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Swimmers, Take Your Mark

Kids from all over the CSRA learn sportsmanship and competitive swimming skills during summer league

Article by Michelle W. Parnell

Photography by Jessica V Photography

Originally published in Evans City Lifestyle

This summer, a combined twenty-one hundred kids, ages three to eighteen, from Aiken, Columbia, and Richmond counties participated in the CSRA Swim League. The league, which is run by volunteers and has been in existence for over forty years, drew thirteen hundred swimmers from Columbia County alone.

“Our main purpose,” explains league President Missi Neskorik, “is to stimulate interest in competitive swimming, to provide a program of physical fitness as well as leadership through competitive swimming activities, to provide a means of teaching youth of all ages the meaning of good sportsmanship on a competitive basis, and to provide a competitive sport in which both boys and girls can participate.”

Those who enjoy or follow Olympic swimming will agree with Missi concerning the competitive nature of swimming. “Swimming is one of the most competitive sports out there and it’s one of those sports where you use every single muscle in your body to do,” says Missi. “You have to be physically fit to be in the water.”

Swimming serves as only one component of the overall goal of the CSRA Swim League. “Sportsmanship is a huge part of it,” says Missi. “We want to teach them that it’s a team effort – it’s not just me against you. It is points-based and first, second, and third places get points…. if you get any of those, you’re helping the team out.”

Swimmers compete in races using four basic swim styles – freestyle, backstroke, butterfly, and breaststroke. Swimmers ages six and under swim freestyle and backstroke for twenty-five yards, and swimmers ages seven to eighteen swim all four styles for fifty yards.

Twenty-one race teams make up the league. For competition, teams are divided into six divisions based on each team’s record and size. “Teams are normally based on neighborhoods,” says Missi. For kids who do not live in a neighborhood with a swim team, Missi adds, “We do have several of those neighborhoods that are open to outside kids that don’t have a pool to swim in.” Swim meets are held on Tuesday evenings in June, with divisional championships and an all-star night wrapping up the season before the fourth of July.

In an effort to teach leadership skills and develop mentoring relationships, CSRA Swim League uses older swimmers as coaches and mentors. “That’s the most exciting part,” shares Missi. “As kids are coming up through swim, they are sometimes junior coaches by the time they are thirteen or fourteen years old.” Junior coaches teach younger kids basic swim strokes and techniques and take extra effort at practice to assist younger swimmers.

“Older coaches are there to mentor the older swimmers and get them set up to excel, including holding clinics on Saturdays,” explains Missi. “For the high school coaches, it’s a lot of work for them and they’re a huge part of the league. They line all the races up by picking their swimmers and putting them in the right places, and in the right categories and order, to win that meet.”

“There is a lot of thought that goes into who will be the next coach,” says Missi. High school coaches are usually swimmers the younger kids are familiar with and who have grown up in the summer swim league program. “We’ve never had an issue with any of our high school coaches,” shares Missi. “They are very mature young adults – and they have to be because parents trust them with their kids. They are very eager to come to the meetings, ask questions, and learn the process.”

Many of the high school coaches swim for local year-round swim leagues or for local high schools. “We want them grow in the sport and go on to a year-round club (such as the Aiken-Augusta Swim League, Palmetto Aquatics, or The YMCA) or to a high school team. We get them started and excited and then a club team will come in and recruit them to swim.”

The competitive summer swim league season runs from mid-May through the first of July. However, there is work and planning that takes place all year. “The Board and I work together all year making sure we have everything scheduled,” says Missi. Specifically, they organize schedules and order awards.

Most teams begin sign-up for the summer swim league in March. Participation fees are set by individual teams, with a small fee going to the CSRA Swim League to cover expenses for ribbons and prizes.

For more information on the CSRA Swim League or to contact the Board with questions, visit