Why Swim Team

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.


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  1. As a newly swim team parent I say yes, to all of this. We also have a seriously hard core pool and yes, it is all a little much. But my son loves it so much and I am not cut out to be a swim team parent.


  2. wait wait wait. I am in Florida, where is this neighborhood with all the pools???@!!# NOBODY has pools here!!! It doesn’t make a lick of sense!!

    I wanted to be on the swim team in high school but my parents wouldn’t let me join. :( I’m still bitter. My husband was on at least 2 swim teams during school. He was able to choose what high school he went to and he choose one just because it has a swim team. Also he does really cool dives at the pool and all the teenagers think he is totally cool.

  3. I loved being on the swim team growing up! I always ended up swimming the fly because I was one of the only ones who could do it without DQing. But my best strokes were back and breast (which I didn’t start swimming competitively until I was 11ish). Great memories. I want to get my kids involved in it as well but I’m with Jodi; not sure I’m cut out to be a swim-team parent!

  4. My 11yo joined swim team for the first time this year, mostly because all of his friends are on swim team. They’ve also been swimming since they were 6. Will could barely keep himself above water at age 6, and is still a pretty poor swimmer. We were frank with him and told him he’d probably never swim an A meet in his life (he’s just starting too late), but he still gets there at 7:45 every morning and swims his heart out. I’m so proud of him (and his friends for encouraging him ), and after the first 2 weeks of practice, he managed to shave 14 seconds off his freestyle time! His time is still more than double his friends’, but he’s killing it in personal records, and that’s what counts.

  5. I wish we had Friday Fun Day as adults…

  6. I grew up on swim teach. But I also grew up here. I ran track and cross country as well. They all had that same feel. I like how you described it as a merger of individual and team sport.

  7. This nearly (nearly) had me tearing up. I *Love* that not only did another mom try to encourage your girl but then the “big kids” did also. Good for you for giving your kids this experience and good for your kids for doing it. (Says the grown up who did no team sports as a kid & is sad for it).

  8. I know she swam for our HS team. Yes. We had a HS swim team.

    So, soccer and swim team are highly recommended, right? I’m taking notes for when Stella gets to that age. Especially if her schools don’t offer a music or sports program. I hate that so many schools are having to cut those two programs because of money. They’re just as important if you ask me.

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