The scene replays every Thursday night, much like it has since the Gwinnett County Swim League was founded in 1973.
Thousands of local youngsters crowd around neighborhood pools, competing in races and bonding with their friends. They swim some, talk more and eat just about every kind of candy offered at the concession stand. At the end of the year, they get to swim in the county meet at Georgia Tech’s posh venue.
They enjoy the evenings of swimming without a care, reveling in all the positives the massive summer league has to offer.
Lost in the sheer joy is what it takes to run the 45-team league that features around 6,350 young swimmers this summer. It’s been going strong for 39 years since its inception, and that couldn’t happen without the tireless efforts of the adults involved with it.
It starts with a 10-member board of directors group, headed by president Tim Vander Wood, that keeps everything from scheduling to scoring to sponsorships in line. They rely on council members from each of the league’s teams to make sure the summer goes smoothly.
Those officers put in long hours of work in the summer months, but they can’t make the season happen alone.
Each team (that range in size from 78 to 243 swimmers this year) requires a large group of volunteers. Plenty of swimmers may not notice those adults that dart back and forth around the crowded pools, sweating away as they handle a variety of jobs at the meets.
Each lane at the pool requires two volunteer timers. Another handful of adults must round up the packs of kids and make sure they’re in the right place when their event comes up (a challenge when you’re herding 6-and-under swimmers). Other parents work the concession stand. Or hand out first-place ribbons. Or make sure the hundreds of cars are in the right place, since most neighborhoods don’t have parking for those type of crowds.
That doesn’t even account for what the league’s coaches do for the young swimmers. They spend hours and hours on practices and meets, in addition to the days they spend setting lineups and relays around families’ summer vacations.
It’s a heavy workload for the adults, but they have great reasons for doing it — the thousands of smiling kids at Gwinnett pools every summer.
Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, visit www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.