If your child will be joining a swim team for the first time, there are some things you should know, as being a swimmer (and a parent) on a recreational team is a sport like no other! Lamorinda is well known for having a swim team culture and many of Lamorinda’s youth participate in swim team at one point or another as it’s a great summer activity full of exercise, time outdoors, learning new skills and creating lasting friendships. Lamorinda has fifteen swim teams throughout Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda. The swim teams each have a mascot and are are a part of a swim or swim/tennis club, a country club, an athletic club or community based clubs that use high school facilities. If a team is a part of a club that requires membership, which most of the teams in Lamorinda are, the family must already be a member before a swimmer can join a team. There are exceptions to this rule at some clubs for the 15-18 year old age group allowing those older swimmers to swim on a team without membership. Some teams also require minimum swimming skills before being able to be on the team. In most cases, clubs have a Learn to Swim or ‘ Guppy’ program which gets younger swimmers ready to be on a swim team. All swim teams that are a part of a club have a per swimmer fee to be on the team, in addition to any club membership dues and fees.
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Lamorinda Swim Teams
The following is a breakdown of the swim teams in Lamorinda, indicated by city with a L, M or O:
Swim Clubs-Springbrook (L), Las Trampas (L), Sunvalley (L), Moraga Ranch (M), Campolindo Cabana (M), Orinda Park (O)
Swim and Tennis Clubs- Rancho Colorados (L), Moraga Valley Pool (M), Meadow (O), Sleepy Hollow (O)
Country Clubs- Orinda Country Club (O), Moraga Country Club (M)
Athletic Club- Oakwood (L)
High Schools- LMYA (L), Miramonte Swim Club (O)
Swim Team Details
Swim teams have a head coach overseeing the program and assistant coaches that usually specialize with certain age groups. There are also junior coaches that often are older swimmers still competing on the team. Practices are each day and are determined by the child’s age group. Pre-season practices are after school and begin in April, while regular season practices begin the first week of summer and are typically anytime early morning through early afternoon, although some of the community based swim teams offer an evening practice schedule. Swimmers are divided by age groups and practice and compete within that age group. The age groups are broken down by 6U (six years and under), 7/ 8, 9/ 10, 11/ 12, 13/ 14 and 15-18. A child’s swim team age is determined by the age of the child on June 15th of the current summer. While practices are sometimes together for girls and boys, swimmers compete in heats separated into boys and girls by age group.
Swim team parents are required to fulfill job obligations such as timing, computer desk, cafe worker, griller, shepherding younger swimmers, meet set-up or clean-up, working the computer desk or awards. It is important to really know the obligation required of a swim team parent and to be ready when the job sign ups are posted! Usually there are categories of jobs and each parent must sign up for a certain amount of jobs in each category (ie: meet jobs, social jobs, big meet jobs). There are more jobs to be filled at ‘home meets’ versus ‘away meets’ and fulfilling the requirements set by the swim team board is each parent’s obligation. These jobs are hard to do with little siblings in tow, or with younger swimmers that need help during the meet, so that is something to consider. Teams also have a board and volunteers run the team for a summer, these jobs can include Director, Social, Spirit and Awards.
The Season Begins
The season begins with Time Trials which is an opportunity for each swimmer to get a seed time in each stroke: freestyle, breast, back, fly and Individual Medley. The distance is determined by age group and is either 25, 50 or 100 yards. Time trials are held at the team’s home pool and usually take about twice the time of a normal meet as each swimmer on the team swims every event, whereas at most swim meets a swimmer might only swim two or three events. The times obtained from Time Trials help determine the appropriate heat and lane a swimmer is placed in at subsequent events. It also sets a base time for swimmers as many teams encourage swimmers to improve their own time, which is often referred to as a ‘pop time’ and is a fun and friendly way to set goals throughout the summer. Pop times are often celebrated in some way on the team.
About Swim Meets
Swim meets are on Saturday mornings and usually one weeknight evening and are either at your home pool or another club’s pool. They are typically dual meets, but are sometimes with three or more teams. Either way, it is important to come prepared with beach or camping chairs, a blanket for the ground, sunscreen, hats, entertainment for swimmers between races, snacks and water, money to purchase food at the snack shack, layers of clothes for cooler night meets and of course goggles, suits, caps and towels for your swimmer. Swimmers line up in a holding area called Clerk of the Course at some pools and younger swimmers are gathered by a volunteer called a Shepard, a bell rings and the swimmers know to gather for the upcoming event. Meets can last anywhere from three to five hours, but swimmers are often called to a meet earlier for warm-ups. You will be wide-eyed at your first meet, but in no time you will be a pro!
Camaraderie and Spirit
In addition to practices, each team has its own way of creating camaraderie and spirit amongst the members. There are social events both by age group and as a team. Each team has many fun traditions such as team cheers, age group outings or socials, breakfasts, car decorating, pasta feeds and more. Parents really enjoy seeing their children cheering on other swimmers and the cross-age friendships that form. Given the everyday practice format, there is a lot of time for making friends before and after practice and swim team is like a summer camp of a different nature. Sometimes swimmers are with their school friends and, other times, they belong to a club that is not in their neighborhood, giving them an opportunity to have summer friends. There are also many opportunities for leadership as swimmers grow older.
Each of the fifteen swim teams in Lamorinda is a member of a league, most of which are either a part of OMPA (Orinda Moraga Pool Association) or LSC (Lafayette Swim Conference). Las Trampas Swim Team is a part of DCSL (Diablo Community Swim League). Each league holds a ‘big meet’ or league championship at the end of the season. LSC usually holds their meet at Acalanes High School while OMPA typically holds theirs at Campolindo High School/Soda Aquatic Center. Most swim team members need to volunteer in some capacity at these meets, which are often referred to as big meets. The local high school fields, pool decks and hallways are taken over by team pop up tents as families come out each day for the two day meet, clad in club gear, team colors, shirts, face and hair paint. Parents can be seen running to the bleachers to catch their children swim for their events and the bleachers are full of cheering teammates. Since these meets are the last chance to either pop a time or qualify for the County Meet, and often involve team competition in the areas of spirit, they are full of friendly competition and a chance to see all of your friends from each of the local clubs in one place. It is two full days of swimming as the qualifying races are all morning and the afternoon is for relays, finals and consolation heats. There are also awards at the end for high point swimmers, record breakers, team spirit, and more!
The County Meet
The County Meet is held in August at Acalanes High School and is hosted by the LMYA Swim Team. There are county qualifying times for each age group, gender and stroke. If a swimmer qualifies to compete in the County Meet, they typically practice beyond the end of the season with a smaller group of qualifying swimmers. This is a big honor as the County Meet is filled with the best of the best swimmers from all over Contra Costa County. Many swimmers spend their summer chasing a time to qualify for this race.
Whether a swimmer is aiming for County, or to pop their time, a swim team pool deck is a great place to spend a summer. It is where you will find many Lamorinda youth as they learn and improve both swimming and teamwork skills!