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Walnut Creek Magazine

Swim Team Country: A Survival Guide

Jul 14, 2021 06:15AM ● By Deborah Burstyn

Give us an “S!” What does it stand for?  Summer. Socializing. Sunshine. Stroke & Turn. Shepherding. Snack Shack. You got it! Swim Team! 

With Walnut Creek’s Conference Swim Meet coming up July 24-25 at Clarke Memorial Swim Center in Heather Farm Park, we took a dive into the archives for a story we did a few years ago about Walnut Creek's aquatics culture. Many young athletes raised in the chlorinated waters of local recreational swim clubs go on to become national champions, or even Olympians. Whether swimming for fun or training for the future, swim team is an all-encompassing, sunscreen-slathered way of life. Here are a few tips for parents that will help you survive and thrive.

Be Your Coaches’ Best Friend. In the heat of a swim meet, it’s probably not the best time to ask her coach whether little Brianna is taking too many breaths on breaststroke. Save it for practice, or better yet, sign up your swimmer for a one-on-one coach lesson.

Keep it Holy. To the uninitiated, swim meets may look like chaos. But there is a method to the madness—coaches spend a lot of time planning who will swim in each race. You may think your little slowpoke won’t be missed. Wrong. Each event and each heat have a designated swimmer  for each lane. When you’re a no-show, it causes chaos. Find the “Vacation Sign-Out Book” and put in the dates your child be out of town.

Lost & Found. Nevermind Google, you may wish you owned stock in goggles. Or Speedo. At big meets—All City, Conference, or County—no problem. Vendors will happily sell you whatever you need. If you’re at a local meet, head to the pool’s “Lost and Found” stash. Borrow what you need,  then return it before you leave. It will still be lost.

Snack Shack. Your neighbors are barbecuing and tossing fresh salads. You’re invited. Okay, it costs a few bucks but it’s for a good cause: swim team. And did you really want to cook? Sit back, enjoy, and smell the cup of noodles. Give the kids a budget and let them live it up a little. We remember corner candy stores; they’ll remember Snack Shack. Hint: it’s what keeps a lot of them swimming.

Dial It Down. Worse than the “Screaming Maniac” swim team parent is “The Scold.” We’ve all seen it. No sooner does some drenched little thing clamber out of the pool panting and shivering from a race than a parent is scolding them about what they did wrong. Don’t be that parent. 

Nice Work If You Can Get It. Jobs are the ultimate parental joy of swim team. Want to be where the action is? Time the races. Like working with kids? Shepherd. Prefer interacting with adults?  Record or desk. Want to relive your glory days as a short-order cook and waitress?  Snack shack’s the ticket. Try them all, find your niche, and do your best. And don’t grumble. There are plenty of parents putting in way more time than you to make swim team happen. After all, what would summer be without it?

Cherish the Moment. Look at your child’s face as they excitedly run around the grass with their friends. Forge tribal bonds with other parents during these fleeting moments. This is the land of the free and the home of the brave at its finest. It may not seem like it when you’re shepherding and can’t find that 7-year-old backstroker or you’re backed up with nacho orders at snack shack, but life doesn’t get much better than this. Your kids will get older. They may drive themselves to swim team. They may stop doing swim team. They may go away to college. This time is precious. Swim team is a gift. Enjoy it. Cherish it. You’ll be glad you did. 

Deborah Burstyn’s three adult children all swam for Indian Valley Swim Team.








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