Although not the case for Elijah waiting in the cave for the Lord to pass by, I have found God in the whirlwind of life with our summer swim team these past few weeks. As the team coordinator, the myriad details of registering more than 100 swimmers, recruiting and training volunteers for weekly meets, arranging social events like potlucks, bowling and the team overnight at the club, maintaining administrative records and communicating all relevant info to the families, occupy my time each and every day of the 8-week season. A swim team is hardly a religious activity, yet the experience at its best contains elements of a spiritual community because:
People are included. Team members’ ages range from 5 to 18, and our club is especially blessed also by diversity of race, nationality and family style, yet a swim team’s inclusion goes beyond such categories. There is room for all abilities, and the newcomer’s personal best is cheered with vigor equal to that of the contender’s first place finish. Also it’s not unusual for the occasional swimmer with physical or developmental disability to be celebrated simply for completing the race. In our family’s nearly 15-year involvement with the sport of swimming, I have witnessed these spirited affirmations time and again, but they are not mere gestures to “raise self-esteem.”
People are invited to grow. Swimming is hard work, and improvement does not come without it. Day by day coaches ask the swimmers to push their endurance a bit harder, to refine their strokes just a little more. The nature of the sport is that the athletes work mostly as individuals, yet the results ultimately produce a team outcome, providing additional motivation and significance. Likewise, swim parents must perform tasks that may be outside their comfort zone such as learning to time races or even officiate at them. Unlike soccer or basketball, swimming is predicated on parent participation; the meets cannot happen without them.
People become connected to one another. For swimmers, sharing early morning practices in cold water or pulling together to win a relay or consoling one another after missing a close touch-out creates real camaraderie, and for parents too, working together at meets and cheering the progress of each other’s children forges an enduring bond. Further, parents’ necessary presence at the meets provides a meaningful point of connection with one’s own children through their teen years.
People want to pass it on. The impact of the swim team experience becomes part of you, and despite its hectic nature, you miss it after the season ends. Then the next season rolls around, and you’re eager to begin again. Veteran parents become mentors to new folks, instructing them how to read a heat sheet and other helpful tips, paying forward the help they received at the beginning. Ultimately the real “fruit that lasts” is that well-formed swimmers become coaches who convey to a new generation the fun, discipline and caring they experienced.
This is Good News.