Diary of a swim team mom

The summer swim team season has finally come to an end. I was never on a swim team. Mr. Mophead, on the other hand, was and swam through high school. My father in law was known to say that watching a swim meet is like watching grass grow. I know many who share this sentiment.

For those of you not familiar with swim team, let me lay it out for you. I can only attest to my experience in the country club league. I don't mean to sound elitist. I mention it because they tend to take it way over the top.

This is a long post, so I've highlighted key words and phrases for you skimmers.

The season officially kicks off in February. That's right. The pre-season banquet is held in February where they show the photo/video montage from last season to get the kids pumped up. It's also an opportunity to buy lots of swim team merchandise. And get drafted for plum committee positions.

Practice begins in April for seasonal swimmers. Although we live in the south, the weather here can be quite frigid. This translates into a lot of whining and complaining about not wanting to go. Of course those families who also have non swimmers get it from both sides. The swimmers don't want to go to practice. The non swimmers really don't want to go to practice with you.

When school lets out in May, morning and afternoon practices begin. Based on my discussions with county swim team moms, I'm lucky that I get to choose. Phew, what a relief.

Volunteering is mandatory. Each family is expected to cover three shifts. Here's where things get dicey. Some shifts are half shifts. Just when you think you've done your duty, you've actually only worked 2.5 shifts. If you can't work your shift, you are responsible for getting someone to take your place. If you don't, your name is mud.

Okay, so I missed one of my shifts and showed up for one meet not knowing I was supposed to work.  I was also wearing our opponent's team colors. I felt like I was doing the walk of shame around the pool in "the waves" attire. I was pretty buzzed when I did the ribbons at one meet and was praying that I didn't screw up. There would have been hell to pay the next day if some kids didn't get their coveted ribbons. I was also afraid that the Ribbons Committee Chair (aka Slammer) would kick my ass. It's fair to say that I was not up for the swim team volunteer of the year award.

There are many volunteer opportunities. The worst, in my opinion, is working the "bullpen." My BBF Susannah at Out Went the Light wrote about watching your children's sporting events. Mrs. Coach Chronicles refers to the bullpen as the Seventh Circle of Hell, which pretty much nails it. Just in case you were wondering where the term "bullpen" originated, it's been debated without consensus. Many theories are related to baseball. Holding cells in jails were commonly referred to as bullpens because the prisoners were bullied by the cops. At swim meets, it's the reverse -- the authorities (aka swim team parents) are bullied by the swimmers. See examples below.

Country club swim meets are a showcases for fashion and revelry. Most parents are decked out in club colors to show their team spirit. Our colors are green and white. I don't own anything green. I'm permanently scarred from wearing it as part of my high school uniform. When I say decked out, I'm not exaggerating. Most women wear dresses or really short shorts, hats and high healed or wedge sandals for ladies and club golf shirts or polo's and Bermudas for men. A fad that I thought had long retired from my high school days (Remember The Official Preppy Handbook?) -- the upturned collar -- can be spotted around the pool. If you must wear flip flops, don't even think about wearing anything other than Tory Burch. A mani/pedi in various shades of green adds a nice touch. I noticed that Chevron was very popular among the ladies this season.

In addition to wearing team colors to show your spirit, we were encouraged to "pimp" out our cars for the big meet against our rivals the sharks. There were spirit awards given to parents who showed their team spirit. It goes without saying that I did not win one.

{That would be "swim to win." I was trying so hard to protect the identity of this car's owner. Don't want to get sued, after all.}

The bar opens early and host teams supply a gratis keg. There is always a large crowd around the bar when the free beer is flowing. This brings me to the widely understood, but unspoken rule that bullpen volunteers are expected to refrain from alcoholic beverages. It's my personal opinion that they are the people who need it most. Here's some common dialogue between me and the 10U boys in my pen this season:

Me: Boys, keep your hands to yourselves.
Boys: Look at me like I'm on drugs and then punch someone in the gut and wrestle each other down to the ground. Often results in more fighting, crying and blood shed.

Me: Boys, it's time to get lined up for your event.
Boys: Look at me like I'm on drugs and then scatter in 10 different directions. Without fail some go missing usually before a medley relay. That's when a search party is sent out to retrieve them. Nerve racking, but they always show up.

Boy: Boy gives another boy the finger.
Me: I don't want to see any inappropriate or ungentlemanly behavior.
Boys: Look at me like I'm on drugs, fill up their swim caps with ice and water and throw them at each other.

Rain delays in the pens are brutal. If there is thunder or lightening, all swimmers are herded in doors to wait out the elements. Rain delays can last for hours. At one meet this summer, there was a rain  delay for over two hours before the meet was called. It was rescheduled for the following night, which also had a rain delay. I had to meet a repair man at the house, so I asked my friend to text me when the meet began. Shorty after, I got an SOS text saying "all hell has broken lose" in the ballroom. My advice: It's wise to throw a bottle of Xanax in your bag if you see any ominous looking clouds.

Before the season ends, talk of the championship meet is already in full swing. It is an honor, and rightfully so, to participate in the sporting event of the summer.

This is the first year that one of the Mophead boys qualified as an alternate. He was very excited. I was excited for him. But it meant more practices and volunteering. If your child qualifies, you should go ahead and clear your calendar for the next two weeks. This may seem like a lot of detail, but I want to give you an idea of what you'll be up against:

Monday-Thursday: 60 minute practice.
Saturday:  90 minute practice.
Sunday: 30 minute technical practice.
Monday: 60 minute practice at club followed by another 60 minute practice at meet site -- Georgia Tech. You have one hour in between to get there. During home practice, parent volunteers pimp out cars with shoe polish and window paint.
Monday evening: Carb-loading pasta parties around town organized by parents. Seriously? Do 10-year-old boys need to carb load to swim 25 yards? Of course not. It's just part of the fun and a great way to bond with your teammates.
Tuesday meet day 10:00 am: 60 minute practice. No rest for the weary. Swimmers receive championship swag and volunteers receive parking passes. Yet another opportunity to pimp out your car. Just have to add here that there is the "traditional shaving party" for the 12 and 14Us post practice. I wasn't there, but I'm assuming they're shaving legs not using razors to go Brazilian.
3:15: All volunteers regardless of your shift time report for duty at Georgia Tech.
3:30: Swimmers receive deck passes and cram into deck bullpens.
5:40: Team parade.
6:00: Meet starts.

From 5:40 on sounds exciting, doesn't it? I love a good parade. Guess where I was? Selling T-shirts from 5:00-6:30. I'm certain I got that post because of my poor volunteer performance earlier in the season. I would have died for a cool job like VIP security. Confused? So was I when I saw the volunteer schedule. That's the area where parents get to go while their kids are swimming their events. Mr. Mophead was kind enough to man the table so I could sneak a peak. It was just like the Olympics with each team proudly waiving their banners. Here's Mophead Jr. in his parade attire.

{The peek-a-boo grass skirt is my fave.}

You all may remember my post on the ALTA City finals. I thought that was a nail biter of a day. First, let me say that watching this meet was not at all like watching grass grow. I was on the edge of my seat as the dolphins and sharks battled for first place throughout the meet -- most of the time by less than 10 points.  Meet Mobile app allows you to follow the meet on your smart phone. I was covering my eyes and freaking out with the dads next to me who actually had swimmers in the pool. As the final events neared, it was clear that the meet depended on the last few relays. The pressure was on. At last, the dolphins prevailed and won the meet by one point. Amazing!

As the saying goes, it's all over but the shouting. The dolphins went home with the championship trophy and the sharks walked off with their tails between their legs. That's what happens when you talk trash about your opponents.

Post meet: Party at the club. Thank goodness for the signature bar.

Wednesday 5:30 pm: Swim Team Banquet. Once again, I forgot to dress up for the occasion. I did not wear green, but I managed to look half way decent. After all the speeches, words of thanks and trophies were distributed, they dimmed the lights and showed the video montage. It was the end of a great season.

All kidding aside, swim team is fun. I am grateful to and admire the swim committee who pulled out all the stops to make the season a great success. They made it look seamless. To our coaches who trained and encouraged the swimmers to fight til the end. And, congratulations to our wonderful children who worked so hard and swam their hearts out.

Until next February...


  1. This is awesome! I feel fully prepared if one or more of my kids decides to do swim team. It actually sounds worse than baseball and I didn't think that was possible. Thank you for the shout-out, by the way!

  2. Too funny but not even exaggerated based on everything I hear! Great pic Mophead, Jr.!


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