The Summer Swimming Life
This post comes to us today from David East, a 13-year summer swim team veteran.
We asked David if he might write up a bit about the experience of being part of a summer swim team, and he said he was happy to! So without further ado...
There are lots of ways for kids to spend their summer vacation. Many of age to get a summer jobs, some go to summer camp, and a good chunk do...not much at all. For me, summer vacation from the age of 5 to 18 meant one thing - swim team. For 13 years, I spent the majority of my summer time at Southampton Recreation Association and swam for the team. Southampton is part of the James River Aquatic Club, and competes with 19 other area pools. I can't imagine a better way to have spent my summers, and I hope to encourage any kids and parents thinking of getting involved in a summer swim team to do so - and to explain what that involves.
A rec club swim team such as Southampton's is a pretty sizable affair, as it covers ages as young as 5 and as old as 18. Depending on the pool size, a given swim team could range from as few as 20 to hundreds of kids. The team is divided into age divisions: Mites (8 and under), Midgets (9-10), Juniors (11-12), Intermediates (13-14), and Seniors (15-18). Each team generally has one head coach and 2-4 assistant coaches (usually themselves graduates of the team).
The time commitment for the swimmer and their family is as big or small as you like. Practices are typically held twice a day for each age group, and swimmers are encouraged to come to at least one a day (and many come to both). Meets, or competitions between 2 teams, are held once a week in the afternoon/evening. Meets are great fun for the swimmers, and quite an event for the teams. They can last (very much dependent on the team sizes) as long as 8+ hours all told - though the requirement for any 1 swimmer is much much less. Swimmers will have usually 1-4 events a meet, and compete in heats based on previous times (or the coach's estimate if they have none). There are 6 meets a summer, with 1 Championship meet between all 20 teams (a big 2 day event itself).
While these are competing teams, it is by no means exclusive to talented swimmers. On the contrary, all skill levels are welcome (and in face needed). This is the significant difference in summer rec teams and year-round competitive organizations like USA Swimming (Poseidon, Nova, etc).
That being said, JRAC swimmers are passionate about their teams! It's no rare occurrence to see the young Mites and Midgets crowded at the end of one of their team's Seniors during a race, cheering them on excitedly. Teams often pick a theme for the summer to play on as added fun an motivation, and the getups at the championship meet can be pretty wild.
Its every great cliche thing you can say about being part of a team - I developed in a sport I love, was passionate about my team, made friends for life, and had somewhere I called home as readily as the house I lived in. The inclusiveness of summer swimming is something I didn't appreciate until it was behind me - but the ability of any swimmer or any skill level, age, or gender to be a true part of the team is really a special thing.
Let me put it this way. This is the kind of stuff your child will write their college essay on about how it was an integral part of their development and made them a better, more well-rounded person. This is the kind of stuff you want your kids involved in. Trust me.