Inner East Bay swim teams (Armada, Barracudas, etc)

Hi - my 7th grader joined a swim team while we were living abroad last year and is hooked! We are now back in north Oakland and looking for a youth swim team that has a healthy balance of training and camaraderie, similar to her last team. Previously she was swimming with Emeryville Aquatic Club but they were not quite serious the same time, she's 12, and we don't want to have our lives revolve around swimming (nor can we, with 2 working parents and another kid's life to manage). The other challenge is practice times - the closest teams have horrible practice times (6-7:30pm for Emeryville, Undercurrent, Oaklantis - what about dinner??) and the farther away teams have better times, but we can't get there on time from Claremont Middle School (3:45pm for Armada, 4pm for Barracudas - school ends at 3:20pm). Last year she was able to get to/from practice on her own via train & bike, but transit reliability isn't the same here, if there's a tight turnaround time in the afternoon - we'd love for her to continue being independent in this way if that were possible. So we're also checking out El Cerrito because they practice at 4:30pm and that might give her enough time to BART/bike on her own. I am sure I'm not the first parent to be tearing my hair out about this, so if you are a parent of a middle school swimmer I'd love to hear from you! Are there other options we haven't considered? What is your experience with any of these teams - intensity level, parent collaboration around carpooling, openness to absence because of family camping trips, etc? I am a swimmer and am delighted that she likes the sport, but my swim team was a school team and my parents didn't have to deal with this level of logistics. Thanks in advance!

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I would recommend checking out Piedmont Swim Team. My son swam with them for 5 years and it was a positive experience. Despite the name, there is currently no pool in Piedmont (a new pool is under construction) and all practices take place in the Oakland/Emeryville area, including ECCL. 

We have had a great experience with the EC Gators Swim Club--my son belonged there during his middle school years (he now has decided on another sport to pursue). The coaches are very supportive and encouraging with great communication, there was no pressure to make it to all swim meets, and parents are involved in end of season parties, etc. but we usually just dropped off/picked up our kiddo at the pool. The EC pool is also a wonderful place for the community, but they give lap pool priority to the Gators during practice times.  An overall wonderful experience!

My middle schooler has been swimming with Oaklantis for six years now - went through the swim school and is now on the competitive team - and we are huge fans of the program and the community. Oaklantis has two different team levels; Mavericks is the competitive side where swimmers are practice 3-6 days a week (depending on level) and compete in meets year round and Marauders is the rec side where swimmers practice fewer days and for less time and only do meets in the summer. In general, our experience with Oaklantis has been that it is an intense as the swimmer wants to make it. Kids at all levels definitely take breaks for vacations - and also sometimes for other sports seasons or just life.

We absolutely love the Oaklantis community. We are a deliberately and intentionally inclusive and supportive group. At meets, swimmers and parents make a point to try and cheer for every Oaklantis swimmer in every race, not just our own kids or friends. Our coaches genuinely care about the kids as people as much as they care about their fastest times. As an organization we do everything we can to reduce financial barriers to being on the team by providing a lot of financial aid. But we are also very scrappy and things can feel disorganized and we are still recovering and rebuilding from being completely shut down for a long time during COVID. Communication is not always great (including our website is very out of date) and there has been a lot of change in the last 6 months (practice locations, coaches, swimmers, etc.). There is a relatively newly formed group of parent volunteers working really hard to help our head coach and team leadership get better systems and supports in place so we are a better run organization. And through it all our swimmers keep doing well in the pool.

Being the parent of a competitive swimmer is a big time commitment - and requires a ton of flexibility. Pool time is very hard to come by, especially in the inner East Bay, and most teams are scrambling for pool space - and taking the time slots they can get. (I've heard that Armada has better access to pool space - but it's a relatively small pool so they compensate by limiting the # of kids on the team.) Practice times and locations tend to change every few months - and with very little notice - because our coaches are getting new schedules from the pools we use (often with little notice). Some months that means racing to get from school to a 4:00 practice - and some months it means eating a very late dinner after a practice that ends at 7:30. And that doesn't even include the weekend meets with 6:30am start dates that are two hours away! I work from home for an organization that gives me a lot of flexibility so I am able to accommodate the random and ever changing practice times, but I do that by working on my laptop from my car or the pool deck several days a week while my kid is in the water.  There's some carpooling to practices; we are definitely a community that is supportive in that way, but our swimmers come from all over Oakland and beyond to practice so honestly it is going to be hit or miss.

If you can figure out the logistics for your family, Oaklantis is a fabulous team and community - and we always welcome new swimmers.


I am the parent of a 9th grader who swims with Undercurrents and has been with them for a few years. When our practice times switched to 6 pm, at first I had the same reaction as you... what about dinner?? But then I grew to love it. It was/is great for my daughter to get some down time after school before heading out to swim practice, and we just eat dinner a bit later than we used to. 6 pm practice time led to her swimming many more days a week than she did back when Undercurrents practices were earlier. And she wound up healthier and happier because of it, which paid dividends for the whole family. (Swimming = my pubescent child's mood stabilizer, so we are all better off when she gets in the pool more often!)

We love the team. Coach Rolandas is absolutely terrific. It's a program that accommodates a really wide variety of levels/intensities. I don't understand how he does it, frankly. But it has been a total highlight for our family. Highly recommend it.