On a recent steamy Saturday, Melia Kinney was pumped to compete at the end-of-season league conference meet. She’d come a long way.

“Swimming felt really hard at first, and I didn’t think I could make it through the practices,” Kinney, 10, said.

More than 40 swimmers from the Black Mountain swim team, now in its second summer season, traveled an hour to Forest City for the final meet of the Tarheel Swim League summer season. Hundreds of swimmers and family members gathered for a full day of competition. Black Mountain was one of six teams represented.

Tents were raised, towels spread and camp chairs spread everywhere surrounding the community recreation pool facility. Coolers were filled with snacks and beverages. T-shirts with slogans like “Keep Calm and Swim On” and “Eat My Bubbles” sold quickly.

Eighty kids were on the team roster this season, making head coach Beth DuBrock thrilled with the growing response for the youth swim program. Swimmers practiced four times a week, along with a meet about every week.

Some kids came to every practice, while many came when available between trips and camps. “Whatever each family could commit was OK, and a swimmer could still gain much from the swim team experience, even if they were not in town to practice each week of the nine-week season,” DuBrock said.

“The growth this year was amazing,” she said. “The Recreation and Parks Department provided wonderful support helping us have what we needed for practices and meets, and so many parents went the extra mile to help us grow as a strong team.”

Dedicated assistant coaches included Danny Little, Karen Moseman and Ryan Lucas. At the end of season awards and team party night, DuBrock gave special thanks to these parents who helped support the team: Mandy Stone, Tonia Allen, Christine Lucas, Lisa Newell, Chris DeBeer, Jamie Goodwin, Jesse Caron, Dan and Yvonne Hale.

With so many kids participating this year, DuBrock hopes to separate practice times for younger and older swimmers. She is also eager to implement a junior coaching mentorship program where older swimmers will work on skills with younger.

“We want to become even more accommodating to families and to different ages and skill levels by offering more options,” DuBrock said. Next year’s season should kick off late May 2016, with evening practices at the pool. Once school ends, practices will alternate between morning and evening days during the week.

Many of the swimmers learned valuable things from this summer’s practicies and competition. Melia Kinney, 10, learned to keep pushing hard until the race is over. Jackson Stone, 11, who liked waking up at 6 a.m. to get to the conference swim meet, learned how to swim the butterfly stroke, considered by many to be the most challenging stroke of all.

Maddie Gregory, 11, liked seeing her friends at practice and became more confident in the water. Lucinda Marmelejos, 10, learned the difficult flip turn and helped teach swim skills to the younger children. Parent Mandy Stone valued that her child was part of a team in which each swimmer is celebrated, regardless of ability.

Research links organized team sports participation to such benefits as discipline, teamwork, sacrifice, goal-setting and -accomplishment, acceptance of success and failure.

Children who play sports can get physical fit in a way that’s fun, and they can establish lifelong habits for good health.