They say it takes roughly 40 volunteers to run a swim meet smoothly. My daughter has been swimming for about ten years, and I think I’ve filled just about every volunteer position there is on a pool deck. The swim season is brief – about 5 Saturdays from June through July – a little longer if your swimmer makes it to Divisionals or All Stars. I’ve grown accustomed to giving up my one day a week to sleep in during those weeks. And I don’t really mind racing home from work on Mondays for the developmental meets that can sometimes go past my bedtime. My summer diet consists of bagel Saturdays and cheeseburger Mondays.
This summer, however, my daughter announced she would not be participating in swim team this year. We’ve tried having her friends exert a little peer pressure. We’ve pointed out all of the fun activities that go along with swim team – the pep rallies, the team social, the organized cheers before the meets start. She has not budged. And so I begrudgingly find myself with free Saturday mornings as I realize that much of my summer social life revolves around the swim team.
Fortunately, or not, my last volunteer position was one that requires certification every two years. There are only 3 parents on the team who are certified as starters. (The person with the microphone who says “take your mark” and then depresses the button on the starting gun.) One of those parents is usually needed to fulfill a different role on deck, and the other is quite often called out of town. So my retirement has been a very short one. So far this summer, I’ve started one Saturday meet, and last night I worked a Monday night B Meet.
Saturday and Monday meets are two different animals. Saturday’s meet runs very efficiently, with only one heat of the top swimmers for each event. They generally last about 2-1/2 hours. Monday night meets contain heat after heat of developmental swimmers, kickboard races, and the eternal 8 & under breast stroke, which seems hours long due to all of the disqualifications due to immature stroke mechanics. Last night’s meet, however, was an inter-squad event. Only our team - Blue versus White. And red Solo cups for the volunteers. What luck! This was the one meet of the year with beer.
The platoon of timers, three in each lane – eighteen in all, were very boisterous, competing to see which team could get the most “doubles” or “triples.” (Two or three watches with identical times, down to the hundredth of a second.) The stroke & turn judges, who are usually required to disqualify those little ones who may have miskicked or hung on the lane line, turned a blind eye to most of the youngest and cutest swimmers. The marshals, usually required to direct traffic on deck were sitting down. Someone ordered a pizza.
At first glance, one might think it was the contents of the red Solo cups in action, but the swimmers themselves seemed more spirited than usual as they painted each other with washable paint, or donned special blue gear, and cheered for their half-a-team team. It dawned on me that this was more than just a swimming competition, and the fun was not the result of the red Solo cups. I wasn’t the only parent or swimmer who found a social event within the sporting event. And so as I reluctantly bid goodbye to a summer culture, I am also a bit delighted with the occasional call-back. Take your mark!