Saturday, May 31, 2008

All about the logo

Yesterday you saw our 50th anniversary logo turned into a car magnet. But how did we get the logo?

When we were trying to think of ways to mark our 50th season, I went poking around on the Internet and found the Northern Virginia Swimming League site. Luckily for us, NVSL was established in 1956. I emailed the chair of their 50th committee, and he generously shared what they had done. He was particularly enthusiastic about the contest they'd held to design a special 50th anniversary logo.

Since it was now the off season, we tossed the logo idea out there via the team rep email list and got some great designs. The 50th anniversary committee chose their favorites and send recommendations to the MCSL board. The board decided to combine two designs, one from long time vendor and former swim mom, Lois at Capital Sport & Swim, and the other from Morgan, a swim dad at Manor Woods.

We've got the logo on all our program materials this season. (Eagle-eyed readers may discover an interesting inconsistency there which I'll discuss at a later date.) It will be on our invitational t-shirts, and we hope it will show up on many team and divisional tees as well.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Clinics and cars

It was standing room only at last night's advanced referee clinic. Based on a rough head count, I'd say there were almost 100 people in the room. I saw many familiar faces--men and women I've seen on deck for years. What a knowledgeable crowd!

Our next officials clinic is June 1--check our website for details. This clinic is for everyone, experienced or brand new. We'll have separate sessions on refereeing, starting, and stroke and turn judging--but you can only attend one session per clinic as they run concurrently. Plan to spend the entire morning.

At the clinic, I ran into Mike from Underwater Wear. He took our 50th anniversary logo--more on the logo tomorrow--and turned it into a car magnet. Here it is:

Cool, huh? It also looks great on refrigerators.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Advanced referee clinic

Tonight's the recertification clinic for advanced referees. Check our website ( for the place and time.

What's an "advanced" referee? At a minimum, it's someone who has refereed before. People looking to become a referee shouldn't attend tonight's clinic--there are other clinics for them in June. Even folks who have refereed for a couple seasons are probably not "advanced." Tonight's clinic is really designed for individuals who are very comfortable as refs and have been doing it for a while.

What do refs do? Well, they are responsible for the entire meet. In one way or another, they manage all the meet officials, making sure everyone knows his/her job and carries it out. A good ref anticipates problems before they happen, or, failing that, addresses any issue quickly.

A good ref is knowledgeable, decisive, and fair. Nothing substitutes for a thorough understanding of the rules, but perspective, a sense of humor, and a basic unflappability are all pluses.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Little flyers (and breaststrokers)

One of the challenges coaches face at the beginning of the season is teaching the little kids how to swim breaststroke and butterfly. In the Old Days, the only 8 & under events were in freestyle and backstroke. These strokes are relatively simple. Get from one end of the pool to the other without pushing off the bottom--that's the basic requirement to be"legal" in free. The backstroke adds the complication of staying on your back, but still, pretty simple. (Though lots of little ones do turn over onto their stomachs before they touch the wall at the finish.)

However, at the March 1993 MCSL meeting, the team reps voted to add 8 & under breaststroke and butterfly to our meets. Breast and fly have strict stroke requirements--kids must move their arms and legs in a definite pattern or they will be disqualified.

Some of the young swimmers are naturals--or swim year round--and seem to move effortlessly through the water. Others look like they're drowning. It can be a challenge for stroke and turn judges to determine if the odd motions they are seeing conform to the stroke requirements or not.

The really fun part comes when the stroke finally "clicks" for kids and they start dropping lots of time.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The first day of practice

Many teams start practice this afternoon--hopefully the air will be warm, the water won't be too cold, and the predicted thunderstorms won't show up--or at least not until after practice is over. There's no time to waste. Our first meet is June 14, just two and a half weeks away.

But this is a crazy time of year for families. Kids are still in school, so still busy with homework, exams, and then end-of-year school parties and other activities. Spring sports are still going on. Parents can get a little harried just figuring out how to get Johnny from baseball practice to swim practice to scouts. Morning practices usually don't begin until school is out, so teams have to crowd into the pools with the other patrons, stealing a few lanes and packing the kids in like sardines--if the kids can manage to get to practice at all, of course.

It's wild, but somehow we all manage to do it every year.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

On Memorial Day, let's pause to remember our alumni who died in the service of our country and hope for the safe return of those currently serving abroad.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

How many parents does it take to run a swim meet?

No, that's not the first line of a joke--and the answer is very, very many.

Let's just look at one Saturday morning dual meet. First there are the team reps who work closely with the coaches and who are responsible for most aspects of team management. They may have been in contact earlier in the week, ironing out any details like travel directions or parking or team areas. They've probably also conferred with their coaches and lined up parent meet volunteers.

Friday afternoon, after the teams exchange meet entries, a parent takes the data, merges it on the computer, and prints out all those lane/time sheets and meet programs. Friday night or very early Saturday morning, other parents arrive to set up the pool, moving chairs and tables and getting the meet equipment--backstroke flags, lane lines, starting machine, PA system--in place.

Saturday morning the snack bar crew arrives bright and early to plug in the coffee pot and set out sustenance for the bleary-eyed meet officials beginning to arrive. And there are lots of meet officials--the referee, the starter, four stroke and turn judges, 18 timers (3 parents on each of 6 lanes), a head timer, and an assistant head timer. There are 3 or 4 people at the computer table, 2 or more folks at the awards table, a couple clerks of course, an announcer, and a few runners. There may be a meet manager running around putting out fires--finding the first aid kit, trying to figure out where the pool staff hides the extra toilet paper, calling someone to bring more printer paper.

So, 40 or more moms and dads are busy working so the kids on their teams can compete. And there are even more parents at work at the Wednesday night "B" meets. Many of these parents have done these tasks for years as their child--or children--move through the team from little 8 & under to adult-sized 15-18.

Summer swim team really is a family sport.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The pools open today!

It's Memorial Day weekend and pools all over the county are opening their doors for the summer--even though it may not have felt very much like summer recently. Some intrepid kids will plunge into the icy water (icy if you don't have heaters) and families will get reacquainted with their summer friends.

The opening of the pools means the Montgomery County Swim League is moving into high gear. Parents have been working in the winter and spring to get their programs ready. They've been hiring coaches, choosing swimwear, lining up other parent volunteers, and doing all the other varied tasks necessary to insure the kids on their teams have a fun summer of swim meets and social events.

And there are many kids on the teams! More than 9,000 children ages 4-18 in almost 90 pools from Silver Spring to Poolesville to Damascus spend June and July going to swim practice. Boys and girls from kindergarten to high school (and, in come cases, college) all compete on the same team in the same meets. And the parents of all those kids also get involved. Having been both a swimmer (many, many moons ago) and a swim parent, I have to say I think it's a toss up as to who has the most fun. The kids get to hang with their pals, eat stuff from the snack bar, and learn a healthy life skill. Parents get to hang with their friends and eat stuff from the snack bar and, well, they don't have to get wet!

I'm planning on bringing you bits of history, reports from the around the league, and other MCSL snippets on a somewhat regular basis until we all leave town the end of July. If you have any topics to suggest, you can leave them in the comments or email me through the league website,

Have a great season!