Growing Up Among the Sharks

We recently completed our 11th season of summer swim team. The final one for Devin as a swimmer, and his first year as a coach.

As a family, we have always enjoyed swim team. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of thousand-degree nights, where the adults are sweating while the kids are swimming, or 5-hour meets that stop and go with thunder delays, but overall, swim team has always been a good experience for us.

A big part of the fun is that we have a neighborhood swim team—the Coachman’s Trail Sharks. Like many modern neighborhoods, our kids go to a myriad of schools—public, private, charter, magnets. From September-June, they rarely see one another.

And then, swim team starts. Friendship pick up exactly where they ended the summer before.

Friends may be taller, voices might be deeper, but the jokes are the same, the classic pool games resume, and the neighborhood lore is revisited. It is good old-fashioned fun. And it is rare.

Now that we have teenagers and a soon-to-be college student, one thing I have noticed about this band of neighborhood friends is that they likely would not be friends at all if they went to school together. They definitely would be cast into different groups because of their various interests—they are athletes, theater types, media junkies, journalists, equestrians, scholars.

They are a motley crew, but they share the bond of growing up in Coachman’s Trail where the same swim team cheer has been chanted for generations, where older kids actually play four-square with younger ones, and where lifeguards and coaches call you by name because they are your neighbors and your friends.

Yes, the younger kids learn to swim as part of the Sharks, but by the time the kids get to high school, it is really not about swimming at all. It is about friendships and fun. It is what you do in the summer in Coachman’s Trail.

You might win a race or a meet, or you might not. But you absolutely will have fun, and you will have friends whenever you show up at the pool. It is a beautiful thing, and we are grateful to be a part of it.

It does remind me a bit of what I see in non-profits across our state—people from diverse backgrounds serving side by side in soup kitchens, in shelters, and in thrift shops. Drawn together by a common interest, a common purpose, where unlikely friendships are forged and bonds created.

I know volunteers at a local crisis ministry that have served together every Wednesday morning for 30 plus years. Like our neighborhood Sharks, these folks most likely would not have become friends without this common interest, but because of it, they have supported one another through the birth of grandchildren, the loss of spouses, and the challenges of cancer. Often, they only see each other on Wednesdays, but they know they can count on each other no matter what.

Actually it is a lot like the Coachman’s Trail Sharks. Our kids don’t see each other much outside of the swim season, but they know that with a simple text, they have a friend whenever they need one. They call it growing up on Coachman’s Trail. We call it a blessing.

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