Photo by True Touch Lifestyle /

Making a Splash

Swimming combines fitness, friendships

By Nan Bauroth

Ballantyne is mad about swimming. Every May, hundreds of youngsters jump into their neighborhood pools to start practicing for the swim meet season that runs June through early July. Belonging to the neighborhood swim team here has become so popular, it’s almost a rite of passage.

“We have 140 kids in this community on our team,” says Michelle Ludwiczak, a Thornhill resident who helps manage the summer swim program there. Her two children, who started when they were 5, will continue swimming on the Tornadoes this summer at ages 12 and 15.

“They love it,” she says. “The Thornhill swim team is a big memory and piece of childhood my kids will carry forever.”

Joe Burnley agrees. “My family will have three kids on the Thornhill swim team this summer,” he says, adding, “June has developed into our favorite time of the year. It’s like our Christmas.” In his view, the neighborhood swim team helps children remain active and teaches them discipline and team unity.

Thornhill Tornadoes photo by Raymond J Photography

One of the best things about neighborhood swim teams is that any child can join. “There are no tryouts,” says Nancy Bush, former president of the Greater Charlotte Swim League, the nonprofit association that runs the neighborhood swim team meets. “Our motto is ‘Let Them Swim,’” she says, noting the only requirement is that a child can swim one length of the pool unassisted. “We take kids at all levels of ability.”

This year, more than 10 Ballantyne-area neighborhood swim teams will compete in the six-division league. The season usually ends with an All-Star Meet held in Rock Hill to accommodate the thousands of kids and parents who show up to root for teammates competing.

Another benefit to swim teams is the chance to develop relationships with other families. “It’s the reason we have stayed in the neighborhood,” Ludwiczak says. “The meets are a great inclusive community environment.”

Thornhill parent Betsy Shuster says, in addition to wanting her teens to learn pool safety, she enrolled them in swim years ago to get some socialization. “It’s all in fun. At the end of every meet, the kids jump in the pool with their coach,” she says.