Summertime is swim meet time at clubs all over town

Eight teams participate through Tri-Valley Swim League

"Swimmers: Take your mark."

That's the sound of summer at swim clubs all over Pleasanton as kids ages 4 to 18 grip their toes on the edges of pools and starting blocks, preparing mentally and physically to dive right in and give it their all.

Each lane has two timers, one from each team, who click their stopwatches as the swimmer touches the edge. Some emerge from the water anxious to learn their time. Beginners are pleased just to have made it all the way.

Joan Strom, coordinator for the Del Prado Stingrays for 10 years, said it's rewarding to see the children advance in their swimming skills.

"We do the time trails at the beginning and we get these little ones that have been practicing for two weeks," she said; they often have to stop mid-swim, hang on to the lane line and catch their breath.

But soon they learn correct strokes and develop stamina.

"That's very rewarding to see," Strom said.

Swim meets in the Tri-Valley Swim League are a very big deal. Eight teams compete against each other, with volunteer parents staffing the meets. Officials line one side of the pool, tracking times. Swimmers begin to gather as their swim times approach, with the younger ones shepherded by parents.

The Strom family has been involved with the Stingrays since they joined in 1995.

"My daughter, Julianne, was 7," recalled Strom. "We were new in the neighborhood and to the community, and I talked her into joining."

In a couple of years, Julianne was joined by her younger siblings, John and Jaclyn. Dad Jay became the meet announcer. As swimmers stand poised to begin, he calls off their first names.

The season runs from mid May until the end of July, with meets Saturday mornings and Wednesday evenings, and practice every weekday.

"It makes me feel good," Joan Strom said. "We spend the summer as a big unit. We camp for half a day every Saturday."

"There's a very strong family tradition at Del Prado," she added. "So many stick with it all the way through high school."

This summer, the team has 10 graduated seniors, and most of them joined when they were little.

"It's very neat, very special to me. That's our hope, that they'll stick with you," commented Strom. "It's hard when they get to be 12, 13. If you're not a strong swimmer it gets hard. But we hope that we recognize everyone, and that there's something special there that they keep coming back."

Some swimmers choose to join Seahawks, a USS year-round competitive swim team, which makes them ineligible for recreational swimming. Many of the Stingrays swim for their high school teams, which is allowed.

"My oldest daughter didn't want to swim when she got to Foothill, but she tried it and loved it," said Strom. "She became so much stronger. That's my hope, that most of them have at least done it a year."

Strom remembers when the only activities competing with the swim season were girls soccer and baseball all-stars.

"Now there is that along with water polo, lacrosse, cheerleading, which is now like a sport," she said. "Some go away to camp, and kids are very involved in community service and foreign languages. Some people are really squeezing a lot in."

Last Wednesday evening, the Stingrays hosted FAST, the Foothill Area Swim Team, at the Del Prado Cabana Club on Paseo Santa Cruz. Youngsters played on the grass, enjoying the warm temperatures, while older swimmers lounged around snacking and visiting while waiting for their events.

Lizzy Gates and Lani Cohen, both recent Amador Valley High grads, started with Del Prado at an early age. They said they stay on the team for the social aspect.

"I quit for a few years. I was teaching swimming and didn't want to be in the water 24 hours a day," said Gates, who is going to Chico State in the fall.

She still came to watch her younger sister swim so decided this year she might as well join up again.

"I like how much of a community our team is," said Cohen, who is heading off to University of Hawaii. "I see families from Del Prado around town and they say hi."

"It's a really great way to spend your summer," she added.

They said most of the seniors also have jobs but with a recreational swim team it's OK to miss practice once a week to accommodate their schedules.

The snack bar was doing a brisk business on this warm evening. It raises funds for the team, along with apparel sales and the dues, which are $120 for members of the Cabana Club and $130 for non-members. Del Prado has 148 swimmers this season, who are spread throughout the age groups, and it practices Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Wednesday and Friday mornings.

"Practices are sometimes really hard but they're really fun," Strom said.

They can include a donut relay -- swim a lap, eat half a donut, make sure your mouth is clear, then dive back in -- or a piggyback race with big kids carrying the little ones on their backs.

"That way the big ones know the little ones and the little ones know the big ones," Strom explained.

Del Prado has a history as a club of families who support the kids, she noted.

"When they're swimming, everyone is watching and cheering. Lots of parents are there -- they don't just drop them off," Strom said. "I think the kids love to compete. We have fantastic coaches that the kids really like."

The League season ends with a championship meet the last weekend in July held at the Dolores Bengtson Aquatic Center.

"We can take 130 swimmers," Strom said. "We used to have to beg people, now we want people to volunteer to not do it. If you're a diehard swim team member, you don't go on vacation until August."

Whichever team scores the most points is crowned the champions, and Del Prado earned the honor in 2009. Last year it was ClubSport Pleasanton.

The night before the championship meet, the Del Prado "chalk fairies" hit up the homes of the swimmers 10 and younger and write encouraging messages in their driveways.

"The ones that have been on the team will be waiting and expecting it," said Strom with a laugh. "I liked it as a parent when that was done for my kids."

After the championships, Del Prado has its awards banquet.

"We thank everybody for the season, with a potluck dinner, and the swim team provides hamburgers, hotdogs and drinks," Strom said. "We recognize outstanding swimmers, athletically, and the ones that had great character, cheered on teammates, who had the 'Del Prado Spirit.'"

They end the evening with a slide show that starts with the first meet and follows the team through the season.

Former swim coach Mark Hudson (2000-01) was at the Wednesday meet, saying he enjoys a dose of the family atmosphere once a week. He swam USS in college.

Gina Juarez and her husband Tom met when they were both coaches for the Stingrays in 1992. They married in 1997. Now although they live in San Ramon they have their children Tommy, 11, and Reagan, 10, swimming for Del Prado.

"The families are so welcoming," Juarez said.

"This year we have all coaches that swam for us," Strom said. "They know the history of what we stand for."

Jaclyn Strom is heading off to college in the fall so is completing her last summer as a Del Prado Stingray, ending her parents' involvement in the team after 17 years.

"I'm a little concerned about it," admitted Joan. "We've never missed a home meet."

But they know that they'll still be welcomed back at the meets -- it's the Del Prado way.

Tri-Valley Swim League

* Briarhill Barracudas Dublin

* ClubSport TidalWaves

* DBAC (Dolores Bengtson Aquatics Center) Piranha Swim Team

* Del Prado Stingrays

* Dublin Green Gators

* FAST (Foothill Area Swim Team) Dolphins

* PMST (Pleasanton Meadows Swim Team)

* Ruby Hill Killer Whales


Like this comment
Posted by Molly
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 17, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Thank you Pleasanton Weekly for running this story! Swimming is a great sport, one which so many P-town families have participated in for years. Too often it takes a backseat to the more 'spotlighted' sports like baseball, basketball, and soccer. These kids are incredible athletes and their work ethic should be noted. Lastly it should be noted that swimming in this town is strong because of the support and positive attitude of so many parents! Great story!

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Posted by agreed
a resident of Amador Estates
on Jul 17, 2011 at 5:59 pm

i agree with molly.

in fact i strongly believe pleasanton should focus even more on swimming.
the delores bengston aquatic center, while adequate, needs dramatic improvements.
the locker rooms are small, often filthy, and an embarrassment.

these pool facilities could be so much better and could serve as a showcase for more regional, even national meets. i believe a study should be done to see how to improve this aquatic center.

Like this comment
Posted by swimmer's mom
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jul 18, 2011 at 10:54 am

When I saw the colorful front page referring to swimming, I too was excited that something as wholesome as swimming was going to be showcased in our Pleasanton Weekly. As I read the article I was dismayed to read all about Del Prado. They are a consistant swim club and they deserve to have some highlights but what about the rest of the clubs? You list them but you did not take the time to ask around town if these other clubs had some input or exciting news to share too? This was a very long article on Del Prado only. How would Foothill High School feel if they were listed but there was a front page and two full inside pages on Amador High School only? This was a very biased article not to mention that the editing was poor listing Del Prado as the Stingrays which is correct and then throughout the article as as the Dolphins. I just wish that you took the time to talk to each club since you wrote such a long article on one club.

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Posted by Unhappy Neighbor
a resident of Del Prado
on Jul 18, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Although in the article it is showed as an Exciting Event...yada, yada, yada, if you are a neighbor to this tiny community "Cabana Club" swimming pool, it's a pain in the but. All I have to say is Loud electronic speakers, electric Buzzers and Screaming people from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., not to mention parking a huge problem (you don't dare leave because your spot will be taken in a blink of an eye) is Not Exciting. It's annoying, should be illegal in such a small community pool when other establishments can contain this kind of activity without disrupting the neighborhood. It's a private club only open to a select group of homeowners in the area. They toned it down one year, when I complained to the police, but it's back up again. Not worth moving in this economy, but I will be looking elsewhere soon. Had the previous owner of my home advised me of these events I would have moved further away from the "Cabana Club."

These Events should be held at the Aquatic Center or the High Schools where the noise and parking can accommodate the crowds they draw. They don't belong in a neighborhood where homes are just a few feet away.

Consideration to the neighbors should be important, when it comes to Noise control and traffic control, when Any event that draws more than the neighborhood was intended to handle on a Regular Basis.

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Posted by Molly
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 18, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Unhappy Neighbor, I'm sorry you have been inconvenienced by the meets. Typically, in the Tri Valley Swim League each team hosts between 3 and 4 meets a summer. These meets take place between 9 a.m. and usually are over by 1 p.m. at the latest. The Wednesday meets begin at 6 and are over before 9 in most cases. In reality, 3-4 times in an entire summer seems like it shouldn't be that big of an inconvenience. Have you been to a swim meet? You should go sometime to see the community coming together to support a wholesome activity!Pleasanton Meadows has had to host meets at Amador this year, and our cabana club often is empty. The positive community spirit which a swim team can bring to the neighborhood is missing this year. I for one would welcome the 'noise' and crowded streets a few times a summer if it meant our team could use our own pool! I suppose it is all how you view things!Season is almost over so you can have your peace back!

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Posted by Mike Cheney
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 18, 2011 at 4:10 pm

For the little disruption a swim meet produces compared to all of the good that comes from a local community swim team, I for one, would feel it's WAY worth the interruption of 4 to 5 hrs 4 times a yr. The time the kids put in to practice keeps them out of trouble./ The time the parents put in keeps them involved in their community. You meet people you would never normally become acquainted with and this makes you more aware of the people in your neighborhood. You develop new friends and become a tighter nit community. For all the pluses compared to the small negative, it's a no brainier. I would guess that a community with a strong summer swim club would make your property worth more money. My family has reaped great benefits from our kids being involved in a swim club. Both have swam for their high school and received awards for their hard work. We reap the benefits of having kids that are in better shape do to the exercise they get. We get to know their friends because we are involved. As with most any swim club the parents are required to do a job for the club. For all the above it's worth the small negative.

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Posted by Anon
a resident of another community
on Jul 18, 2011 at 8:35 pm

I empathize with Unhappy Neighbor, but I encourage competitive swimming at the truly local (club) level. For the 4-6 events that occur a few doors away at one of the unnamed "cabana clubs", I will grouse about the inconvenience caused by some rude, uncaring megacar blocking some of my driveway, but that is an issue that should be addressed by the clubs to mitigate any anger by their neighbors, rather than the police.

The PA, bleeping start gun, cheering - that's the non-water action of these events. The local club has moved the starts to a more reasonable hour, made arrangements for off street parking nearby, and tries to work with the neighbors. It's probably those families and friends from the "Visitors" who exceed the parking space limits, taking that foot of driveway entrance. Heaven forbid they should have to tote their gear an extra 200-feet!

At least with all the cars parked on the street, the narrowness of the remaining street slows down any through traffic. One blessing.

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Posted by Swim Mom
a resident of Del Prado
on Jul 19, 2011 at 7:16 am

Anon, great perspective. Thanks for posting. Unhappy neighbor needs to move the heck out of P-town if they're so "unhappy." I know of a great town right up the freeway doesn't have as many cabana clubs so I suggest you take your trash cans off your street and move!

As for the article, I agree it was biased (and this is coming from a Del Prado parent). Not only biased but poorly edited. We are not the Dolphins - we are the Stingrays and my children wear their DP uniform proudly - they deserved to at least be called the correct swim team. Best of luck to all swim teams at their championship meets in the next few weeks!

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Posted by Well of course!
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2011 at 8:04 am

Of course all of the swim team parents think the inconsiderate actions/inconveniences are "totally worth it" - it is *their* activity that is the source of the problem! Why is a little courtesy for one's neighbors too unreasonable to request? Why should neighbors have to "tolerate" having their driveways blocked - or "move the heck out of P-town" per Swim mom? If it's a neighborhood club, these folks are helping subsidize the swim facility. Why is a little neighborly respect too much to expect?

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Posted by Unhappy Neighbor
a resident of Del Prado
on Jul 19, 2011 at 11:18 am

I think Swim moms and Swim families don't realize the problem. Yes it is wholesome, and lovely to have this kind of activity for your children, but, not at the level it comes to those who pay (Yes I pay the Required $300 annual fee for 3 months use, MINUS swim practice, classes and swim meets, private parties...) but don't participate. I love laughter and wholesomeness but not from 9a.m. to 10p.m. EVERY swim meet I repeat EVERY meet at the Del Prado Cabana:

"All I have to say is Loud Electronic speakers, electric Buzzers and Screaming people from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., not to mention parking a huge problem (you don't dare leave because your spot will be taken in a blink of an eye) is Not Exciting. It's annoying..."

Asking me to move or anyone who does not agree with your opinion is just Immature and I hope not the Mentality of Swim Families in general.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 19, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Seems that a little respect coming from some of the entitled P-Town folks would go a long way. If you think living near a pool is loud -- try living near the concerts in the park.
Not only do we put up with the noise (yes, sometimes the bands are just "noise") we get to put up with people taking all of the street parking, idiots parking in our driveways and/or blocking our driveways, people hanging out in the park until nearly midnight (the liquor permits expires at 9 PM) and then we can spend Saturday cleaning up the trash that those idiots threw into our yards. Last week that included a broken wine bottle and that is not the first time for broken bottles being thrown into my yard or even over my fence.
Of course, on Saturday morning while picking up trash pick we can also put up with the farmer's market traffic taking up all of the street parking.
No, I do not want to move, I love being downtown. But if you block my drive you will be towed, if you stay late in the park the police will be called. Enough is enough, learn some manners people.

Like this comment
Posted by Linda
a resident of California Reflections
on Jul 19, 2011 at 4:12 pm

We have so many bitter people in this town. We have such a lovely town with so much to offer families, singles, elderly and everyone else who deserves to live a great life like we do here. I don't agree with blocking the driveway nor should anyone be an animal and throw trash in someone's yard. You have every right to take action if that happens. Just remember it's the spirit of all of these diverse events that make our property values stay where they are. If you don't like it please move. I'll tolerate it if it means me laughing all the way to the bank someday.

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Posted by KT
a resident of Foothill Knolls
on Jul 19, 2011 at 11:20 pm

Unhappy Neighbor, you should really inquire about why Del Prado's swim team is using the pool from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. No swim meet ever requires closing the pool for swim meets for that amount of time. Again, Del Prado has only hosted three meets this year, and the fourth and final one will be this weekend. Sounds like there might be some miscommunication about who is using the pool for this length of time throughout the summer. Definitely not necessary.

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Posted by no manners
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 20, 2011 at 8:47 am

I agree that the fools who block driveways are the worst. Most of us LIKE the events, me included. I have just had it with entitled jerks who think my driveway is their parking paradise.
So, block my driveway, get towed. Park in my driveway again (you know who you are) and this time you better have 4 spare tires not just 1.

Like this comment
Posted by Happy parent
a resident of Mohr Park
on Aug 1, 2011 at 11:20 am

Congratulations to the DBAC Piranha's swim team for winning the TriValley Swim league championships on Saturday. We had an undefeated season, and it is the first championship win for our city run team in many years!!
The kids from all the teams swam hard and had lots of fun at the meet. Thank you to all the swim families and coaches who put their time into this.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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