Our daughters (ages 7 and 9) joined a club swim team for the first time this spring.
The first few weeks were not without tears as they braved a brand new situation. Their optimism, determination, and courage has been nothing short of inspiring. I couldn't help but cry as I watched them at their first practice meet. To try something scary builds such magnificent character - even if it is hard for parents to watch from the sidelines.
Since this is their (and our) first year on a team, we were true newbies. Now that we have several months under our belt, I've compiled 10 tips for other new swim team families. Best wishes in all of your water adventures!
(1) Purchase swimsuits and gear.
First, you'll need to check if a team swimsuit is optional or required. Our team has a suit available, but swimmers are permitted to wear any sporty one-piece suit for practices and meets. Since we are new to the sport, we opted to purchase our own suits and were pleasantly surprised by the selection and prices at SwimOutlet.com. The online shop offers competitive and recreational suits for men, women, and children at very reasonable prices. As I scrolled, I also noticed that there are many suits that are hard to find locally because they are boutique or international companies. We even scored the above Jantzen suit for our 4-year-old for under $15!
The trickiest part of buying a swimsuit online is getting sizes right - especially because swim brands do not stick to standard sizing nor do they necessarily compare to other brands. For example, a 6-year-old might wear a size 24. Your best bet would probably be to try on suits at a local sport shop and then order online afterward.
Good news if you purchase a suit that isn't the right size! SwimOutlet.com offers super easy returns (we tried it) and a 24-hour live-chat option.
(2) Choose good goggles.
Who knew that there were so many different styles and fits of goggles? Not this 1st time swim mom. Last summer, I bought cheap goggles (Speedo brand) at Target. Although they were fine for recreational purposes, I soon discovered that they weren't going to cut it for swim team. My girls were constantly having to readjust due to leakage, fit, and glare. Next, I tried a 3-pack of Speedo goggles from Costco. Same issues.
Finally, I consulted with a few seasoned swim moms and opted for the Speedo Jr. Vanquisher 2.0 Mirrored Goggles ($14-$16) for our almost 10-year-old and the Speedo Hydrospex Jr. Goggles ($11-16) for our petite 7-year-old. Abracadabra! No goggle problems! Both offer UV eye protection, which is ideal for daytime swimming. The Vanquishers also offer 4 nosepiece options for a customized fit.
One thing we've discovered is that you may have to try a few different pairs of goggles to ensure the best fit. Along those same lines, some kids have more sensitive eyes/faces than others so inexpensive goggles may work for some kids and not for others.
(3) All swim caps are not created equal.
Like most teams, our club offers a logo swim cap. We purchased two, but quickly discovered that the quality was lacking and that we would need other options for practice.
After checking in with a few other parents for recommendations, we noticed that "silicone" kept coming out on top as the best material for swim caps. Less snagging! Easier on/off removal! More comfort! We definitely found this to be the case. Our 9-year-old now wears the Speedo Silicone Swim Cap ($5.99) and our 7-year-old wears the Sporti Love Lines Silicone Swim Cap (on-sale for $3.99). Both match their team colors and we have far fewer complaints since we switched to these caps.
(4) Stock up on snacks.
As a brand new swim mom (and a person who never participated in swim team as a child), I was somewhat surprised by the intensity of each day's practice. The workout is no laughing matter. Kids as young as four were swimming laps across the pool like nobody's business. The 9-12's daily practice is 75 minutes, which begins with dryland training (push-ups, planks, sit-ups, you-name-it).
As a result of this increase in exercise, our kids needed extra calories at the pool. On most weekdays, we are there for a combined total of 2 1/2 hours. I'm still learning when it comes to snack options, but we've had success with beef jerky, applesauce, trail mix, oranges, even a salad in a cooler (with paper plates + forks).
(5) You'll need a spacious swim bag.
Carrying all your swim gear (suits, caps, goggles, brushes, shampoo, change of clothes, snacks, water bottles, towels, phew!) can be an overwhelming prospect. Selecting a BIG swim bag is the best option if you have little ones. I quickly noticed that a majority of moms on our team preferred the large rectangular Utility Totes ($35) by Thirty-One Gifts. Lots of room + easy access = success!
You will probably want to go with the Deluxe Utility Tote ($50) since it has interior pockets. If you choose the standard tote (which is a tad bit smaller), be sure to also get a few accompanying accessories to keep your supplies organized. We have the Picnic Thermal Tote ($35) and the Double Duty Caddy ($25), which definitely help with organization.
(6) Choose a quality sunscreen.
With all of the reports about the dangers of sunscreen, our family switched to only organic sunscreen several years ago. Our favorite has been the mineral-based spray option by Babyganics. It's actually not a spray in the traditional sense - the bottle is more like a pump. We spritz a bit on to our hands and then spread the light liquid on to our children's skin. It feels very airy and lightweight - and I appreciate the high safety quotient. No PABA, phthalates, parabens, fragrances, or nano-particles to worry about!
(7) Take care of your hair.
All three of our girls have very light white-blonde hair and - so far- we've avoided the customary green of swimmer's hair. Both of our swimmers take showers immediately after practice. Whenever possible, we have them use the Babo Botanicals Swim & Sport Shampoo & Wash and Babo Botanicals Swim & Sport Detangling Spray. Both products are specifically designed to rinse out chlorine and pollution from the pool, while moisturizing at the same time.
As for hairbrushes, all four of the girls in our family (including me!) prefer Wet Brush for safer, gentler detangling - whether our hair is wet or dry.
(8) Bring a chair.
Swim team is the first real "sport" our family has participated in. The girls have taken lessons in the past - ballet, gymnastics, tennis, girls on the run, etc. This, however, has been a far different level of commitment in terms of time. Lucky for us, the pool is 5 minutes from our house and we have lots of friends on the team so it's been a smooth transition. Even so, it's a good idea to bring a folding chair(s) or a waterproof picnic blanket along to the pool with you so you can watch from the side in comfort - especially if you happen to be 7 months pregnant! ;)
(9) Consider joining before age 9.
As with many club sports, the competition increases as kids get older. In our area, it is definitely preferable to join at ages 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8 because the practices tend to be shorter and the instructional time tends to be greater.
That being said, there are still brave souls who join at older ages (even teens who have never been on a team before!).
(10) Encourage your new swimmer (and have fun!).
Swimming is a super sport for kids and adults because it can be both an individual and team sport. The focus is on moving toward your personal best. Plus, it's one of the best forms of exercises when it comes to safety since it's far gentler on your joints than other high-cardio sports. In fact, as I've watched the girls, I have often remarked to Tim that I wish I had had a similar experience as a child. I'm half-tempted to get stroke lessons even now. ;)
No wonder, USA Swimming has dubbed it the #FunnestSport. As an English major, that phrase makes me cringe - BUT I do see truth in the hashtag. Hooray for swimming and three cheers to all of the brave swimmers who are part of such a fantastic sport!
WHAT OTHER SWIM TEAM TIPS WOULD YOU ADD TO MY LIST?