As anyone who swims in a summer league knows, summer teams are special. This summer in “The Feet Five,” a weekly list of five things about the Daleview Feet, I’ll be highlighting and exploring aspects of what makes these eight weeks so unique.
By: Stina Oakes
On my way to the first practice on opening day, I’m amused that I’m in the car alone. My two oldest kids are on the team, but they’ve slept at friends’ houses; they will be coming over with their friends, who are also on the swim team. Normally this type of scenario would annoy me – getting up early to go somewhere for my kids who aren’t even with me – but today it doesn’t. I may be just as excited as they are. When I pull into the parking lot, kids are already heading down the hill to the pool, giggling with anticipation. It’s a warm morning, more like mid-summer than spring. That’s good, I think, fewer kids shivering and complaining about getting in the water.
I smile as I walk out of the pool house onto the deck. This is my fifth opening day. In that time, I’ve developed a deep love for what opening day and the first weeks at the pool bring:
1. The Community
During the summer, the pool is my home. The summer swim season is intense: two meets a week, practices, and social events. I’ll spend hours sitting on deck, chatting with other parents while the kids practice. I’ll volunteer at meets: timing, concessions, automation. My family and I will go to potlucks, pep rallies, and swim team outings.
Some of the people I’ll spend the next eight weeks are friends I see year round, but many others I only see for the season. Even though the kids are technically the ones on the team, we adults are, too. We’re all there because we want to be. When I smell the chlorine-scented air, the stress of my everyday life disappears. It’s almost like summer camp.
2. The Kids
Every year I’m surprised at how much the swimmers change over the school year. Sometimes I barely recognize them; there are the boys who suddenly have shoulders twice the size they were last summer and the girls who have shot up several inches. Then there are the swimmers who I swear are still 8 and unders, yet are now actually in the 10-12 age group.
Seeing all the swimmers now is a bit like when you’re with your own kids. You don’t see them grow and change, but then you visit family you haven’t seen for a while who are stunned at how much the kids have grown up. Imagine that times fifty. It’s kind of awesome.
3. The Practices
The last three weeks of school are a parent’s scheduling nightmare. I have two kids on the team coming from two different schools, practicing at two different times. (My youngest doesn’t swim yet, but when she does, that’ll be three kids, three schools, and three practices. I can’t think about it.) Add onto that the end of spring season sports and their practices. Everyone morning I have to check the calendar to see who needs to be where and when because every day is different. There’s also the afternoon weather to contend with – Southern Maryland’s early summer afternoon thunderstorms throw everything into flux.
Without my carpool, I’d be a wreck. Carpools make it all possible. Our current one has five families. Each day is a different configuration of kids and drivers. Sometimes spreadsheets are involved. Yet, it all works out. Through these arrangements I see the Daleview spirit: we all work together to make the seemingly impossible, possible.
On the days I drive, I’ve come to appreciate having the minivan full of kids, chatting about their day at school. I learn so much about their lives and who they’re turning into on these drives. Just the other day they were talking about the Presidential election. I inwardly giggled as four eight- through ten-year-olds discussed executive power and congressional procedure — yes, the word “congressional” was used. I’ll admit, I secretly like it when it’s my turn to drive. (No, I’m not taking any extra days.)
4. The Feet
Watching the swimmers that first morning, there is so much excitement. Kids who don’t see each other regularly (and might not actually talk to each other at school), run to one another and hug. Little kids latch onto bigger ones, relishing the attention. It seems that everywhere I look there are kids smiling, laughing: they’re happy and relaxed. There is so much stress and pressure on these kids to perform well at school and excel in extracurriculars. Today, now, they can let go. They’re just kids swimming.
5. The Expectation
Every season at the end of the first practice, I think, it’s going to be a good season.
Every year, I’m right.