What a difference a pool makes in a community

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Our gorgeous city pool, home of the Piranha Swim Team.

I’m researching the history of our swim club because it’s the 50th year since the Piranha Swim Team began. Plus, a big chunk of our family life centered around the pool and the Piranhas beginning with mommy and me classes, learn to swim, through the kids’ years with our team and their high school. Now my husband and I both swim Masters.

This project has been fun because it’s like putting together a complicated puzzle. I talk to a variety of people and learn about their love of swimming and how the team and city pool has impacted their lives. I’ve spoken with an “original” Piranha, who joined the team at age six from day one of the team when it was called the Palm Springs Swim Club. I’ve talked to a coach from the ‘80s who grew the team from a dozen swimmers to more than 150. 

I learned about a woman who was one of the team’s early coaches, Pearl Miller, who was greatly loved and respected by many—and found her US Masters records online. Coach Miller competed in her 70s through age 92! She began coaching the team at age 74 and held a contest to name the team. The top two names were Palm Springs Sunfish and Palm Springs Piranhas.

One of my longtime writing friends told me she moved from Montreal to work as an assistant coach for the Piranhas in the ‘80s. She said her career as a freelance writer and her marriage all came about because of her years on deck. She became close friends with several swim families including her future husband’s. Another swim family’s dad worked as the sales manager for KPSI, a local radio station, and hired her as a copywriter that spurred her career of decades.

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My kids and Angus the Guide Dog flunkie who inspired my son to fundraise at the city pool.

I remember with pride my son’s second-grade birthday party when he invited his class at school plus his swim friends. I was stressed about where we could host 50 kids.The pool at the time charged less than a dollar a kid and a pool party it would be. Then my son surprised me when I said he couldn’t have presents, because 50 presents were ridiculous. I thought about the nightmare of watching him open a stack of presents and what to do with them at home. He was okay with that and asked if he could request donations for the Guide Dogs of the Desert in honor of our Guide Dog flunkie Angus. He ended up raising close to $2,000 for Guide Dogs from the pool party, not only from his friends, but news spread and people showed up at the pool to donate.

Every year our Masters team raises money for Angel View’s Crippled Children’s Homes thanks to local CPA Steven Erickson who started the event. It’s a New Year’s Eve lap swim of 10,000 yards where we adults ask for sponsors and pledges. The pool is not just for kids, but it’s part of our adult community, too.

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Two of my friends swimming their 10k for Angel View.

 

The pool sees visitors from all over the world who enjoy lap swimming in our gorgeous pool while on vacation. The Piranhas host meets several times every year with literally a thousand families traveling from throughout the southwest United States to compete at a single championship meet and stay in our vacation resort town.

I think of all the kids who learned to swim at our city pool. It must be in the tens of thousands. Pools in backyards and condos are common in Palm Springs, where summer temps hit 90 to 126 plus degrees. Because pools are in backyards everywhere, children die from drowning. The city pool offers learn-to-swim and water safety classes. It’s literally a matter of life and death, not just recreation or sport, or a way to open doors for college. Think of those lives our pool and swim team have impacted.

From the World Health Organization:

Drowning Fact sheet
Updated May 2017:

In the United States of America: drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in children aged 1–14 years.

Access to water

Increased access to water is another risk factor for drowning. Individuals with occupations such as commercial fishing or fishing for subsistence, using small boats in low-income countries are more prone to drowning. Children who live near open water sources, such as ditches, ponds, irrigation channels, or pools are especially at risk.

Teaching school-age children basic swimming, water safety and safe rescue skills is another approach. But these efforts must be undertaken with an emphasis on safety, and an overall risk management that includes a safety-tested curricula, a safe training area, screening and student selection, and student-instructor ratios established for safety.

How is the community pool part of the fabric of your life? 

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Not Quite Ready for Prime Time — Why Kids Aren’t Ready for College

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My son left for college four years ago. Looking back on his freshman year, he said that he was totally unprepared.

In my opinion, his freshman year was a failure because of extenuating circumstances. A crazy, drug-induced roommate. A fall off his bike and the need to come home for reconstructive surgery on his hand. Those two things could mess up anyone’s freshman year. But, he said he wasn’t ready to take care of all the parts of his life and study, too.

I wrote about skills our kids need to learn before they leave for college here in the “Top Ten Things Kid Need to Learn Before College.” I learned from my son, the simple things that I thought my kids knew, but did not. I took for granted that he could buy things at the store, or hang onto his wallet. Or that he’d know what to do if he lost his wallet.

Palm Springs Aquatic Center where my kids spent their youth.The second time around — with my second child — I tried to make sure she was better prepared. I was talking with a few swim moms yesterday. Part of the problem is us. The sheer volume of hours our swimmers spend at the pool topped with homework gives us an excuse to treat them like kings or queens. We do everything for them, and they don’t learn how to take care of themselves. We are crippling their growth and development and we are guaranteeing that their first year of college will be harder than it needs to be.

My son lived in a house with seven guys his sophomore and junior years of college. He said they were all brilliant, gifted students — and the house was a mess — and the bills went unpaid.

dishchart_lrgI asked, “Were they all prima donna’s?”

He answered, “Pretty much. Because they were ‘gifted’ in school, their mothers did everything for them all the time. Its was like, ‘you need to study to get As in your seven AP classes. Let me take care of this for you.’ ”

Before you jump in and strip the bed and wash the sheets — just stop. Let your child do it. Yes, their schedules are crazy. But, yours is too. Let them do more for themselves.

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I spent my daughter’s senior year driving her lunch to school. She’d text me for Chipotle, pizza, or whatever — and I’d stop everything I was doing — buy her lunch and deliver it. I’ll admit it, I enjoyed it and knew my days as a hovercraft were numbered.

Your child’s freshman year of college will be an adjustment year. Do whatever you can to prepare your kids to be successfully independent.

Doing less for them is doing more.