After all, the township had a municipal pool, located on 89th Street below West Side Avenue, which had served the youngsters for years. But there was never an official swimming program, complete with instructions and a competitive team.
"I thought it was important to have a program for the youngsters," Coleman said. "They needed to learn the basics of swimming and the safety involved in swimming."
Coleman thought it would be a good thing to offer to the youngsters of the town, and Mayor Nicholas Sacco agreed.
The North Bergen Gators, the name of the team, recently completed their fourth season, and it's safe to say that the season was a success and the program is definitely here to stay.
The Gators, under the tutelage of head coaches Jairis Galvez and Tim Letavish, finished fourth in the 12-team New Jersey Pool Managers Association League, featuring some of the best swimming programs in Hudson and Bergen County.
It marked the best finish the Gators had in their three years of competition. During their first season in 1997, the team only swam in exhibition events.
Want proof how far the team has come in such a short time? Well, when the Gators began, they only had 25 participants. This summer, 90 youngsters, ages five through 18, participated in the program.
"We have kids of all ages and they all work together," Coleman said. "The older kids watch the little ones and take care of them. Especially when we have meets, because everything is happening so quickly."
Here's more proof. Two years ago, North Bergen lost to Bayonne, which has offered a highly regarded year-round swimming program for ages, by more than 100 points. Last year, Bayonne managed to swim past the Gators, but only by a two-point margin.
And in July, the tides were definitely turned, as the Gators defeated Bayonne by the slim margin of three points. "The kids were all excited," Coleman said. "It was a sign that we had made a lot of progress, thanks to the work of the two coaches, who put a lot of time and effort into getting the kids ready. We don't have swimming all year, so we put the team together in June and then begin the meets in July. There isn't a lot of time, basically two weeks to get the team together."
The Gators were buoyed this season by the performances of a pair of brothers. Coleman cited the efforts of Juan and Hans Aponte, along with Javier and Ernesto Cuervas.
"They all did so well for us this year," Coleman said. "They broke team records and set the tone for everyone else."
Coleman said that there were people who thought she was "crazy," when she proposed the idea four years ago, but not any more.
"Everyone thinks it's a great thing, a great program," Coleman said. "The mayor was there for the meet against Bayonne and he said he was impressed with the way we've come along. He couldn't believe the difference." As for Coleman, who organized the Gators' team appreciation awards dinner last week, she just gets enjoyment out of watching the kids.
"You see the little kids come and they don't know how to swim at first," Coleman said. "Then, they get used to it and gain more confidence. And when they get a medal or ribbon, they have such a feeling of accomplishment. I love seeing those smiles. That's what keeps me going."