We’re in it now… Swim season.
For those who may have missed it, a few weeks ago I shared my eye opening experience as a new ‘swim mom.’ Now in our second season as Oakdale Gators, I must admit I’m really enjoying myself.
The reward of course is the look on my son’s face when he emerges from the pool following a practice or event at a swim meet. Earning one heat finisher ribbon last season, he now pops out of the pool and quickly asks the time keepers “Was I first?”
Thankfully, time keepers are also parents and are very gracious in pumping him up on how well he did, then kindly stating ‘No. Not this time buddy.’
Now in our second season, admittedly my guard is down a bit. The routine is now familiar, the hours spent poolside our norm and the fun, well it’s in full swing. When your child loves something (be it playing guitar or baseball), making it a family priority becomes easy.
Our team hosts practices five nights a week and while it is not a requirement (or encouraged) for the kids to be in the pool five nights a week, I love that my son wants to.
He is doing something he deems as ‘fun,’ so the practice, training, conditioning does not yet feel like work.
He’s a ‘non-competitor’ and yes, he loved getting that ribbon but that was more about accomplishment. Early on in his ‘swimming career’ I had a talk with him about what it means to ‘race’ when you’re a swimmer. I explained that much like running (which I do), it is more about beating the clock than the person next to you. Going into the water with the goal of beating your last time. Giving it your all for the sake of improvement and accomplishment.
As we start to navigate through our second season poolside, we have been joined by some friends and many new families. The program which once clogged up the intersection of East A Street and Yosemite on meet weekends is once again crammed full of eager swimmers.
This year, I actually look forward to Meet weekends. It’s a big day - early mornings, long days, lots of waiting. But it is also a time to be outside with your family and other crazies just like yourself.
The night before our first meet, I took a moment to look ahead at our summer and what all it would entail. In that moment I came to realize that my son and many like him would spend many Saturday mornings waking earlier than they did during the school year. Regardless of results, that takes dedication.
Now as a ‘swim mom,’ I am grateful to the swimmers and parents who came before us. Once upon a time it was a simple program for kids who loved the water. The Oakdale Gators dominated the Plunge through much of summer.
The majority of the swimmers I watched as young Gators have now graduated and moved on. Many were part of the Championship teams we have celebrated the last few years. These kids were the ‘pioneers’ of Oakdale swimming. Their passion for the sport and their parents dedication is partly responsible for the inception and completion of the Oakdale Aquatic Center, a successful Water Polo team and the now Oakdale Aquatics swim program.
As a community member, it’s been awesome to watch the program grow and our children have a place here in the 95361 to fine tune their skills and passion. Equally important, now as one of ‘them’ it has been amazing coming together with parents who just want their kids to have a good time and excel at something they love.
As for the inner ‘swim mom’ I confessed to, well she’s been tamed. Now, I actually get a chuckle and a head shake as I listen to parents sit in the bleachers criticizing the coaches under their breath during practices. Questioning the way in which practice is being conducted for their Six and Under swimmer.
Yes, you read that right and no, we are not an Olympic training team. The Oakdale Gators are the ‘rec’ portion of the swim program. ‘Rec’ being the critical part for the children at this age.
A family friend (Stevie Cordoza) grew up in the Gator program and went on to be a part of that VOL team I spoke of (as well as many other personal achievements). When I spoke with her about my son’s hesitation to compete in his first year she had shared he would compete when he was ready.
In our first season, I spoke with our Head Coach Brian Fogarty about my son’s lack of desire to compete. He echoed Stevie’s words, followed by, “So, he just wants to come out three to five nights a week to just swim?” I nodded and Brian said, “Perfect. When he’s ready he’ll have fun and that is what we want most for them to have fun.”
So in season two I can honestly say, I trust the system, the coaches, the program. Sure, when Thursday of each week rolls around I begin thinking of water bottles, peanut putter sandwiches, healthy snacks and reading material. But, when Saturday arrives I am grateful to every family that came before us, as well as those that stand beside us now. It’s just rec swimming … I get that. But on a hot summer day there is a magical feeling as you descend upon the easy ups … coolers and towels in hand, water splashing on the deck and announcements booming overhead. It’s day time camp outs, with memories that will last us a lifetime. Just good stuff.
Teresa Hammond is circulation manager for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.