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.
Part 1 – Opening Day
Part 2 – It’s Worth It
Part 3 – Time Trials
Part 4 – First “A” Meet
Part 5 – Big Foot, Little Foot
Part 6 – Not Defeated
The senior swimmer stands on the lifeguard chair with his arms stretched out to the side. Lined up at the deep end of the pool, the rest of the team watches him intently. A silence engulfs the pool. Kids have stopped chattering. Even parents quiet their conversations and turn to watch the senior perched above them all.
Slowly, he raises his arms and claps his hands in the air above his head. As he claps, so do all the swimmers. He claps again, faster this time, and then again, and again. They follow his lead, clapping faster and faster until it’s a mass of crazy clapping and cheering.
He dives in and swims down the lane. Just after him in the next lane, another swimmer dives in and swims. Just after her in the next lane, another swimmer dives in. The team continues to dive in, one after the other, lane by lane, like dominoes falling into the water. The water becomes a mass of churning white water punctuated with arms, legs, and caps. Everyone swims in the Daleview Domino: the Bigs, Middles, and Littles; the fast and the slow.
At the shallow end the swimmers circle up and begin to cheer. Some of the older ones put younger kids on their shoulders. They splash the water and scream: “Gimme a ‘D,’ Gimme an ‘A,’” and on until they end, “What’s that spell? DALEVIEW! Who’s going to kick your butts today? DALEVIEW!”
NOTE: You can check out the Daleview Domino in the video below, courtesy of Tim Male:
The predicted afternoon thundershowers have held off. The humid air is dripping. It’s a Wednesday night in early July—a perfect evening for a B meet.
On the pool house balcony the Daleview band assembles. This year the band is made up of swimmers playing flute, clarinet, saxophone, drums, and violin. The group performs one song a season, “The Star Spangled Banner,” and only at home meets. Most teams in our league have one person sing or play the anthem. At Daleview, even the requisite playing of the anthem is a communal effort.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please turn your attention to the flag at the front of the pool house for the national anthem.”
The band begins to play. This version features a saxophone solo. Around the pool people stand and listen. A parent from the visiting team whispers, “Wow. I love your band. This is great!”
At the deep end of the pool the preteamers wiggle as they hold their kickboards. They’re the first event of the meet – the 25 meter kickboard race.
When the anthem ends, the whistle blows and the preteamers jump in the water. They splash and jostle as they figure out how to hold their kickboards. Most of them sort it out and are off.
One five-year-old girl flounders. She’s made it about a third of the way down the pool when she starts to panic. She stops kicking and looks around furiously for help. A preteam Swim Buddy, a Big, sees her and dives in. The older girl swims to her, holds her kickboard, and repositions her. Guiding her along, they swim to the end of the pool with the timers and the rest of the team cheering them on.
“Nine-ten girls swimming backstroke! Where are you? Nine-ten girls! We need you over here now! Time to line-up!” the Clerk of Course yells as she corrals the swimmers. She organizes them into the lines of chairs, assigning lanes and heats as she goes. A group of chatty, wandering girls transforms into an organized line of swimmers ready to race.
“Over here! I’m over here! Pass me the ball!” screams an eight-and-under boy who has his goggles perched on his head, ready to swim whenever he’s called. A group of boys play a game that looks like a combination of kickball, monkey-in-the-middle, and soccer. The mix of Bigs and Littles in their speedos and jammers highlights the contrasts between the two groups; the Bigs are tall and muscular, some twice the size of the Littles, who are small and bony. As they play, it’s clear that despite the age and size differences, they’re all completely into the game, happy to be playing. Outside the confines of Daleview, these kids wouldn’t hang out, the disparities between them all are too big to overcome in the real world. But here, they’re ignored; they’re just kids playing a game between races.
“Hey, didn’t they just call eleven-twelve boys for breast?” someone says.
“Oops, that’s me. Gotta go,” answers a boy as he tosses the ball away.
At B meets, kids are swimming against their own times, not necessarily against one another. Some are hoping for a faster time in order to make an A meet, but most are swimming just to race.
At B meets, kids swim because it’s fun. They epitomize the words of the late Ken Fain, a former Daleview parent, that at our pool we “see the child in every swimmer and the swimmer in every child.”
At B meets, the atmosphere is a big party with some racing mixed in. Kids run in the field, eat food from the famous Daleview Diner, hang out with friends, cheer one another on, and swim their races.
At B meets, there are no points. While there is a competing team, no one wins or loses. A former announcer used to say at the end of each B meet, “And the final score is: a tie!”
At B meets, we’re reminded that at our pool there aren’t “A meet” or “B meet” swimmers, but rather Daleview swimmers.
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.