Following the Feet is an 8-week summer series on SwimSwam. Written by Stina Oakes, the series follows the eight weeks of summer club season at Silver Spring, Maryland’s Daleview Swim Club, whose team mascot is the “Feet.” In relaying stories from the Feet’s season, Oakes hopes to capture the beautiful and unique connection each swimmer has to his or her local pool and club.
It’s a brisk 58 degrees out. The 8 and unders are shivering; it’s unclear if it’s the cold or their nerves that are making them shake. Probably a bit of both. The older, more seasoned swimmers are pretending they aren’t cold or too excited, but when I look closely I can see them pulling their towels tighter around their bodies or rubbing their hands up and down their arms. They’re huddling in groups, greeting friends and chatting animatedly. If I’m being honest, I’m just as excited to start the summer season as they are.
Everywhere there is black and gold – the team colors – and feet – the team mascot. Sweatshirts, flannel pants, t-shirts, bathing suits, shorts, hats, towels. If it’s black and gold and has feet on it, it’s worn with pride. One t-shirt reads, “We are the Feet and we couldn’t be prouder.” Sounds about right.
Off to the side of all the action, an 11 year-old new-to-the-team swimmer sits in a deck chair, wrapped up in her towel. She looks a bit apprehensive. Not scared, but not quite sure what she’s gotten herself into.
Seeing this new girl sitting there, I remember my daughter’s first swim practice five years ago and how nervous she was. The swimming didn’t intimidate her, but the prospect of finding friends did. Now she counts down the days to the pool opening. Some of her closest friends are her swim friends.
Scanning the deck I see a small group of girls the new swimmer’s age. I walk to the group of three giggling girls and tell them, “Hey, there’s someone I want you to meet. She’s new to the team and your age.”
“Awesome! Can we meet her? Where is she?”
As they walk across the deck to meet the girl, one excitedly says, “I hope we can be her friends!”
“Practice is starting. Swimmers come to the pool,” the head coach calls out. Begrudgingly, the swimmers leave their towels on lawn chairs and pull on their caps and goggles. Despite their protests about the cold, there’s lots of giggling and yelling as they hop into the water. Soon the pool is filled with feet, arms, churning water, and bobbing caps. For the untrained eye, it appears to be chaos.
Parents sit beside the pool, curled up in sweatshirts and cradling coffee mugs. While the kids swim, they catch up with pool friends they haven’t seen since last summer. They all laugh about how their kids didn’t want to get up early to come to the pool and complained about the cold. Yet, once they turned into the parking lot and saw the pool, their faces lit up.
“I remember when I was on swim team, we hated the first practice. It was so cold and we knew it was going to be hard because we had all been out of the water for so long. Everyone here seems happy. They all seem like they want to be here. It is always like this?”
“Yup, it is. It’s Daleview,” I answer, smiling.
The 8 and unders are the first ones out of the water. They emerge and race to their parents who are holding their towels open for them. They are all shivering even more than before and some have blue lips. Yet, they’re all smiling.
A mom wraps her daughter up in a towel and asks, “So, how was your first practice?”
A shaking, blue-lipped girl answers, “Great! I LOVE Daleview.”
“Yeah, what do you love about it?” her mom asks.
At the end of practice, the pool is still again. There are a few stragglers who hang around, but most swimmers and their families have left for the next activity of the day on this chilly Saturday morning the weekend of Memorial Day.
I am ready and excited for the next eight weeks of craziness of arranging carpools, chatting with friends through practices, BBQs, Friday night pep rallies, early Saturday morning meets, and late Wednesday night meets. Sure, I’ll complain about waking up early to drive to competing pools, wearing black and yellow clothes (who looks good in yellow?), and figuring out how to balance swim season with everything else in my life. But, it’s swim season at Daleview. The best eight weeks of the year.
About the Author
Stina Oakes is a member of Daleview Swim Club where she swims with the Masters group. She is new to swimming, having only learned how in the past year. She is the mother of two swimmers (ages 12 and 8) and one future swimmer (age 2). She is a Professorial Lecturer in the Writing Program at American University.