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 perfect day for Time Trials. The weather is warm, but not hot. The sky is slightly overcast so the sun isn’t shining in anyone’s eyes. This is a big day for both swimmers and parents. For the swimmers, some of them haven’t raced since last season; some are with a new age group and wondering how they’ll do; and for others, it’s their first race ever or in a new event. For the parents, it’s our own trial. Time Trials run like a meet. We get to see if the planning we’ve put in during the winter actually works.
I love that at Daleview the swimmers support each other, even when – and sometimes especially when – they are competing against each other. This morning I’m uplifted by the number and enthusiasm of swimmers I see cheering on friends, of timers rooting for kids in their lanes, and of coaches encouraging the kids. Each event, each heat, each lane is important.
During the 50 free for girls 9-10, one swimmer is a full length behind the others. In true Daleview fashion, kids cheer her on. She finishes the race; we’re all a bit relieved she actually makes it. When she finally touches the wall, the entire crowd erupts into shouts of congratulations.
After she gets out the water, she tells her friend, “I did it. I’ve never swum a 50 and I did it!” She’s beaming.
A friend and I stand at the edge of the pool. It’s an hour into the meet and we’re at the girls 11-12 50 free. Her daughter is swimming in lane 5; mine in 3.
The girls dive in and we cheer. I yell my daughter’s name. I notice her stroke looks a little different, but I don’t think much of it. As I cheer, someone walks up and taps me on the shoulder. It’s my daughter.
“Mom. Who are you cheering for?” she asks.
I’m slightly confused. I’m watching her swim, yet she’s standing here. Then it hits me – I’ve been cheering for the wrong kid.
The woman next to me bursts out laughing. The stroke judge looks back and smirks.
“I already swam. I was in the last heat. Did you see it?” I consider telling her I did, but I figure I can’t recover from this one. How many times already this morning have I heard other parents admit they missed their kids swim? It happens. More often than we parents would like to confess.
“Nope. I thought that was you,” I point to the girl in lane 3. “Guess she isn’t.” She laughs.
We both cheer for the girl in the water.
Later, while I’m telling other parents about my cheering mishap, one says, “There’s no such thing as cheering for the wrong kid.”
It’s the 9-10 boys fly. One swimmer is working hard, but looks to be struggling. He looks like he’s about to give up. He starts to falter. A timer in his lane yells, “Come on! You can do it!” Other people start to chime in, yelling encouragement. He recovers and makes it to the end of the lane without DQ-ing.
“Nice recovery! Good work there,” the timer praises him.
As he gets out of the water, he tells the swimmer in the next lane, “Whoa! Did you see that? I almost choked. But I didn’t. I did it.”
Today was a success – for everyone. The meet ran smoothly. The swimmers generally seemed happy, even the kids who didn’t make the time they were hoping for or for the ones who DQ-ed.
Time Trials is when the team comes together and swims as a team. For this one morning, all the swimmers count: the slow ones who barely make it across the pool, the fast ones who are set to break records this season. Many of the kids won’t make an A meet this season. But, on this morning, they are all important. There are no points to earn against another team. No ribbons are awarded. For this one morning, this one day, everyone matters.
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.