2600 Irvine Kids Dive in
Images Courtesy of Lisa Hu Chen

2,600 Irvine kids dive into summer fun

Irvine Swim League kicks off its 34th season with 22 teams

by Tracy Childs

Irvine Swim FriendsThe boys and girls get exercise and make friends. The parents cheer on their children and make friends. Everyone enjoys Irvine’s beautiful weather over the lazy days of summer.

Oh, and there are snow cones. Don’t forget the snow cones.

What’s not to love about the Irvine Swim League?

As June gets underway, 2,600 boys and girls ages 5 to 18 are preparing to participate in a summertime ritual that began in the city in 1985.

For five Saturdays beginning June 23, the 22 teams that comprise the Irvine Swim League will gather for meets at various village pools — 55 individual competitions in total. The competitions are equal halves community social events and good-natured competition, according to league Executive Director Lizzie Howard.

“The coaches and parents have fun with the kids. There are snow cones, snack bars — it’s kind of a big pool party,” she says.

With names like Village Park Piranhas, Westpark Marlins, Quail Hill Barracudas, Heritage Park Seals and Oak Creek Orcas, the teams’ names reflect a mixture of village pride and community spirit.

“Being on a team and part of the league has so many benefits,” says Howard, who has served as executive director since 2013. “It’s like being part of a family connected to the larger community. The teamwork and discipline help build a good work ethic — and a healthy lifestyle by being physically active outdoors.

“We serve 2,600 kids who get excited about something at an early age.”

Howard has been extensively involved in the Irvine Swim League for the past 14 years, beginning when one of her three children, then 6, joined the Oak Creek Orcas (her two other children participated in the league as well). But she’s quick to note that she is far from alone: The league depends on the generous volunteer efforts of parents and others.

“We can’t do it without our volunteers,” she says, adding that, with approximately 130 swimmers from about 80 families per team, the league has a deep volunteer bench to pull from.

“And they’re happy to help — they know their kids are going to have a really fun 10 weeks during the season, and they know pitching in is a part of that.”

Over the years, about 10 of the league’s members have made Olympic Trials. One of them, Amanda Beard, a former team member of The Colony Red Hots, became a seven-time Olympic medalist. The Irvine Swim League’s season concludes with a championship meet on Saturday, August 11.

There’s still time to join the summer fun. For a team near you and additional information, visit IrvineSwimLeague.org.