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    About Us

    he mission of our team is to promote an interest in competitive swimming/diving and to develop the fullest potential of the swimmer/diver. We encourage good sportsmanship, enjoyment, individual integrity, self-discipline and team play. Swimming/Diving is one of the few sports that is both an individual and a team sport.

    Please feel free to e-mail coaches at:

    About Our Coaches...

    Emily Santowski

    Coach Santowski joined the Berkmar Swim & Dive Coaching Staff in 2015.  She has served as a head coach in the Atlanta Swim League for 18 years. She has coached numerous teams throughout her coaching career. She is a certified special education teacher with her masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction as well. Currently, she teaches an ASD 3 class at Berkmar High School. In addition to teaching, she previously was the head coach of the Alpharetta High School swim team , Windward swim team, and an age group coach at  Dynamo Swim Club.  

    She extremely excited about helping your child expand their understanding of the great sport of SWIMMING/DIVING! As their coach, her first emphasis will be on what she calls FUNdamentals. She will work with your child to further develop their fundamental skills and hopefully we will have a lot of FUN learning together.  She believes that kids gain confidence and a love for the sport through positive feedback from parents, coaches, and other athletes . Skill level develops at different rates for athletes, but effort and having fun can always be achieved. She tries to always provide positive feedback for effort. She believes in trying to make practices as fun and entertaining for the athletes as possible, while providing the practice and instruction that they need to improve. She has discovered that athletes expect and respond to well structured and organized practices. Competition is an important element of any sport and as athletes grow they naturally become more competitive. She doesn't talk to the athletes about "needing to win a meet" or "how important it is that we win". She feels her role and that of the parents is helping the athletes develop the ability to deal with competition in a healthy way. Effort and attitude is heroics. If we can achieve that, then chances are we'll win the number of meets that we are capable of winning.

    Melinda Heaton   

    Coach Melinda Heaton was a member of the Beaver Hills Swim Team beginning at the age of 6 years old. She was a member of their swim team for 12 years and helped coach during her high school years.  During High School she was a member of the Berkmar High Swim Team and Assistant Coach for the Huntington Hills Swim Team. During those years she excelled in making the All Gwinnett County Championship team, and qualified for State Finals as a High School swimmer. This was accomplished by hard work, dedication, and developing strong fundamental skills. She encourages everyone to do their best, set goals and give 100% during practice and swim meets.  She is excited to be coming back to her Alma-mater.

    Catherine Sakaris     

    Coach Sakaris moved to Gwinnett County in 1999 in order to begin her teaching career as a special education teacher. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Special Education, a master’s degree in Elementary Reading and Literacy, and an education specialist degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Currently, she works in the special education department at the Instructional Support Center. Coach Sakaris grew up in the water and began swimming competitively at age 4. At age 12, she began swimming year-round and continued to swim year round through the majority of high school. After she graduated high school, Coach Sakaris began her coaching career as an assistant swim coach for a summer swim team in her home town. She remained the assistant coach for three years, and then became the head coach prior to moving to Georgia. While in Georgia, Coach Sakaris has taught private lessons to emerging swimmers during the summer months and has worked as a swim instructor at Swim Atlanta. She is currently the head coach for the Maple Ridge Manta Rays during the summer months. 

    Tim Vander Wood  

    Coach Vander Wood swam for the Greenville YMCA and Wade Hampton High School while growing up in Greenville SC, and has been a Master’s swimmer for the past fifteen years, once qualifying for Master’s Nationals in the fifty freestyle for his age group. Coach Vander Wood is also a swim instructor in the Swim Atlanta Swim School. While his daughter was swimming year-round, Coach Vander Wood was a stroke and turn judge and starter for USA Swimming. With his wife Melanie, he ran the Rivermist neighborhood swim team for ten years, and served on the Board of Directors of the Gwinnett County Swim League for ten years, three years as President.

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