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African-American Swimmers

A Parents Guide to Summer League Swimming

Many of us are new to the sport of swimming. We don’t know what a psyche sheet is or what it means to ‘taper’ before a big meet. We understand – we’ve been there! This series of articles will get you up to speed on the basics of competitive swimming and get you ready to fully enjoy all that summer league swimming has to offer.

My kid wants to swim this summer and I have no idea where to start.

It’s OK! First, decide if your kid is ready to be on a summer league swimming team. Many summer league swim teams require all kids to be able to swim 25 meters (the length of most pools) unassisted. If they cannot do this, you should consider swim lessons to increase their comfort in the water and get them ready for team participation. Most YMCAs and community pools offer swim lessons and water safety classes. The Red Cross provides a list of ‘Learn to Swim providers’ throughout the US and USA Swimming sponsors the ‘Make a Splash’ program that teaches water safety skills. The African American Sorority Sigma Gamma Rho partners with USA Swimming to create Swim 1922 which also offers water safety instruction and special clinics.

How do I choose a summer league swim team?

Contact the summer swim league in your area to find a list of teams or clubs that participate in summer league swimming. It is common for summer swim teams to hold interest meetings that are open to the public in the Spring. This is a time for parents and kids to learn about team activities, meet other swim team families, and ask general questions.  You should take into account the travel time to the practice pool, the time of day and length of practices, and the meet schedule. Your kid will have a better experience if they are able to make it (on time!) to as many practices and meets as possible. The most important aspects of a team are 1) Your comfort level with the management and coaching staff and 2) Your ability to relate to the other families. You will spend a ton of time at the pool and you and your kid should enjoy the people you are with. Although some swim teams may reach capacity before school ends it may not be too late – your local summer league will be able to help you find a team with vacancies.

What kind of equipment will my kid need?

Your team fees will likely cover a new swim cap and competition swim suit. These are only for swim meets. You will have to buy a practice swim suit and cap (yes, Target or Amazon is fine!) for your kid. There is no need to break the Black Kids Swim - young girlbank on these purchases. We know a swim mom who bought her daughter’s practice swim suits from Target at the end of each summer. They were always too big. However, wearing a slightly loose suit create’s ‘drag’ or increased resistance making it tougher to swim and forcing the swimmer to work harder. When her daughter put on her competition suit for meets no one could catch her! Your swimmer will also need a pull buoy, swimmer paddles, goggles (we recommend mirrored goggles for summer swimming at outdoor pools), practice fins, flip flops, a kick board, lots of towels, and a breathable bag to place everything in. Most importantly, your kid will need your support to get to practice on time consistently and to encourage them when they have hard days in the pool.

Why do they keep asking for volunteers!?

Swim meets are a ton of work. Each lane with a swimmer requires multiple timers. It is common to have 2 or 3 adults timing one swimmer. This ensures that every swimmers time is accurately recorded. Swim meets also require stroke and turn judges to monitor the swimmers strokes and disqualify anyone not following the rules. Some summer dual meets (a meet with only 2 teams competing) can require over 30 volunteers! Your team will definitely need your help. If you are not trained as an official you can always volunteer to help with concessions or time the races.

Have fun this summer! Swim hard! Together we can, CHANGE THE TIDE.

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