While many children spend their summers occupying their time at camp or hanging out around the house, the new Laurel Hill swim team provides children with an opportunity for exercise and a reason to get out of the house.
Over 100 swimmers, ranging in age from 4 to 18, are involved with the Laurel Hill Tritons, the 103rd team to join the Northern Virginia Swim League and the first team to join the league in six years.
Tom Gemma, the Laurel Hill swim team representative, said he started a team in the area because his children are year-round swimmers and wanted a team close to home.
“I decided that if I want a swim team in my community, well, I better start one,” Gemma said.
AFTER RALLYING parents in the neighborhood for support, Gemma said a practice team was started last year to show NVSL the community’s level of commitment. Representatives from NVSL observed the team’s practices and then voted unanimously to allow the team to join the league.
“Last year, we had 20 kids on the practice team,” he said. “I had no idea what would happen this year, but we ended up with 100 kids. I’m happy with that.”
Gemma said he credits the large turnout to the incredible support from area residents who viewed the team as a way to unite the community.
“It’s a new community, so everyone has just moved in,” he said. “This is really helping us meet and get to know each other.”
Del. Dave Albo (R-42), spoke at a rally before the team's first home meet on Saturday, July 1. He reminisced about his childhood days spent at the swimming pool when he and his brother participated in the Northern Virginia Swim League.
"I remember when I was a kid how much I enjoyed being on a NVSL team," he said. "For as long as I can remember, my mom would give us each a Pop Tart in the morning, and we would ride our bikes down to the pool and spend the whole day there."
Albo said he agreed that the new team would not only give the local children a constructive activity to do over the summer, but it would also strengthen community ties.
"This is something that's starting to die out in the Northern Virginia community — people don't seem to have the time to meet their neighbors because they're working so much," he said. "This lets the parents meet each other and the kids meet each other."
Denise Baird, a parent of two swimmers, said the team has been an excellent way to meet new members of the community.
“We didn’t really know that many people here,” she said. “But we’ve been able to meet a lot of nice kids and a lot of nice parents.”
FOLLOWING SWIM MEETS, parents and swimmers often go out to lunch, Baird said, or bump into each other during the week at the grocery store or around the neighborhood.
Gemma said it is this kind of friendly atmosphere that makes the swim team attractive to community parents.
“We don’t really stress the competitive nature of the sport,” he said. “It's just something fun for the kids.”
In addition to meeting in the morning five days a week, the swim team organizes events such as barbecues and car washes. A trip to Kings Dominion is planned for later in the summer.
Annie Yi, who moved this past year into the Laurel Hill community, said she joined the team this summer after reading about the team in the flyer Gemma distributed throughout the community when trying to raise support.
Yi said she is glad she joined the team because it gave her the chance to participate in a sport she loved without “sweating too much.”
More importantly, she said, it gives her the chance to “hang out with friends.”