SLUG: LD-SWIM DATE: 7/26/2008 PHOTOGRAPHER: TRACY A WOODWARD/THE WASHINGTON POST LOCATION: Sterling Park Pool, 333 S. Sterling Blvd, Sterling, VA SUMMARY: This is the "All Star" meet for the Old Dominion Swim League. CAPION: The start of the girls 13-14, 50 SC Meter Freestyle race during the ODSL 2008 All Star Meet. StaffPhoto imported to Merlin on Sat Jul 26 15:56:03 2008 (TRACY A WOODWARD/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Because people know that I write sports books for kids, they ask me to write hockey books, lacrosse books and especially swimming books.

I have to confess: I don’t like swimming. That might be because I was never a very good swimmer. I wore glasses as a kid, and my eyes were so bad that sometimes I swam right into the side of the pool. Klunk!

It took me a long time to figure out that you’re supposed to breathe in when you take your head out of the water and breathe out when you put your head back into the water. I used to hold my breath the whole time. Not very smart, and not very good for swimming.

Kids tell me I’m wrong about swimming. They love the feel of the cool water on a hot day, the flip turns and the racing dives.

Just because I don’t like swimming doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s a good sport for kids. I think swimming is terrific for kids.

First, it’s a great way to get in shape. Swimmers have to use almost every part of their body to get through the water. Unlike rougher sports, such as football, swimming is something you can do your whole life to stay in shape.

Swimming is an individual sport. A swimmer does everything herself. If she swims a fast time, she gets the credit. If she doesn’t, she has no one to blame but herself. In swimming, kids learn that the harder you work, the better you get.

But swimming also gives kids a chance to be on a team. Joining a team is a great way to meet other kids and make new friends.

Swim teams are different from most sports teams. First, swim teams have boys and girls on the same team. Second, kids can have teammates who are many different ages. That can be pretty cool. A 6-year-old who wins a point swimming a 25-meter race can help his team just as much as a 16-year-old swimming a 400-meter race.

Summer is a good time to join a team to see if you like swimming. There are lots of teams at neighborhood pools.

Kids who can’t get enough swimming over the summer can swim on teams throughout the year. There are lots of top-flight swimming programs around the Washington area.

Just don’t expect me to write any books about them.

Fred Bowen is the author of 16 sports books for kids. He has written books about baseball, basketball, football and soccer. But none about swimming.