Summer Swim: Neighborhood pools and clubs create pop-up swim teams

Briarmoor Manor Sharks dress in creative costumes for each weekly swim meet.

Summer is here and that means neighborhood pools and clubs are creating pop-up swim teams around Atlanta.

Kids of all ages can join the teams, learning the benefits of hard work, goal setting and sportsmanship. Summer swim teams are organized by the Atlanta Swimming Association and league director Franke Marsden. He says the goal of summer league is to provide the best environment for athletes to learn the sport of swimming and compete on a fair and fun playing field.

“At the core of the Atlanta Swim Association is the importance of having fun, being part of a team, and the lifelong friendships that are formed in our league,” Marsden said.

Marsden’s summer gig is far from relaxing at the pool. He helps organize a network of 125 teams in total, from seven different divisions around metro Atlanta.

During the week, many teams are at the pool every morning to work on their skills and build endurance. Teams are coached by head coaches with athletic backgrounds, from parents who were former athletes to current PE teachers and professional swimming coaches. The rest of the coaching staff is a crew of college and high school students on summer break eager to get back in the water.

For the DeKalb county league, Tuesday nights are for swim meets. Five meets will be held during the month of June, and teams take turns hosting meets and visiting other teams.

“No matter how big or small the teams are, the meets are the weekly ‘payoff’ for kids, as their performances reflect the hard work they have put in to improve on what they have done so far. Additionally, meets are usually a very social event where kids and their parents catch up with their friends and neighbors from their own team and their opponents from other nearby neighborhoods in the spirit of friendly competition,” Marsden said.

Thousands of swimmers at each end of season championship session fill Georgia Tech’s aquatic center to the overflowing.

Swim meets reflect how a community of neighbors can pool their talent to create a fun and yet competitive environment for swimmers. Boards of parents handle the finances of the team, running everything from the concession stand sponsored by local burger joints to performing as emcee of swim meets.

Summer league swimming has the feel of a grassroots sport until it’s championship time. The annual Atlanta Swimming Association Summer League Championship takes place in late June at the McAuley Aquatic Center at Georgia Tech, the same pool that hosted the 1996 Olympics. With 5,500 swimmers competing over the course of four days, it’s the largest swim meet in the United States based on number of swimmers in one venue.

The event is special as kids can swim like an Olympian and see their name on the digital scoreboard. But it’s also the final swim of the summer, the last chance to break a record, and compare old times to new, faster times.

Over the course of a season, kids improve so much in the water. Some drop time and some master the tricky breaststroke kick. Regardless the milestone reached, the growth serves as an example of just how much you can grow in just one month with consistent dedication and daily practice.

“Kids and coaches learn the values of hard work, fair play, teamwork and good sportsmanship. All of these values contribute to making not just better swimmers, but better people,” Marsden said.

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