Diane Casilli Garcia is a retired public school teacher who enjoys her free time embracing her lifelong passion of synchronized swimming. She loves it so much that she swims regularly and even wrote a children’s book to get kids interested in the sport.
Synchronized swimming—which lately is also called artistic swimming—is a sport where swimmers perform a synchronized choreographed routine accompanied by music. Garcia, 64, has been enchanted by “synchro” swimming since she was a little girl growing up on Staten Island.
A native Staten Islander, Garcia first dipped her toes into the graceful and athletic sport at age 11, when she and her two sisters were members of the former Royal Flamingo Swim Club, which was located on Amboy Road in Bay Terrace.
“That’s where I first learned synchronized swimming,” Garcia, a New Springville resident, said. “My parents wanted us to belong there. That’s where I first caught the bug for synchronized swimming.”
Garcia stuck with the sport. Later, she joined the Hunter College synchronized swim team.
“I didn’t even know they had a pool when I chose that college,” she said. “Not only did they have a pool, they were the only school in the whole city university that had a synchronized swim team. Synchronized swimming has been following me all through my life and falling in my lap.”
She was also part of the Staten Island YMCA, North Shore, team in the 1980s. She was a lifeguard at the South Shore Swim Club when she was 17.
Throughout her successful teaching career, Garcia would often dream about getting back into the swim of things once she had more time. After her retirement in 2013, she joined a synchronized swim team in Manhattan where she participated in U.S. National Masters Swimming competitions. She currently swims once a week at the Staten Island JCC on Manor Road.
Children’s Book About Synchronized Swimming
Still a teacher at heart, Garcia put passion to paper and wrote a children’s book entitled, “Wendy Willow Water Ballerina: A Story About Synchronized Swimming.” The book tells the story of Garcia as a little girl learning—and loving—synchronized swimming at the Flamingo Swim Club. The book is 38 pages and designed for ages 3 and older.
As a teacher, Garcia saw many books over the years about other sports, but very few about synchronized swimming. She wrote the book to share with children not only the fun she was having, but the self-confidence she achieved by participating in the sport. She hopes it plants a seed of interest in their minds.
As a fun added bonus, any kid who’s into style will enjoy the fashion elements of the sport, too, she said.
“Girls who love dance, gymnastics or dressing up would like synchronized swimming,” she said. “You have colorful bathing suits, sequins, hairpieces and makeup. It’s like dancing in the water.”
Speaking of color and art, book includes illustrations done in watercolor by artist—and one of Garcia’s former coaches—Ida Noelle Calumpang.
“Wendy Willow Water Ballerina: A Story About Synchronized Swimming” is available for purchase on Amazon.
Garcia says parents, teachers and others interested in the book can reach out to her directly by email at [email protected]