Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham
Through 14 years of my kids swimming, it wasn’t all about best times, or making it to the next level. What kept my kids in the game was the team itself. The team was their family, social life and the place where they hung out daily with their best friends.
With 45 plus years of history, our club has many traditions. New team traditions have popped up and some have faded away.
Here are 11 team traditions that made swimming fun and kept my kids excited about the sport:
The JO Goodie Bag and Send-Off Party
When my kids were newbies—in the 8 and unders—they looked up to older swimmers in awe. Parents and swimmers cheered and applauded kids going off to JOs, Sectionals, Juniors and beyond as goodie bags were handed out during a simple on-deck party. My kids wanted to get their own goodie bags someday. Eventually they did.
T-Shirts and Caps
It was a big deal for my kids to finally earn championship t-shirts and caps. The first cap earned was the “JO Team” cap. The next step was a cap with their name on it. I’ll never forget my daughter’s smile when she wore the “Wickham” cap for the first time.
100 100’s on New Year’s Eve
One of my kids’ age group coaches initiated this grueling set as a yearly tradition. The swimmers bonded and earned bragging rights for surviving it.
Short Course Season Pot Luck
To celebrate the end of short course season, we’d have a pot luck. The coaches talked about team successes and achievements, the board held a quick parent meeting and we enjoyed some great family recipes. Swimmers sat at tables together, away from their parents, enjoying more time to hang out.
My kids made a mad dash to the pool early Friday afternoons because dryland was ultimate frisbee. The head coach and an assistant coach played along with the senior group and they kept the same teams week after week. They loved it!
Medals and Ribbons Ceremony
When the kids were young, the age-group coach gathered her swimmers and handed out ribbons and medals. Each young swimmer stood proudly by as their coach read off the awards they had earned the weekend before.
End-of-Summer Beach Party
After the final meet of the summer, which used to be near the beach, we’d have a party with an ice cream sundae bar. Lots of parents would be ready to head home, but swimmers would beg them to spend a few hours with their teammates at the beach.
Annual Awards Banquet
Year-end video, annual swimmer awards and senior recognition are just a few of the things I enjoy about the annual banquet. There’s a lot of effort put in by the coaches, and a chance for the entire team to recognize the team’s accomplishments for the year.
One coach mailed letters with a simple contract for our swimmers to sign early in the fall. The excitement of receiving an invitation to move up—along with their friends—was truly special.
Spaghetti Dinner Night
Every month on a rotating basis, a family would host a spaghetti or pizza dinner for their swimmer’s group. They’d watch movies, play Wii or Hide and Go Seek. If the coach dropped by, it was a big deal.
We had one family with a portable big screen and projector who initiated the annual Dive-In Movie. The kids brought air mattresses and inner tubes and floated together as they watched The Princess Bride, Finding Nemo, or other classics.
Looking at my list, it seems a wonder my kids found time to practice. Trust me, they put in hours and hours of hard work, too. Of course, success and achievement were driving factors in keeping them in the sport. The team traditions added fun, plus created memories and friendships they’ll keep forever.
What are your favorite team traditions that keep your kids excited about swimming?
Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.