After years of being on the fence about joining our neighborhood swim team, my son took the plunge last year. I was prepared for the long, hot afternoons at the pool and dropping a small fortune at the swim store. I wasn’t prepared for the parents. Fortunately, for all of you parents new to summer swim league, I’ve prepared a handy guide to identifying swim team parents in the wild.
The Team Mom
This parent is a godsend. Without her, the team would cease to function, and the entire world would descend into chaos. Or so she likes to think. True, her willingness to organize everyone and issue directives means you don’t have to do that—but it also means you’re at her beck and call. If the team is short lane timers, she will let you know. If you’re standing in the wrong place to watch your child’s race, she will let you know. If, god forbid, you forget to contribute $5 to the team donut fund, she will let you know. Yet, when you really need her, she’s nowhere to be found.
The Mom Who Should Be Team Mom
This mom knows all the kids by name and which races they’re entered in. She always has fruit, carrot sticks or candy on hand for hungry kids. She can often be found herding groups of kids to the restrooms before their races. If you need a Band-Aid or extra swim cap, this is the mom you want to seek out.
The Mom With a Ton of Kids
These are the parents who didn’t stop at one or two kids. They proudly shuttle their five, six, or even seven kids to and from the swim meets in their Econoline van. This family doesn’t carpool because they are their own carpool. Swim practice is the only hour in each day this mom has to herself because all of the kids are in the pool at the same time. This is probably why she chose this particular activity. One great thing about this mom is that, with kids ranging in age from 6 to 17, she’s been around the swim-team block a time or two and can tell the newcomers exactly what to expect.
The Mom You Never See
You assume this kid must have parents, but for all you know she might be a plucky street urchin who sneaks into the pool each afternoon because you never, ever see her with a parent or guardian. Probably the parents have better things to do than sit in the broiling heat for an hour each day while their child swims laps and you’re kind of jealous about this—yet the fact that you have never seen said parents is still slightly disconcerting.
The Mom Who Thinks Each Rec League Race Is an Olympic Qualifier
This mom thinks her kid is the next Michael Phelps. And who knows, he just might be a future Olympian. While you’re gently encouraging your kids to just do their best and reassuring them that even if they come in last, you will still be proud, this mom is in a corner quietly going over qualifying times and personal records with her kid. Naturally, he takes first place—as she cheers from the sidelines—in every race he enters.
At some point over the course of the summer rec league session, you will meet your swim-parent soulmate. You may be strangers in June, but by the end-of-season barbecue you’re exchanging recipes and taking turns making Starbucks runs. When the Team Mom says or does something especially egregious, this is the mom who will catch your eye and offer a knowing smirk.
The summer rec swim league can be unfamiliar territory, especially for first-timers. Just remember, you’re all on the same team. At the end of the day, you pull together to beat that other team! And if at the end of the summer, you find you really have a knack for navigating the social politics of the summer rec league swim team, you’re in luck! In another month or so, soccer season begins, and you’ll have a whole new set of parents to get to know!