By Jenni Halem – Head Coach of Clarksburg Village Summer Swim Team; USA Swimming level 2 Age Group Coach.
As a summer swim team coach, I am asked a lot of questions. What is summer swim team about? How can my child join? Do they have to know how to swim? Do they have to swim all year long to be good? Is it a huge time commitment? The list goes on and on. While each summer swim team is slightly different from another, all I’ve come across seem to have the same basic goal. They aim to foster a love of the sport though fun, healthy competition and teach life-long aquatic skills while balancing teamwork and sportsmanship. That all sounds great but probably doesn’t answer a lot of questions.
I’ll try to tackle what I call Summer Swim 101 for all those out there who may be interested in learning more. Summer swim teams consists of swimmers roughly between the ages of 5 and 18. I have seen the occasional 4 year old before but typically children have had enough lessons by the age 5 to move on to a team. Some teams have what is called a pre-team for younger swimmers. Typically they do not have to be able to swim all the way across the pool to be on pre-team but they will learn the fundamentals of the strokes in hopes that by the end of the 8 week summer session they will be able to make it across the pool. By fundamentals I mean, floating and breathing, kicking and arm strokes. Yes, they do learn to “breathe” in the water — but not like fish, like humans by blowing bubbles out. Each team will have different qualifications for being on the regular team but you can expect one to be swimming at least a length of the pool freestyle and/or back stroke. Your team website should have more details about their particular prerequisites as well as registration dates. If you do not live in a community with a summer swim team you can go to mcsl.org or ggsl.net for a list of all the teams in the county.
- Once you are on the team you can expect to attend daily practices and be coached by trained coaches. Some coaches are “veteran coaches” having done this for years and others are older teens. Each will bring a unique aspect to the experience. Each team will set their own schedule but practices are typically divided up by age and ability. A practice time can be anywhere from 30-45 minutes up to an hour and half. During this time while your swimmer is in the water you are free to socialize with the other parents.
- You can expect to be asked to attend at least one swim competition per week beginning in mid to late June. The coaches and team parent reps can help decided which events to sign up for. I will go in to more detail about swim meets in a different post.
- You can expect to be asked to attend social functions with the team. My team has ice cream socials, float nights and movie nights just to name a few. This is a time for the kids to hang out with their school friends and make new friends. Some teams take trips to amusement parks, bowling alleys, and skating rinks. While social functions aren’t mandatory, they are a lot of fun for the kids and a great way to get to know your team mates. Some teams even have social functions for adults. Keep in mind a lot of the teens on your team will make great babysitters.
- You can expect to learn many team cheers. You’ll hear them over and over sometimes on pool deck and sometimes at the dinner table. You just never know when the spirit will hit you.
- You can expect your child in July to be saying things like “awe, it’s over??” and “when can we go back to the pool?” Hopefully, they will have learned a lot of things but more importantly they should come away with a respect for the water and passion for the sport itself all the while making new friends and memories that will last a life time.