Yeah, funny you say that as I think the club really has developed my kick. I could barely move kicking either. We do so much kicking that I now get a good amount of propulsion if I choose to switch it on. It's very energy intensive though, like switching on an afterburner. In an open water race it might be a good tool to break a draft to get someone off my toes or to try to bridge across to someone in front.
I would never push myself as hard as I do in the club environment. I certainly wouldn't pick up a kickboard and kick 400m before. I always had a hard time kicking from the hip but now I've got that technique it also helps me with my more relaxed 2 beat kick.
I know what you mean about the group. I also train with local athletics club for my running. It can be demoralising sometimes when you hang around the fastest locals in training. But when I go to do a triathlon it seems to pay off as it's a sport where being consistently good but not excellent at any one thing is positive on the results. The one trick ponies don't tend to do too well.
I would love to be a good pool swimmer one day and compete at meets. It probably is my favourite discipline out of all I train for. I wish we had a high school and college sports program in the UK like in the US. Maybe I would have found my love for swimming earlier in life.