It’s that time of year again- swim season! The phenomena of the neighborhood swim team started across Wake County last night as be-goggled-kids, with parents in tow, hit their neighborhood pools to begin training for their 2.5 month swim season.

Run by the Tarheel Swimming Association, there are 79 teams competing in this year’s recreational youth summer league. Each team will compete against 6 other neighborhoods through the course of June and July, with a few “bigger” meets to choose from as well, such as the Cary City Swim Meet in July. The meets are scored, and rankings are assigned to ensure that each team is swimming against comparable teams within their “region”. It’s serious business…

But it is also one of the most amazing experiences we’ve had since moving to Cary, NC. We moved into a “swim” neighborhood the summer of 2010, with the swim season already in full swing. Neighbors and strangers would ask “are you joining the swim team?” nonstop, and I would just nod my head and mumble “that sounds nice”. But I was being polite. It sounded horrifying.

My kid was not a swimmer. He was an anchor. A really tall anchor who never really learned to swim, despite many lessons as a toddler, because he could always keep his head above the water while standing up. He had no fear of the water and he probably thought he could actually “swim”– But mama knew better.

As summer 2011 rolled around I realized that kids swam year round here, with groups like RSA and WAVE, at places like the TAC. I got scurred even more. So I signed my kid up for a group of lessons offered by Sport2Sport. 4 group lessons, 45 minutes each. It helped. My kid now knew there were actual arm movements involved in swimming, not just pretending to be a shark with your hands being the dorsal knifing through the water.

I was nervous. He had never swam a full 25 meters without stopping (a few times). He had never dove, especially from a starting block. He had never learned the backstroke, the breaststroke, the butterfly. He was not a swimmer.

Until he was. It’s not a Lifetime Movie, or the After-School Specials I used to watch when I was a kid. He didn’t magically become the best swimmer on the team, or even the middle best. He didn’t magically master the dive, and belly flops were rampant. He attended every 8am swim practice, and every 5 hour meet. He became a swimmer. A good one. By the end of the season, he knew all of his strokes, and could swim 25 meters at a time without stopping. (Once, he even swam a 50 meters free-style during a meet!)

I was so proud of him. Even better, he was proud of himself. My kid started something that he wasn’t the best at. He struggled. At times he was embarrassed. But the coaches, teammates, and other team parents rallied around him. They encouraged him to keep going. They celebrated the little successes (no belly flop!). The celebrated the big successes (he won a heat!) He was not just an active member of a swim team, he became a member of our neighborhood- a part of our community.

And that’s why I love neighborhood swim teams.

Of course, we’re back this summer. My kid is excited to start swimming. Last night was their first practice. He’s a little sore. A little tired. But he’s excited about swim team. How cool is that? (very) How cool is Cary? (very)


If you are interested in joining a swim team, or would like to know where the 79 teams are at here in Wake County, check out this cool map from the TSA (click here).