Every year my kid’s team has an intrasquad meet in September to kick off the season. After months of everyone (me, her sister, other coaches, parents and swimmers) trying to convince my youngest daughter that the swim team is fun and she should give it a try, she decided she wanted to do it. So last month was her first shot at actually racing, but it was just a little meet with her own teammates, not a USA Swimming sanctioned meet.

This weekend, our team hosted an annual meet where the kids all try to accomplish “IMX” (IM Extreme) or “IMR” (IM Ready) status. This just means they swim challenging events within their age group in all 4 strokes in the spirit of encouraging and grooming well rounded swimmers.

At 7, my youngest daughter didn’t participate in the IMX challenge – but she did successfully complete her first real USA Swimming meet ever! She swam 4 events, and even did her first relays. I have to mention that not only did she complete her 4 events without getting DQ’d (breaststroke and 8 & unders don’t mix), she also accidentally scraped her leg pretty badly on the starting block while getting in the water before backstroke and swam anyway. She came out sobbing but really proud of herself, and all of the older swimmers surrounded her and helped her over to me đź’•.

My older daughter did participate in the IMX events, and also swam the 500 free for the first time. When I asked her how she felt after her race, she shrugged her shoulders, gave me a goofy look and said, “I don’t know, my arms kinda hurt”. #truth

It was also a first for me – I haven’t counted for anyone in about 20 years so I guess it was my first time counting for someone when I wasn’t on the pool deck swimming myself. And my first time on deck coaching at a home meet.

Napkin drawing by youngest daughter: Coach Mommy

I say all this not to brag about my own kids, but just to highlight how fun it is to be a parent or a coach on deck and see all of these kids get their swim meet “firsts”. We had several swimmers attempt the 100 fly for the first time, others swim the 1000 free for the first time, and others just using the starting block for the first time (small victories). We had parent volunteers on deck running their legs off trying to get 10 and under kids with little meet experience to the correct heat and lane, we had a swimmer break :30 seconds in the 50 free for the first time, and a little 8 and under swim her first 100 ever.

And it’s not just that the swimmers have their “firsts”, it’s that they do this with the help and encouragement of their teammates, parents, and coaches around them. As I looked around the pool deck, I saw older kids helping and cheering for younger kids. I saw timers cheering for the kids in their lane, no matter what team they were on. I saw officials rushing to help the swimmer that missed their heat so they got a chance to swim in a later heat. I saw swimmers from different teams showing good sportsmanship by high-fiving over the lane lines after they’d just raced each other.

This is what I love about swimming – it takes a village. Yes, everyone is competing, but everyone is also cheering each other on. You never see a swimmer crying alone in a corner after a bad swim, you see a gaggle of teammates and friends surrounding them, patting their back and helping them shake it off. Swimming doesn’t just teach kids how to be good swimmers – it teaches them life lessons for being good humans.

My daughter’s first swim meet “tattoo”