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Swimming through summer

The view from the bleachers was a wet one this month. Splashing from the pool came in many forms.

The Boys. Photo by Warren Cameron, 5 Acres Studio

Everything from the “littles”, who more-or-less bellyflop into the water, to the sleeker dives executed as the age groups advance through the events adds to generally soggy surroundings. The actual atmosphere is generally filled with action, activity, cheering and celebration. A whirlwind of activity is packed into a 4 hour meet that hardly allows for anyone, spectator, participant or volunteer to notice they are pretty much sopped.

One of the benefits to volunteering poolside is that you get to see all the faces as the swimmers push themselves to beat the other team, their own teammates, and, most importantly, themselves. The Gwinnett County Swim League has a special rainbow ribbon to encourage the hard work it takes to “drop time” from an event. The small victories, tenths of seconds, are cause for celebration since the swimmers know that, as they age, those tenths will mean the difference in how they place, what relay team they will be on and whether they will make it to county or state.bethvolpert 190

Some of my very favorite faces this year have been first-year swimmers. These sweethearts get in the pool in May without much clue as to what a swim competition involves, but by the second meet, they are all but rabid to beat their own times. The concentration, the drive and the desire are all tempered with the joy of completing the event and the return to the “bullpen” where their friends await them with an array of Pokemon cards, Uno, iPods, books and general chatter about all things kids.

Moms and dads have been overheard saying things like: “I didn’t know they were that competitive.” “Can you believe he dropped 6 seconds?” “I can’t get him to leave the pool now.” “He sure sleeps well these days.” “I wasn’t sure she would like it, but she loves swim team.” One parent in particular, Jodi Perkins from the Connemara team said, “I feel it has been the best thing we have ever signed him up for because it has taught him to keep going and not give up when things are hard. I have never seen him persevere at something that is hard for him like he has swimming.”

Soaked, sopped and so very tired are normal for the end of a meet. Each kid leaves knowing they did their very best. Plus, there is the comfort of good friends, some of whom only see one another during the summer, but return each year to compete with a splash just their size.