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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Summer swim teams let kids of all ages bond while competing

The Glenwood Tigers cheer for teammate John Garvey at a 2021 meet. The team has more than 300 swimmers ages 5 to 18.  (Courtesy of Matt Schoch)
By Fred Bowen Washington Post

Summer is here. For most kids, that means no school, going to camps and long evenings playing outside among the fireflies.

For some kids, summer also means going to the pool and swimming for a summer swim team. There are hundreds of teams in the Washington, D.C., area that have thousands of young swimmers.

To find out more about the summer swimming scene, I spoke with Jeremy Butler, who is a history teacher at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Maryland, and the co-coach of the summer swim team at Glenwood Pool in nearby Silver Spring with his wife, Kelly. Glenwood has more than 300 swimmers from ages 5 through 18 on its team.

Q: What age should kids start swimming?

A: Around kindergarten or earlier. The best way to learn is to take lessons from a trained lifeguard.

Q: What age should kids start swimming on a summer team?

A: You can start at age 6 or even younger. Most kids start at around ages 7, 8 or 9.

Q: What should kids learn from swimming on a summer team?

A: They should make friends, have fun and improve as a swimmer. The great thing about swimming is it is an individual and team sport. It is a sport where kids learn to celebrate their friends’ success as well as their own.

Q: How long are practices?

A: At Glenwood we practice every weekday during June and July. The practices last between 40 to 90 minutes, depending on the age of the swimmer. Every practice is a little different to keep it fun.

Q: Does your team do more than just swim?

A: We have team breakfasts, pep rallies and Friday “fun days” to bring all the parts of the team together. The out-of-the-water dynamics are just as important to the team as the in-the-water competition.

Q: Why is swimming a good sport for kids?

A: Swimming is excellent full-body exercise. It is a challenging sport that helps kids become tougher because they are constantly pushing themselves to get better.

Q: Should swimmers play other sports?

A: Yes! When kids are young, they should play other sports to give their bodies other kinds of exercise. By high school, they can choose swimming as their main sport.

Q: Why are summer swimming teams good for kids?

A: Summer teams are more about fun and making friends. When kids swim year-round, it is more about your results and getting the best times. Summer swim teams are the only teams I know where a 6-year-old can be a teammate with an 18-year-old. The older kids put down their phones and really engage with the younger kids. And the younger swimmers can score the same points for their team as the older swimmers. That’s pretty amazing.