The dog days of summer are the perfect time to be poolside, and nowhere is that more evident than with Williamsburg’s thriving summer swim teams; the area fields almost two dozen teams each summer.
Often broken down by neighborhood — the Queen’s Lake Eagles, the Kingsmill Sharks, or the Wellington Waves, for example — there are often around a hundred kids swimming for most of these teams.
Wellington Waves coach Matthew Dryden said there are a few reasons, but Williamsburg has two things many areas might not: lots of neighborhoods that have community pools, which makes swim teams possible, and many opportunities to swim outside of the summer, meaning there’s a larger group of swimmers to draw from.
“Swimming has a lot of simple appeal for kids over the summer as a sport, not just for a chance to stay cool, and it’s a lifelong skill that’s useful even if you don’t stick with the sport,” Dryden said.
“Here in Williamsburg though, not only do we have a bunch of neighborhoods that have pools, we do have a lot of options for swimming outside of the summer, both the high school teams or the year around clubs like 757swim and Williamsburg Aquatic Club that have been here for ages.”
Dryden, who has coached the Waves for the past six years, said the Waves offer a fairly typical portrait of local summer swim teams. Participation is open to kids from age 3 through high school seniors, with Wellington fielding 110 registered swimmers. Some of the kids swim at the high school level or year-round, others play other sports during the rest of the year, but there are also a lot of kids who just come to swim and beat the summer heat — a factor with some extra appeal this year.
“Some pools have a diving well, ours does not, and you can definitely feel the heat, especially in the shallower ends of the pool, so a lot of kids enjoy the chance just to cool off for a bit,” Dryden said. “The past couple of years, we’ve been very competitive, and this year has been no exception, we’re just behind the Ford’s Colony Killer Whales in our division right now.”
“We practice in the mornings before it gets too hot, I know some other teams have had practice or other events entirely canceled because of the heat this summer.”
The record-breaking temperatures have had some impact on the summer swim season agreed Jen Moskal Price, the team president of the Manta Rays at Williamsburg Community Pool. Price points out that as bad as the heat this year has been, it’s still not enough to dampen the enthusiasm for what has grown to be a summer tradition.
“I don’t know if the weather has attracted new swimmers — summer swim is a commitment we make in May, long before the weather gets as offensive as it has been,” Price said. “Our kids certainly appreciate the chance to get out of the weather for an hour, but Williamsburg is a very swim-centric town, and summer swim is an institution.”
As for the kids themselves, they mention there are a few other big draws to summer swim.
Warhill sophomore Matthew Walker Keithly, who swims for the Waves over the summer and for Warhill and 757swim the rest of the year, said part of the appeal is summer swim has a different flow to it, with a focus on teamwork and friendly competition
“It helps keep me in shape over the summer, and this summer specifically, I think we’re all happy for a chance to stay cool for a couple of hours,” Matthew said. “The meets are really fun, but it’s different from high school or year-round swimming, not just because you’re competing against different people, but it’s friendly, more team-oriented than the others.”
Others, like fellow Waves team member and Toano seventh-grader Lexi O’Neil, said that a chance to get in the water or family and local tradition may have been what first got her involved in summer swim, but something different has kept her coming back for the past eight summers: discovering a genuine love and passion for the sport.
“My brother had done it before me, and I’d gone to all his meets, and I know folks whose parents swam for some of these teams, so it’s a family tradition for a lot of people, so I started because of that,” Lexi said.
“What kept me with it was I loved being in the water, I loved swimming, and I come back each summer and started swimming with the Williamsburg Aquatic Club the rest of the year because of that love of swimming.”
Sean CW Korsgaard can be reached at 757-968-1529, by email email@example.com, and on Twitter @SCWKorsgaard.