‘It’s like one huge swim family’

Irvine’s village swim league celebrates summer – the same way it has ever since 1985.

It’s 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday, and already 130 kids and their parents are buzzing around Stonegate’s Mockingbird Pool, awaiting the start of a tradition dating back nearly 40 years.

It’s swim day for the Irvine Swim League, which hosts weekly competitions among teams from 22 Irvine villages each summer.

The meet starts with warmups, a team cheer and the national anthem, followed by relay races and individual events.

“The kids love racing with their friends, cheering for their teammates and, of course, getting treats from the concession stands,” says swim mom Rinku Shah, whose two boys, ages 13 and 7, swim for the Stonegate Seahawks. “It’s like one huge swim family.”

At halftime, the dads and coaches race. That’s when the music gets loud and the “cheering from parents makes the whole environment electrifying,” Shah says.

For nearly 40 years, Irvine’s 22 villages have enjoyed the friendly rivalry of the Irvine Swim League.

The Irvine Swim League formed in 1985 with five teams and 260 swimmers. Today, it has 22 teams and almost 2,800 swimmers.

Since forming, the league has provided a recreational and developmental swim program for Irvine youth, ages 5-18, with an emphasis on water safety, stroke instruction and individual improvement.

Several competitors have made the Olympic trials, including former Colony Red Hots swimmer Amanda Beard, who went on to become a seven-time Olympic medalist.

“I like that the league encourages kids to constantly improve,” says swim mom Amy Bui, whose son Dillon, 15, has been swimming with the Seahawks for nine years. “We initially joined to get our kids water safe but found that the league not only helped kids become better swimmers, it helped promote teamwork, camaraderie and the outdoors.”