Oconomowoc YMCA Pabst Farms swim program ends, parents upset

Oconomowoc YMCA at Pabst Farms Pirhanas Competitive Swim Team was cut, and upset parents said they planned to protest at the YMCA's annual meeting at The Club at Lac La Belle on Wednesday night, Aug. 2.

Some say the cut could impact WIAA standings or scholarship chances.

The Y said it was a financial decision, but some parents said they think something more was behind it. 

For 15-year-old Jason Brown, swimming is everything. He was shocked Monday when he opened an email from the executive director of the YMCA at Pabst Farms informing members of the Piranhas Competitive Swim Team that the program was ending that same day.

"That will affect our WIAA times, how we place at state," said Brown. "That could affect our entire high schools."

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The YMCA cited "a steady decline in revenue." Leaders told parents the program is forecasted to lose $27,500 in 2023 and can’t go on.

Cassie Maduscha’s twins were on the team. She believes the decision was made to cut the program after parents voiced concerns about a camera.

"Kids up on starting blocks are bending over and puts them in intimate positions for cameras to be taking pictures," said Maduscha.

She said parents recently complained when a surveillance camera was installed at the pool. 

A spokeswoman for the YMCA told FOX6 the camera was put up for insurance purposes and had nothing to do with cutting the team.

"Can we please talk about this?" said Maduscha. "Can we be partners for the best of children?"

Whatever the reason, Brown said the decision puts him in a "sink or swim" situation. He’s lost valuable practice time and bonds with coaches and teammates that he can’t replace.

"It’s something I want to do as I grow up," said Brown. "It means a lot to me."

The Y’s executive director declined FOX6's request for an interview.

In a statement, she said members would receive a refund and the decision allows the YMCA to focus on other programs that meet the needs of the community.

Statement from YMCA

"The YMCA at Pabst Farms is grateful to Coach Guy and his staff for the dedication they have shown the Piranhas Competitive Swim Team program and its participants. We are also grateful to the swimmers and families who remained committed to the program, demonstrating their support for each other and advancing their mastery of the sport.

Unfortunately, following a thorough needs assessment and identifying that the program was forecasted to lose $27,500 in 2023, the YMCA at Pabst Farms leadership team and Board of Managers made the difficult decision to discontinue the Piranhas program at the conclusion of the long course season - effective July 31, 2023. While this timing feels abrupt it allows families the largest window of time if they choose to seek alternative team arrangements. The program has seen a steady decline in revenue over the past decade, with the last net positive year being 2017. Rather than continuing to incur losses, this decision allows the YMCA at Pabst Farms to focus on programs that best meet the needs of our overall community and membership base.

Swim team families will receive refunds for any bank drafts already set up in Team Unify.

Those with questions may contact Jessica Mieling, YMCA at Pabst Farms Executive Director, via email at jmieling@glcymca.org.

Why now?

Timing for this announcement was determined by the completion of the needs assessment as well as by the swim season schedule. The long course season has just concluded while the short course season will not begin for several weeks, creating a window of time for interested families to seek out alternate team arrangements.

Why wasn’t there an opportunity to fundraise for the program or seek sponsors?

The YMCA’s fundraising is limited to support scholarships via the annual campaign and auction as well as specific impact areas of childcare, spiritual development and special needs programming."