The smell of chlorine, the sound of kids shrieking, whistles blowing, parents murmuring words of encouragement, a slight breeze with possible rain clouds overhead……yes, summer swim team began this week. Summer league is where most collegiate swimmers began their swimming careers.
My youngest son began summer league when he was three but wouldn’t get in the pool at the beginning of the following summer. We moved during the winter and the pool was cold and unfamiliar, plus he had fallen out of an inner tube and gotten stuck underneath it in a lazy river the month before – so he sat on the edge and cried. On the first day of practice, the head coach told me he wasn’t ready for summer league and he could go into lessons for two weeks. At that time, if he could swim the length of the pool unassisted, he could join the team. He was determined to make this goal and he worked hard every day to overcome his fear and discomfort. I believe he was motivated more by the fact that the coach cooked chocolate chip pancakes on Fridays than anything else, but he still learned the value of working to achieve your goals. At the time, if you had told me that he would eventually be swimming in college, I wouldn’t have believed it. The determination he learned through summer swimming helped get him there.
Despite all of its rigors and demands, you cannot beat the experience of summer swim team. The friendships formed and strengthened, the meets with sugary treats, the personal best ribbons, a high five from the coach, learning to finally swim breaststroke legally – these are all a regular part of summer league.
The practice schedule is hard to juggle until school is out, then it becomes the focus of the day. Afternoons are often spent with picnics by the pool with swim team friends or a movie with teammates to stay out of the sun. Weekly pasta pump-ups and other social activities add to the fun.
Summer swim team is a relaxed introduction to the sport of swimming. Many kids go on to become year-round swimmers and even collegiate swimmers while others only swim in the summer. Few other sports allow kids to continue to participate at a recreational level with their friends while also swimming at a competitive level year-round. This gives year-round swimmers the opportunity to act as mentors, coaches, and role models to younger swimmers. When my boys were young, they admired the year-round swimmers for their dedication to the sport and their performance. My son still remembers the “buddy” he was assigned when he was four and how we had to look all over town to find goggles just like his!
It is often difficult for year-round swimmers to find time to participate in extra curricular activities or to hold jobs, but summer league offers this opportunity. Many of them first volunteer or work as junior coaches in middle school or early high school then go on to coach teams later in high school and even in college. They help to generate interest in swimming as the younger kids want to emulate them when they are older. The older swimmers benefit from this as well because it increases their confidence and gives them a feeling of satisfaction by giving back to their community.
It is also a chance for the year-round swimmers to “shine” as they may score points or swim on the A relay in summer league, even when they don’t get that opportunity at year-round meets.
Our kids are under so much pressure with school and swimming that it is nice to see them have fun during summer swim team in a more relaxed atmosphere.
Uh oh….did I just hear thunder?
Michelle Lombana is committed to helping parents like her whose children want to swim in college. When she’s not working on Conference Championship Meet spreadsheets, she can be found at www.collegeswimmingguide.com.
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