Hi! I’m Caitlin. From age 4 to age 17, I spent my Bay Area summers barefoot and slathered in sunscreen in and around local pools. There is so much more to swim team than just swimming — let me tell you why it is SO worth it.
Swim team was a family sport. There are daily practices and twice weekly meets. The practices are usually after school for the spring season and early in the morning in the summer. Luckily for parents, the older kids do the very early morning practices and they are more likely to be able to drive themselves. On my swim team, the older kids put the lane dividers in the pool, and the young kids coiled them up at the end of practice. Taking care of our pool is an important aspect of the program.
Practices start in the spring while school is still in session. For most kids, the end of the season was the league meet, but the top swimmers were invited to go to the county meet in August. Kids from all over Contra Costa County would swim their hardest and break records. When practiced started up again the next season, we would always celebrate our champions as a team!
Swim practices were pretty cut and dry: in the pool, workout hard but never feel the sweat, go home and eat twice as much as normal. At swim meets, however, every family had a blanket and sometimes a popup canopy or even a camping tent to keep out of the hot Californian sun. At the city and league meets, each team had their own designated area. We covered a grassy hill at Heather Farm like a patchwork quilt, or lined the outdoor corridors of Acalanes high school with our swim bags leaning on the lockers.
My favorite time in the season was the all-city meet. That meet was usually around the time of my birthday on July 10th, and I was thrilled to spend it out in the sunshine with all my friends. My mom usually let me bring cookies or cupcakes to share. In addition to my swim team friends, a lot of my friends from school would be there, too, scurrying around the pool deck or waiting for their turn in the pool.
All-city meet included swimmers from many cities, hundreds of kids. We spent very little time actually in the water; after all, we were trying to swim as fast as we could in our races! We spent a lot more time waiting for our heat in folding chairs set up near the pool. I learned a lot of hand clapping games from girls I never learned the names of from all the other teams.
Other than swimming and lining up t swim, most time at the meets was spent just hanging out. We would listen to music and play games: my favorites were uno and apples to apples. These simple summer memories led to some of my strongest friendships, still thriving almost 10 years since I last competed.
It does require a lot of time for the parents who let their kids swim in Lamorinda, driving to practices and staying at swim meets, but it also introduced me to the best community. I encourage you to meet your neighbors by the pool side!