“…it’s clear to me that UVAC is more than a gym — it’s a second home where family-centered recreation thrives.”
I can still remember the day that my younger brother finally joined the swim team. It was 20 years ago, but it might as well have been yesterday, as clear as it is in my memory. Josh was 6 years old, and after a year of stubborn resistance, of pacing the deck while our older brother and I swam laps with the team, he grudgingly agreed to try a practice. One became two, two became many, and 20 years later, both of my brothers and I have fond memories of a childhood spent swimming.
Our competitive swimming careers didn’t play out at UVAC — we grew up in Maryland — but when I arrive for evening lap swim and find myself surrounded by the happy chaos and energetic chatter of a swim team that’s just completed practice, the parallels are easy to see. I know that among the crowd of young swimmers, there are plenty like my brothers and me. Kids who are not just siblings, but teammates. I loved that about my own swimming experience, how it brought my family together around a common goal, and now that I’m older and living many miles from my brothers, it’s comforting to see the same thing happening with UVAC families.
Parents from two of these families were kind enough to share with me a bit of their perspective on swimming and UVAC, a place that makes it easy for the whole family to be active together. While Kristen Kissell’s 10-year-old and 8-year-old are busy at swim team practice, she says her 5-year-old and 3-year-old love spending time in KidZone, Yogi Swim, and the Splash Park. Similarly, Dagmar Savellano’s family — including an 11-year-old, 9-year-old, and 4-year-old — enjoy a combination of swim team, swim lessons, Splash Camp, KidZone, and the Fitness Center.
“It is really important for us that we can go as a family to the same place at the same time,” Dagmar says. “While the older kids are on the swim team, the youngest can have a swim lesson or enjoy some time at the KidZone, and the parents can go to the gym.”
UVAC has truly become a family affair for both the Savellanos and the Kissells, and I imagine the same is true for many families like them. From listening to the experiences of UVAC members, it’s clear to me that UVAC is more than a gym — it’s a second home where family-centered recreation thrives. And at the heart of that is the pool. The kids from both of the families I interviewed must be well on their way to creating the kinds of memories and sharing the kinds of bonds that come from years of splashing alongside your siblings. Their parents recognize the importance of that — of a sport that welcomes the whole family — as well as the lifelong benefits swimming provides their kids.
“My swim team kids are strong, active, brave and confident,” Kristen says. “We can’t imagine our life without swimming!”
Dagmar shares the sentiment: “Thanks to wonderful coaches our kids enjoy swimming, which is a great sport not only now, but for many years to come.”
My brothers and I still swim together on the rare occasions that we can. We’re not nearly as fast as we used to be, but we still love a good race. Last summer, the first summer with a member of the next generation in the picture, we delighted in splashing around with my baby niece. For us, the tradition of families who swim together continues. I hope that the Kissells, the Savellanos, and the many swim families at UVAC find the sport to be as enduring in their own lives, and that as the years pass, UVAC remains for them a place of fitness, fun, and family.
By Caitlin Birch — UVAC member; Canaan, NH resident; Digital Collections and Oral History Archivist at Dartmouth College