Gail Hayes took her two daughters to a swim meet five years ago at Ava and to her surprise, discovered a division for swimmers over 26.
“I went to Wal-Mart, bought a swimsuit and have been swimming ever since,” Hayes said.
Hayes is one of a handful of parents on the Houston swim team taking advantage of a unique characteristic of swimming. It’s one of the only sports that allows family members – both young and old – to compete together.
Hayes and her daughters, Elisabeth, 15, and Alyssa, 10, have swam together the past five years.
“Besides being good exercise, it’s the one sport you can actually participate in with your kids,” Gail Hayes said. “The little kids are excited about it. They cheer for us old ones. It’s just fun.”
The Hayes family is one of four that has two generations of swimmers competing for Houston. The number grew to five when David Adkison swam a meet this year with his son, Kaleb.
Three generations of the Crawford family were represented this year with Barbara Crawford joining the team for the first time. Her daughter, Sarah Nash, and grandsons, Malachi and Aidan Sawyer, are on the team, as well as another granddaughter, Carly Crawford.
“It makes the swim meet a lot more fun when you can actually swim,” Barbara Crawford said. “Meets can really be boring when you’re just watching.”
Crawford, 58, said she set a goal of competing in a triathlon when she turns 60. Joining the swim team was the initial step.
“When I was young, I was good at sports and didn’t do anything with it because I had a whole bunch of kids,” Crawford said. “I tell my kids it’s never too late to become what you might have been.”
Gail Hayes said swimming fuels her competitive juices. She began the sport when she was 7 years old and lived in Willow Springs. She said she often swims against the same women she faced at meets as a child.
Gail also enjoys getting the best of her 15-year-old daughter.
“Mom and sissy are competitive,” Alyssa Hayes said. “They have to see their times, then they compare them. Sometimes they need to brag.”
Swim coach Toni McKinney said she encourages parents during yearly sign-ups to consider swimming. She said they typically don’t jump into the water until they see other adults competing at meets.
Women are easier to convince to join the team than men, McKinney said. Jamie Albrecht and Chad Dzurick, who also serves as an assistant coach, are the lone regular male competitors for Houston.
It admittedly took a little prodding from Dzurick’s daughter, Abby, to get him in the water.
“It’s a good experience with your kids,” Chad Dzurick said. “She’s always wanting me to swim.”
Besides the obvious bonding, there are real benefits to having parents on the swim team. Adults in the pool during early morning practices can help McKinney keep up with the more than 75 swimmers she coaches. They also help the team earn valuable points at meets.
With the help of its adults, Houston won three consecutive meets during the season and this past weekend finished second at districts.
When the adults take their turn to compete at a meet, McKinney said children are always lined pool side.
“It’s neat to see all the kids watching and cheering their parents on,” she said. “They think it’s cool to see mom and dad compete.”