It hits you like a cold slap in the face at the beginning of May, progresses with a series of bullhorns, team chants, and bug spray applications on a sticky Charlotte night (with a few prayers to the weather gods to hold off thunder just this once so we can just get things over with), then ends right as summer really gets going.
Our summer swim team season is over.
I mean, I’m still trying to scrub off the scribbled “Eat My Bubbles” tattoo on the kids’ backs from the first meet, and now it’s all behind us.
But I can honestly say it was a blast.
I know this is a divisive topic. Some people just love summer swim team leagues. Others would rather have their eyelashes plucked out one at a time than sit through theirs kids’ practice every day to then turn around and sit through four-hour-long meets (I totally get it).
But I’m in the first camp – I love summer swim leagues.
I did as a kid (up until about age 12 when I thought I was too fashionable to wear the racing swimsuits), and I do now. I mean, I hate schlepping the kids to practice everyday, and I don’t love getting eaten alive by those tiny no-see-ums as my sweaty thighs stick to the vinyl chair.
But I do love it (especially now that it’s over).
I love watching my kids get competitive in an individual event. I love seeing them get excited when their relay team wins. I cried real tears when my four-and-a-half year-old “swam” (use that term very loosely) the whole length of the pool by himself without holding the rope during our last meet (major progress since May). And I loved seeing my friend’s daughter make it the whole length without help or tears (also major progress).
I love seeing my daughter care a little more about the social and culinary (chips, Gatorade, and Skittles for dinner? Yes!) aspects of the meets then the actual racing (she might look nothing like me, but she is her mother’s daughter after all).
I love the swim clubs who make homemade hamburgers, hot dogs, and baked goods for concessions. I love the coaches who are so passionate about teaching these kids the rules of the sport (most of whom will probably never swim competitively outside of summer league). I love to watch the year-round swimmers do their thing so gracefully and effortlessly.
And I love my ice cold glass of Chardonnay when I get home from a long meet.
Every year it takes a little bribing to get the kids back into it. They dread the Polar Bear Plunge of the first practices, and I don’t blame them. But the pay-off is huge, and not one of my kids has complained about a meet. (If they hated it, I wouldn’t force it – I know many friends’ kids who scream bloody murder at the mere mention of the words swim team. Thankfully, not us yet.)
There aren’t many sports where all of my kids can participate on the same day at the same time. And with a family of kids of different ages and abilities, there is something to be said for that.
Yes, it might get long. And hot. And humid. And loud. But it’s quick and their progress is visible. And it’s darn good exercise (have you swam recently? Hello, cardio!).
Hopefully by next May we’ll all forget the cold water, hot nights, and long meets and only remember the feeling of touching the wall (whether it’s first or last) and finishing.
What’s your experience with summer swim leagues? Love ’em or hate ’em?