Gaithersburg, MD

Friday Night Pool Lights

Heather Jauquet

Building Community One Stroke at a Time

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Swim practice at the Dolphin Tank in GaithersburgHeather Jauquet/Author

The local summer swim team, the Flower Hill Dolphins, spends eight weeks every summer in a neighborhood pool in Gaithersburg. The swimmers and their families spend their mornings and their evenings on the pool deck. The swimmers practice hard, cheer for each other, and drop time. Through a labor of love, the parents support their swimmers. They are forever in the background volunteering for meets, chauffeuring athletes to practice or meets, and cheering loudly for their kids.

Head Coach Joel Acosta works hard to build community one swimmer at a time. He encourages his swimmers to shake hands across the lane ropes with their competitors. His swimmers cheer for the other team and thank them for a good meet when it is all over.

While Flower Hill sits solidly in N Division in their Divisional placement through the Montgomery County Swim League, you can't deny the heart they pour into their swimming. They approach every pep rally and team gathering with gusto.

The team reps work hard to provide opportunities for the Dolphins to not only work hard but play hard, too. For example, one year the team met off deck and into the arena for several rounds of laser tag.

There are team breakfasts where the parents meet early in the morning and prepare a feast of bacon, eggs, fruit, and juice the day before a dual meet. While the parents are cooking, the coaches let the swimmers have a “Fun Friday” after practice. The kids get to play after swimming laps or in the case of the new swimmers, their “Flippers,” learn how to swim.

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Fresh tie-dye for Flower Hill's pep rallyHeather Jauquet/Author

A family favorite is tie-dye day, where swimmers bring a white t-shirt and decide on the designs they want. The swimmers and parents chatter after practice as they rubber band their shirts in the style they want. As the shirts soak in soda ash, parents catch up on the latest swim team news while their kids strengthen their friendships with laughter and friendly competition. They meet again that evening, choosing their colors and ready to share their designs at the next meet.

Friday nights are reserved for team dinners, receiving ribbons, finding out who is the biggest loser and dropped the most time. A swimmer is awarded Swimmer of the Week. Swimmer of the Week is not necessarily the fastest swimmer or the one who dropped the most time. Maybe that swimmer went above and beyond showing their team spirit. Maybe a swimmer mastered the difficult butterfly stroke and swam it without getting disqualified in a meet. Whatever the reason for the recognition, the team cheers and nudges each other long.

With the Tokyo Olympics taking up the last weeks of summer, swimmers looked towards their Maryland State favorites like Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, Chase Kalisz, or Phoebe Bacon.

With googles on their faces and caps on their heads, the kids of Flower Hill swim with heart.

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"Flipper" swimmer swimming in the Flower Hill Mini MeetHeather Jauquet/Author

As the kids swim, the parents gather around bleary-eyed from late-night meets, sweat pouring down their faces on a 90-degree day, or an extra towel for the unseasonably cool morning for a Saturday meet. They nod their heads over hot coffee, talking about meet schedules, practice times, and their kids' accomplishments over the season. A veteran swim parent will agree with a new Flipper parent that the hours are long, but remind them that the days are short. And once that new swimmer swims her first competitive lap, there’s no looking back.

So while the official season has ended for the Montgomery County Swim League, the community and friendships made on that neighborhood pool deck in Gaithersburg continue to span the years. So until next year, Flower Hill, swim hard and swim fast. We’ll be waiting for you.

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Heather Jauquet writes articles centered around the DMV and her adventures in other local communities. Follow her to get information about Montgomery County education, government, and community news. When she's not writing, she's running. Got a story to share? Email her: hjauquet@gmail.com

Gaithersburg, MD
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