I was never on a swim team growing up. I lived in Florida.
I realize that statement sounds nonsensical, but the two things are related. Pretty much everyone in my neighborhood had their own pool. It wasn’t a big deal. We all swam, just not in straight lines and we weren’t racing.
I don’t mean to suggest that we didn’t have swim teams in Florida, I am sure we did. I just wasn’t aware of it. At least one girl I went to school with was a competitive swimmer. She tried out for the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. I am sure she was on some sort of swim team, but I don’t know where they swam or who they swam against.
Now that I live in the D.C. suburbs it seems like everybody is on a swim team. Our neighborhood pool is crazy with the swim team. I think there are something like 160 kids in our club. I know I live in a large neighborhood, but WOW. 160 is a lot of swimming kids.
This is the first year my kids are on the big swim team. The last two years they have been on the “mini” team. On the mini team all of the coaches are in middle school and the only meet is a Lollipop Meet. The aptly named event is where each kid swims one pool length (they can use anything, fins, goggles, a kick board, whatever) and then they get a lollipop.
This year is different. This year we are all supposed to know what is going on. The girls wear swim caps and they are learning the butterfly and my daughter is terrified. The whole thing is intimidating. We went to time trials and all 160 kids were there and it seemed like 158 of them knew what they were doing. We were completely lost. It felt like that dream where you go to take your final and you realized that you skipped the class all semester. My daughter wouldn’t even put her feet in the water.
When we showed up the next Monday to practice my daughter cried “Mommy, I can’t do it.” This time it was slightly less intimidating. The only kids there were the 8 and unders, but it still seemed like everyone except us knew what was going on. I had never seen so many seven year olds that knew how to swim backstroke. My kids don’t even know how to swim freestyle. They can both swim well enough to go off of the diving board and make it safely to the edge without trouble and they can swim all day if they are just playing around and having fun, but this was different. My son jumped right in and did his best, but my eight year old girl was worried that she would embarrass herself in front of the other kids.
Here is the thing about swim team, or at least our swim team, they really care. One of the other moms came over and tried to talk her into it “You can do it! It is fun!” when that didn’t work this mom went and got her daughter who is in 6th grade. This 6th grader, Perry, who beats the boys when she swims backstroke, took my daughter and said “I was scared the first time too.” Then she took my eight year old and introduced her to the other older kids who also told my daughter stories of how they were nervous when they started swim team, but how fun it was and how nobody makes fun of anyone and everyone tried to help.
The big kids got her to swim.
A week later, my daughter is still apprehensive, but she swims every day. I couldn’t convince her to get into the pool, but her team could.
You cannot convince me that team sports aren’t important. Swim team is a beautiful marriage of individual and team sport. I don’t care if my kids don’t sign up for one meet this year, I think that they will still get something important from swim team. I really do want them to know how to swim all of the strokes, but what they are getting from this experience is so much more. I think I understand why so many kids get involved. It is about the team.
It is also about Friday Fun Day. On Fridays the get doughnuts and secret buddy gifts. Fridays rule.
I kind of wish we had Friday Fun Days in Florida.
By now, I am sure you have noticed that I am partnered with P&G. The USOC P&G Team USA Youth Sports Fund helps provide access to quality sports programs for kids across the country. You can help P&G fund the Youth Sports Fund (see what I did there?) without giving them one cent. There are two ways you can help.
1. Following Thank You, Mom on Twitter: In honor of Olympic Trials, for every new @thankyoumom follower, P&G will donate $1 to the P&G Team USA Youth Sports Fund, up to $50,000.
2. Redeeming P&G brandSAVER coupons: In the Sunday July 1st paper, P&G is releasing their famous brandSAVER packed with coupons on some of our most popular brands. And for every coupon redeemed a donation will be made to the P&G Team USA Youth Sports Fund.
Easy! You were probably going to buy toothpaste and shampoo anyway. Why not make it count?
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Disclaimer: I am being compensated for my work with Procter & Gamble but these words and these stories are my own.