim Clinics. During the clinics, swimmers have the ability to learn new drills, improve their swimming skills and meet members of the JETS family. At the completion of the clinic, swimmers who wish to join the team will be given a group placement along with registration materials.
“Our fall swim clinics are a great way for swimmers to try out our team and it is an opportunity for our coaching staff to evaluate a swimmer’s skill level for practice group placement,” added Coach Thomas.
If a swimmer is not available to attend a swim clinic and would like to be on the JETS Swim Team, parents can schedule a tryout by calling Head Coach Ashleigh Thomas at (815) 267-8601, ext. 227 or Head Age Group Coach Marissa Vallejo at (815) 267-8601, ext. 243.
Fall Swim Clinics
C.W. Avery Family YMCA
Ages five to ten: 6-7 p.m.
Ages 11-18: 7-8 p.m.
Smith Family YMCA
Ages five to 18: 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Galowich Family YMCA
Ages five to 18: 7-8 p.m.
Fall Swim Clinics
Morris Community YMCA (At Morris High School)