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LARSON: Swim league story made big splash

Susan Larson

Susan Larson

When I read Meg Rooney’s opinion piece about her 17 years on the board of the Gwinnett County Swim League, it brought back fond memories of those swim team years with my boys. In the wake of her words, I’d like to elaborate on some of them.

We had just moved into the Nantucket subdivision in 1989, the very week they were signing up kids for the swim team. My boys were ages 6, 8 and 12. This was a totally new experience for all of us. At that first meet, except for the coach, we knew absolutely no one. I sat on the sidelines waiting for what seemed to be hours between the times my own kids competed. I was bored to death. But the kids made friends immediately and I took delight in seeing the whole neighborhood cheer them on with every stroke.

I could see I needed to get involved, so I started with the concession stand, where everyone recognized me as a new face and welcomed me to the neighborhood. The following year I stepped up to the challenge of being a timer, which was at first a bit intimidating. Here I stood, with a perfect stranger, with stopwatches in hand, our goal was to click in together as close as we could to the hundredth of a second. They’ve got to be kidding, I said to my partner, but the first time, we were within maybe three tenths of a second of each other. Not bad, I thought.

But it got better. About halfway through the meet, somehow we tapped into each other’s brainwaves or something and became totally synced, clicking in together exactly at one hundredth of a second. And this wasn’t just a one time phenomenon.

As for all those strangers, I couldn’t help but notice the difference between swim team and other sports where each season the team was formed by random selection. For each season I sat on the sidelines with a new group of parents I didn’t know and probably would never see again cheering for kids I didn’t know and probably would never see again.

Swim team was one big family cheering together for the same kids every season. We took pride in their progress from week to week and year to year. And after every meet we all gathered at Mazzio’s Pizza, because win or lose, there was always something to celebrate. Even if we didn’t beat the other team, the kids still competed with each other for placement and there was always the individual victory of beating their own time.

Friendships traversed the whole K-12 spectrum, with older kids mentoring the younger ones and even inspiring many, including my son Leif, to become lifeguards.

Thanks Meg for that wave of nostalgia and for all you did to keep GCSL afloat.

Susan Larson is a writer from Lilburn. Email her at susanlarson79@gmail.com

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