Swim Mom Musings: The Why of Summer Swim

by SwimSwam 14

June 29th, 2015 Club, Lifestyle, News

Courtesy of Donna Hale (Swim Mom)

We are headed directly into the heart of summer swim season. In many areas of the country, Fairfax County included, it’s a seven to eight week marathon of pasta dinners, pep rallies, occasional parents who take it way too seriously and coaches who might cringe at the thought of one more developmental meet, IM Carnival, or ice cream social. Yes, I am the mom of a year round swimmer. And I, too, have been guilty of wondering, “Why does the summer swim marathon matter?” It takes so many hours, countless volunteers, and Saturday mornings spent in caravans throughout communities in America.

Today I was reminded as I saw Hannah, now 16, interacting with a young girl just starting out. Here’s what I remembered, which somehow got lost in the chase for cuts, thoughts of college scholarships, and grueling long course workouts. Here is why it matters.

This is where a love of this sport is often fostered. For most kids it begins in the summer. For Hannah it was at four years old. Terrific teens at a small community pool taught her to dive, reach for the wall and fly like a bird. In her first race she was timid, afraid to dive in. A terrific young coach got out, jumped in with her, and she easily made it across that pool for the lollipop, a teen superstar right by her side. A love affair began.

It’s where great sportsmanship is learned from the very start. Her very first coaches taught her that you never end a race without shaking the hand of your opponent. This lesson has remained with her even during the most intense year round competitions. It’s a race ritual as important as the famous Phelps stretch. Since most of our kids will not be Olympians, isn’t it great that they can learn this trait early on for any sport they choose to pursue?

You learn how to give something your all. You learn how to swim your heart out, maybe come up short and lose with dignity. You also learn how to spring from pool deck, race your heart out, and win with grace. Both are equally important. They teach character. All sports teach character. But none do it better than swimming, where a fingertip touch can be the difference between first and second.

You get your very first taste of swimming as a team. When the meet is on the line and all that stands between your summer team and that last relay, the cheers are deafening. It’s about more than you. Often you’re going against your fiercest competitors and your closest friends. You learn how to race for something more than yourself. It’s a lesson you carry forth to year round swimming, NCAA, and beyond.

Credit: Scott Ripley

Credit: Scott Ripley

Summer swimming builds community. In a world where we all race from place to place and rush through lives at a rapid pace, a summer meet slows us down, if only for a few hours. You get to know your neighbors well when you spend three hours timing a Saturday morning meet, eating yet another homemade pasta dinner, or meeting for lunch after the morning meet.

Memories are made, not just for the kids, but parents as well. In the blink of an eye and one day it will be gone. You will miss it. Most of all, as your child stands side by side with kids who were them ten years earlier, they learn the most important lesson of all: You’re a competitive swimmer. And it’s in these moments that it’s your turn to show them the pure joy of swimming – to pass it on.

Donna Hale has been a swim mom for 12 years as well as executive of several nonprofit organizations. She volunteers regularly for her daughter Hannah’s USA Team The Potomac Marlins, summer team Burke Station Destroyers, and Lake Braddock Swim and Dive Bruins.

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Michael Scarn
5 years ago

Jee Donna, I wonder who these parents are that sometimes take it too far?

6 years ago

Love our swimmers and both of my daughter’s teams. Kids who swim are a different breed. Parents must commit to help their teams. It’s a great vibe.

Pat Munyan
7 years ago

I was a year-round swim parent for 14 years and now I’ve spent the last 8 as a swimming grandparent. The very swimmers that I cheered for during those 14 years are now the parents/timers/coaches. And the swimmers that I now cheer for are the children of those parents/timers/coaches. And with whom do I stand and cheer at the summer meets? The same parents that I cheered/timed with in the my first swimming stint. Even as grandparents, we still can’t stay away from what is the greatest sport ever.

Jen Cort
7 years ago

Love it!
You might be a swim parent if…
• You know that “practicing for divisionals” is not a math activity
• You know “rock the block” is not a new dance routine
• You know “DQ” does not only refer to a yummy ice cream shop
• You have more pool towels in your house than bath towels and sheets combined
• You have ever thought “I love my kid but am tired of seeing him at 4:30 am”
• You make your kids pasta for breakfast
• Any car (no matter how old) which doesn’t smell like chlorine ‘still has that new car smell’
• You have spent your… Read more »

7 years ago

I would add that there is great family time with kids of multiple ages on the same team from the same family. The hours are long and grueling for parents but at least you’re at pools and outside and together (!) – there are much worse sports venues for youth athletics. Furthermore swimming is a lifelong skill that serves you for life. Can we really all say that about lacrosse?

jen v
7 years ago

This is where it all began for me! My brother is two years older than me, and the 8 & Under girls needed an extra for a relay…so my swim career started at age 6. I have fond memories of Saturday morning meets at Hill Farm pool, eating jello out of the box and running around with friends. Great coaches, fun meets that laid a foundation–I ended up swimming in high school, D I college and still do open water swims today! Love it–from humble beginnings came a lifelong sport.

Tony Farrell
7 years ago

Great article! You hit it right on the head–and with sympathy to swim parents. Here’s my alternate take on summer swim from a monthly column I write here in Richmond, VA. Hey, it’s worth a laugh: http://richmondfamilymagazine.com/article/swim-team-for-dummies/

Angela Virtudazo
7 years ago

Great article! I am on the board of our summer recreational league and we have 37 teams ranging in size from 15 to 200+ swimmers and divers. Summer swim is the ideal sport for families. Where else can 5 year olds and 18 year olds compete on the same team?

Our littlest swimmers start as “kickboarders” and are the very first event at every meet. Our older swimmers are in the water with them as they race to the end on their kickboards with the crowd screaming for them. A love for swimming is born with that event!

Swimming allows every athlete to compete at their own level. There is a heat for everyone. There are no “bench… Read more »