The struggles and rewards of summer swim team — FranklyStein

swim team jumpSummer swim has started and my kids — even the teens — are excited despite the early Saturday mornings for the next six weeks.

They weren't always so gung-ho about swimming, and I was reminded of that at last week's time trials (for you non-swim team folks, that's a practice meet). I was standing next to the meet coordinator when a new-to-the-team mom came up to us near to tears. Her son had refused to swim, and she was wondering if she should pull him off the team.

I just wanted to hug her. Actually, I did hug her, because I've been there. While all my kids were out of bed at the crack last Saturday with bells on, we've had some rough spots along the way.

Swim team famNone of my kids were thrilled when I signed them up for swim team 11 years ago. I bribed them with a little toy of their choice and said they could attend the end of the season sleep over at the pool.

Even then, it wasn't all smooth swimming. There were so many practices that Adam refused to get in the water — practices that the coach had to throw him in. There were meets that all of them woke up in tears because they were swimming a 50 butterfly (two laps of the hardest stroke) or a 100 IM (a lap of each stroke). Jonah refused to swim at his first meet until the coach offered him a dollar. Miraculously, it worked.

Every year, when they started grumbling, I told them they had to swim on the team until they were 10 years old. Sometimes I worried I was pushing them to hard, and I worried what would happen when they turned 10. But we lucked out. By the time they were 10, they were all committed and have been swimming year-round ever since.

They love the team camaraderie. They love the older kids they met, and the younger kids who now look up to them. They love being on relays and the days they swim a personal best. They love the donuts and the taco-in-a-bag. They love Fun Fridays and pasta potlucks. They love playing cards with the coaches after practice and all the friends they have made.

Last week as we drove home from the meet, they were all chatting about how much they love summer swim team. And it was then that I knew that I hadn't push them too hard.

I wished I could have told that teary mom last week my whole story. I'm hoping that she keeps bringing her son. I hope she encourages him, and I hope they stick it out. Because summer swim has meant so much to my kids. It's given our summers — and now their lives — structure and focus and more friends than we can count.

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FranklyStein is a blog by Chesapeake Family Life editor Betsy Stein, who lives in Catonsville with her husband, Chris, and four children, Maggie, 18, Lilly, 16, Adam, 16, and Jonah, 12.