Nashville Swim League beats the heat

Thursday, June 14, 2001 at 1:00am

The Nashville Swim League (NSL) has been offering summer fun for area children for approximately 40 years.

Not surprisingly, the league is growing at a rapid rate.

Last year the NSL had between 1,300-1,400 children competing in the city meet, which is the final meet of the season. President and former NSL swimmer Pam Richards said some of the swimmers are in year-round programs, but most are not.

"The majority of kids are kids who are just out there from the second week in June until about the third week in July, for five or six weeks just having a great time," Richards said. "They're learning what it is to be part of a team, and they're learning the importance of team unity and team spirit."

The league, which once encompassed Davidson, Williamson, Maury, Rutherford and Sumner counties, grew so much it was forced to split from Williamson County five years ago, and Richards suspects another split could be in the making.

"Because of the size of the league we had outgrown the facility where the city meet is held, which is the Sportsplex, and we were forced to split the league," Richards explained. "Now Williamson County has its own swim league, and I have talked to them and they are growing by leaps and bounds.

"A lot of things that are happening now in Nashville, I think, will warrant the board to have to look at splitting the league again," Richards said.

According to Richards, the growth has occurred because more neighborhoods have joined the league over the past several years, as well as country clubs and civic centers.

"So we're growing and we're excited about the growth, but at the same time it creates some problems because the Sportsplex, even though it's a great facility, is limited in terms of numbers," Richards said.

Richards said one of the reasons they started using the Sportsplex was because they outgrew the former facilities, and the parks board and the Metropolitan Government wanted to showcase the new facility with the Tracy Caulkins Pool.

"Of course, Tracy was a product of the Nashville Swim League herself, in her early years of swimming," Richards explained.

Richards explained there are a lot of necessary components to the league including the coaches and the volunteers.

"I think the coaches in our league do a good job of emphasizing that summer swimming should be fun, and it should be fun," Richards agreed. "It shouldn't be something that causes the child stress. Our coaches do a good job encouraging sportsmanship and not necessarily emphasizing that winning is the important thing but that the important thing is doing your best."

Richards added that the swim meets would not be able to go on without the volunteers because they staff the meet.

"It is an incredible network of volunteers over the course of a whole summer," Richards said. "It used to be pretty much a mom-run kind of thing, but now we have quite a few fathers who are involved and even some grandparents, and that's a great thing to see."

According to Richards, the league was founded primarily for the summer swimmer, some of whom have been swimming since they were four years old. In response to those children, the NSL has devised a plan to give back by setting up four $1000 scholarships a year for graduating seniors.

"We decided rather than just letting it [money] sit there and gather interest in the bank that that was the way we wanted to give back to the children who have been loyal to the swim league," Richards said.

Richards said the NSL is important to her, as well as her family because it has given her own child the opportunity to excel in a sport.

"She's [Grace] had an opportunity also to learn what it is to be part of a team," Richards said. "To learn and to understand that even though you may not win, as long as you're giving your best and 100 percent, then you

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