Summer Swim Leagues, Had me a Blast!

Sarah Walter

By Kate Walter, Swimming World Intern.

Summer swim leagues are often a child’s first exposure to competitive swimming and can foster a lifetime love for the sport. Five-year-olds sporting neon googles hesitantly enter the pool upon their parents’ pleading and leave 13 years later with the biggest smiles on their faces and unforgettable memories.

Sure, year-round club swimming can lead to faster times, but there’s no better feeling than cheering your heart out at summer meets or feeling the sun’s warm rays at an early morning practice. In the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) area, summer swim leagues are incredibly popular. Saturday morning meets become a part of the weekly routine and vacations are pushed back until the season ends in August.

Part of what makes these 10 short weeks so enjoyable are the cherished traditions that each team takes so much pride in. These traditions are what keeps swimmers of all ages coming back year after year. Whether it’s a pep rally or team scavenger hunt, the 13 & Over “lock-in” or team laser tag, summer swim team traditions help cultivate a spirited and competitive atmosphere that cannot be replicated elsewhere.

Pre-Meet Rituals 


Photo Courtesy: Sarah Walter

While some teams in the Northern Virginia Swimming League smash watermelons on the pool deck and eat live goldfish before their races, most pools tend to take a less extreme approach to pre-meet rituals. One popular tradition for the Langley Club Wildthings in McLean, Virginia is the beckoning of Captain L. During the post-warm up cheers, the team chants “Captain L, Captain L,” until a group of senior swimmers run out from the locker room clad in crazy costumes and leading a series of cheers to help get the team pumped up.

Buddy Program


Photo Courtesy: Malia Fong

For younger members of the team, it can be quite daunting to swim in a meet for the first time among older swimmers who seem like giants. The Waves of Woodley Gardens in Rockville, Maryland established a buddy program to make sure that everyone feels welcome on the team. Older swimmers are paired up with younger teammates and are in charge of making posters and goodie bags to bring their buddy at meets.

Superheroes, Princesses, Swimmers, Oh My!

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Photo Courtesy: Lauren Blevins

Walk into the Hidden Brook Hurricanes pool on a Monday night and you’ll be greeted by the sight of superheroes, princesses and vampires. No, this is not some alternate universe you’ve stumbled upon but a normal home swim meet in Herndon, Virginia. Each meet is assigned a certain theme where swimmers can dress up and parade around the pool before stepping up on the blocks.

Progressive Dinner


Photo Courtesy: Jen Lesan

During the month of July, you’ll find cars filled with teenage swimmers driving around Northern Virginia shuffling from one house to another as they embark on their progressive dinner journey. The infamous progressive dinner is the highlight of summer for 13 & Over Langley Wildthings and has younger swimmers yearning to age up and join in on the fun.

Over the course of the evening, swimmers travel to three different houses for appetizers, entrees and dessert. Between houses, athletes stop at local parks and playgrounds with music blaring and windows down while driving across town. At some point during the night, coaches pair up swimmers and make them take prom-like pictures.

Lip Sync Legends 

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Photo Courtesy: The Langley Club

This revered tradition is one that brings out the inner performer of every swimmer. Each age group forms a team and spends weeks preparing a song to present to the rest of the team. On performance night, lip-syncers deck out in wigs and sunglasses, bringing their best game. Who says swimmers can’t be performers too?

Pancake Breakfast


Photo Courtesy: Linnaea Mallette

Imagine this: It’s a bright and sunny morning, and you’ve just tackled a tough set at practice. The decadent smell of freshly made pancakes wafts over from the gazebo. You waltz over to the pancake-making station and are met with an a plate full of pancakes and a countless array of toppings to choose from.

If there’s one person who you really do not want to get riled up, it’s a hungry swimmer after practice. This is one of the reasons why the pancake breakfast is always such a big success during the summer swim season. Any day filled with food, friends and swimming seems like a good day to me!


Photo Courtesy: The Langley Club

When looking back on summer season, swimmers won’t always remember their exact times or finishing places in meets. But they will remember the team cheers they sang or the person they took prom pictures with at the progressive dinner. Summer swimming serves as a respite from the competitiveness and intensity of the winter season. It helps every swimmer remember the reason they fell in love with the sport in the first place.

Commentary: All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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Adam Steinberg
5 years ago

Great read!

Angie Calvert
5 years ago

Patrick Williams Kasey Berry Chamblee

Marcia Ricci
5 years ago

This behind-the-scenes perspective will do wonders for recruiting new members in any town! A delightful read….

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