It’s the little things I miss about being a swim mom

My daughter diving in for the 1000 free during a dual meet. Utes vs. USC.

My daughter diving in for the 1000 free during a dual meet. Utes vs. USC.

When my kids started swimming in their Mommy and Me class in our city pool at age six months, I had no idea how swimming would evolve through the years for our family. Here’s an article I wrote a few years ago about the little things I’ve enjoyed as a swim mom. 

We went to my daughter’s first college dual meet of the season this weekend. I loved every minute of the meet, but even more, spending time with her. She invited several swim teammates out to dinner. It felt like the sprinkle of rain after a long drought—listening to them laugh and talk about their meet and practices.

I didn’t realize how much I miss the little daily things about being an age-group swim mom.

I miss the kids hanging out. So many personalities, so many different families, all bound together by one common goal. Swimming.

My son and swim team friends.

My son and swim team friends.

I have a fierce loyalty to our team and the couple times when factions of parents split off to form their own teams, I was shocked and hurt. It felt like losing members of my immediate family. I’d always wonder why? I never thought we had a bad experience—maybe at times less than perfect—but I guess that’s part of the reason I didn’t understand.

Good times were sitting together in the stands cheering for all our kids. Getting the new team t-shirts, sipping Starbucks on a chilly winter morning under the pop-up tents. Chatting and laughing with parents while we waited to see what the day’s meet would bring. I loved working with our parents and officials under the admin tent, in awards, or in the snack bar at our home meets.

The team cheer at an away meet.

The team cheer at an away meet.

I loved having kids over to the house to hang out between morning and afternoon practices during long hot summer days. I loved cooking eggs, bacon and sausage in bulk for a pack of hungry swimmers. I was amazed at how much they could eat as a group. I loved having the team over for painting t-shirts for a big meet.

Swim team girls painting t-shirts for a meet in our back yard with their coach.

Swim team girls painting t-shirts for a meet in our back yard with their coach.

I loved listening to the kids laughing about silly things that happened in practice and the goofy songs they played and sang to like “Funkytown  and the “Numa Numa Song.”

Most of all, l I loved seeing my kids smiling, laughing and enjoying their friendships. Throughout the years, my kids were surrounded by amazing kids, families and coaches. Just being in the background was a joy.

I miss those days.

Group photo on t-shirt painting day.

Group photo on t-shirt painting day.

My daughter receiving ribbons from her first coach.

My daughter receiving ribbons from her first coach.

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True Grit and Early Sports Specialization: Are They Related?

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It takes grit to become an elite-level athlete. Not every athlete has it. And it can’t be developed without internal motivation.

Both of my kids began swimming at a young age. My daughter began swimming with a year-round team at age five, while my son began swimming at age eight. (He’s three years older).

They did do other activities for a few years before they decided to specialize. And that is the key: they decided. My son was running between t-ball, tennis, karate and swimming and felt like he wasn’t making progress in any of them. He got the swimming bug and wanted to compete. So, we dropped the other sports.

My daughter was being shuttled between the ballet studio and the pool. She honestly thought that ballet was some weird form of punishment — especially putting on pink tights and a black leotard in the 110-degree heat — while her brother got to dive into the pool!

 

 

I listened to a podcast by Ritter Sports Performance on early sports specialization and the main thing I took away was that an athlete has to be internally motivated. They can’t be putting in the hours and training to please their parents or their coach.  If they have the passion and are hardwired to compete at their sport, then they will reach the elite level regardless when they start.

In swimming, two examples are Rowdy Gaines and Ed Moses, who both started late in high school. They did a lot of other sports before they found the pool. Once they started swimming they excelled and loved it.

So, why do we insist on sports specialization a young age? It’s because some sports like swimming take a lot of time to develop technique. Parents naturally want their kids to have a head start.

Then there’s the 10,000 rule from Outliers: The Story of Success that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be good at something.  But, an interesting theory is that it’s not the quantity, but the quality of practice. You can’t be looking at the clock waiting for practice to be over. You have to be in the moment giving it your all.

There are certain guidelines that kids should do a lot of different activities before they specialize, but that by the time they turn 12 or 13 years old they need to focus on one sport.

I say, follow your kids’ lead. They will know what sport ignites their passion. By allowing them to follow their passion, they can develop the grit it takes to be successful.

What sports are your children in and at what age did they specialize?

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12 Reasons Why Masters Swimmers Are So Happy

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Butterfly. 

I was at our local U.S. Masters swim meet this weekend. Since I cannot swim with my torn ACL, I volunteered to time for a short bit with my friend visiting from Seattle. When I walked on deck I immediately saw two grown kids, who were former swimmers with my children on the club team. They were happy to see me, and I was excited to see them and sat with their parents. It was almost as if we were at an age group meet together again to watch our kids swim. I worked my way over to my Piranha teammates, who were warming up, talked with our coach and my other swim friends. I loved seeing all my friends on deck. I truly miss being a part of the team and swimming. Although meets make me so nervous when I’m competing, I was more than okay not to dive off the blocks. Then again, I’ve been nervous at every meet where I watched my kids swim, too, but more so when I’m the competitor.

 

While I was at the Masters meet, I noticed how different it was from age group meets. The main thing I noticed was that everyone is happy. Yes, there are a few nervous swimmers. I know I am fraught with anxiety at meets before I swim. But, generally, the atmosphere is very laid back and upbeat. A friend explained it like this: “It’s more of a party atmosphere of a community of swimmers rather than the nervous energy found on deck at age group meets.”

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Me diving off the blocks at my first meet.

Here are 12 ways Masters meets are different than age group meets:

 

ONE
Everyone at the meet, whether it’s swimmers, coaches, or family, really want to be there. Or, they wouldn’t be there.

TWO
There are no parents yelling at swimmers who miss an event or add time.

THREE
The only person who will argue with an official after a DQ is a swimmer.

FOUR
There doesn’t seem to be that hectic feeling trying to find heats and lanes.

FIVE
Everybody is friendly and although some swimmers may be a little nervous, mostly they’re chatting with other swimmers, laughing and joking.

SIX
Swimmers feel like they’ve won if they make it off the blocks and complete their event close to the time they swam the year before.

SEVEN
Getting out of the deep end without a ladder can feel like a major accomplishment in itself.

EIGHT
You will not see a single crazy parent—anywhere.

NINE
There’s no pressure for junior national cuts or college scholarships.

TEN
Nobody is getting nervous watching you swim.

ELEVEN
Every swimmer gets out of the water with a smile on their face. You won’t see any tears.

TWELVE
Masters swimmers are happy when they age up, because they feel it’s an advantage to be the youngest in their age group.

 

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My daughter at a meet where she got her first Jrs cut.

If you’re a swimmer or compete in another sport as an adult, how do you find it different from youth sports?

#SistersInSweat tells young women to keep playing

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During my morning walk, I checked out what was trending on Twitter and saw that #SistersInSweat was up there. It turns out it’s a hashtag and video created by Gatorade featuring tennis superstar Serena Williams with her baby girl.

You can find it on twitter under the hashtag, but if you’re not a Twitter fan, here’s a link to the emotionally moving video.

Some of the phrases that caught my attention were:

“Sports will teach you to be strong.”

 

“You’ll discover the power and grace of your body.”

 

“You’ll learn to move and you’ll learn to move others.”

 

“Keep playing.”

 

This is a great video to empower young women, and in my humble opinion, playing sports is helpful for everyone — boys, men and middle-aged women like myself, included.

Since it’s Thanksgiving week, I’ve been thinking about what I’m grateful for in my life. Today I was writing an article for SwimSwam.com about gratitude and came up with a list of all the ways the sport of swimming has impacted our family in a positive way. Then after watching the #SistersInSweat video, it really put in perspective how swimming and participating in a lifelong sport has shaped my daughter. She’s strong, sometimes scary, confident, understands what it is too put in hard work. She appreciates the rewards but also understands that life offers her no guarantees. Yes, all of that was learned and experienced in the pool. My son also learned those lessons in the pool and although he’s not swimming, he has a love of fitness and works out and has developed an interest in “erg.”

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My daughter in her “Girl Power” cap getting ribbons and medals and an attaboy from Coach.

I believe we need to follow our passions and that participating in youth sports can help our kids learn many life lessons. Also, if it’s music, art, theater, writing—whatever they love–can do much of the same, except for the physicality part. There’s something to be said for feeling physically strong, for being fit and carrying on healthy habits throughout your life.

One of the things Serena Williams says is there are many reasons to quit. And there are. I have seen very few kids stick with swimming all the way through four years of college. In fact, I’ve read a study from National Alliance for Youth Sports that 70 percent of kids quit organized sports in the U.S. by age 13. Their number one reason for quitting is that it’s no longer “fun.”

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Why do you think sports empower young women?

Who knew youth sports was a $15 billion industry?

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My daughter racing, a few years ago.

Who knew that the youth sports industry in the United States has turned into a $15 billion a year industry? According to Time Magazine’s Sean Gregory, “Across the nation, kids of all skill levels, in virtually every team sport, are getting swept up by a youth-sports economy that increasingly resembles the pros at increasingly early ages.”

As a swim mom, I understand how easy it is to get swept up in kids sports. “Before Swimming” is how we refer to the years before club swimming took over our lives. “BS” we used to take ski vacations in Snowmass, CO and ski weekends in Big Bear. I took my son and daughter to youth tennis where they laughed and ran around with their friends. My son tried Cub Scouts and my daughter went to ballet.

They did a number of activities back in those days. Then they both fell in love with the pool. After taking lessons for water safety since they were six months old, my son around age seven was skilled enough to join the Piranha Swim Team. We were so proud! Then my daughter soon followed and every evening we found ourselves with other parents around the pool deck.

During my daughter’s high school years, I’d add up the costs of swimming just to see….I won’t give you a figure—but with dues of $160 per month, private lessons, and hotel stays at travel meets, and meals out, it added up. Then we came up with the brilliant plan of buying an RV to avoid the hotel costs and restaurants. Thing is….we never used it for a meet. It never seemed to be convenient.

From the Time article called “How Kids’ Sports Became a $15 Billion Industry:”

“The cost for parents is steep. At the high end, families can spend more than 10% of their income on registration fees, travel, camps and equipment. Joe Erace, who owns a salon and spas in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, says Joey’s budding baseball career has cost north of $30,000. A volleyball dad from upstate New York spent $20,000 one year on his daughter’s club team, including plenty on gas: up to four nights a week she commuted 2½ hours round-trip for practice, not getting home until 11:30 p.m. That pales beside one Springfield, Mo., mom, who this summer regularly made a seven-hour round-trip journey to ferry her 10- and 11-year-old sons to travel basketball practice. Others hand their children over entirely. A family from Ottawa sent their 13-year-old to New Jersey for a year, to increase his ice time on the travel hockey circuit. A sponsor paid the teen’s $25,000 private-school tuition. This summer, 10 boys from across the U.S. stayed with host families in order to play for a St. Louis–based travel baseball club.”

I enjoyed reading the Time magazine article and I agree with most of the parents who are interviewed. If your child is passionate about their sport, it’s natural to do everything you can to help them out. My life soon got absorbed by the team. I was writing the newsletter, press releases, fliers to hand out at schools. Soon, I was serving on the board, planning banquets, fundraisers, organizing goodie bags and buying year-round gifts. I remember breaking down in tears when I had to chase one parent down to do a minimum of a few hours volunteering at a meet—and he refused. He refused loudly and rudely. But then, I also remember early on when our family was asked to help at a meet with set-up and tear-down and we told the president of the team, “Sorry, but we have a life.” I guess we did, but that was “Before Swimming.”

I don’t regret a moment of my swim parenting days, though. I’d do it all over again.

Are you involved in the $15 billion youth sports phenomenon? What sports do your kids participate in and how involved are you as a sports parent?

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Third place relay at Junior Olympics, 9-10 age group.

 

What Happens When Parents Do Too Much for Their Kids?

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My young Piranhas. They are never too young to learn responsibility for their actions.

I read an interesting article that a friend posted on FB called “8 Things Kids Need to Do By Themselves Before They’re 13” by Amy Carney. Carney is the mother of triplet teen boys and two other younger children and she’s got parenting down.

Her article listed things that parents need to stop doing or we won’t have independent well-functioning kids. I thought it made some really good points, and I wish I would have heard about this list before my kids were in middle school. I have been known to bail my kids out, rushing to school with their forgotten homework or lunches. Their lack of planning on big projects became my emergencies and stress. I wasn’t helping them at all by picking up the pieces. In truth, I bailed out one child more than the other, and that child almost failed out of college his freshman year. He was not ready to go because I was doing everything for him, including waking him up in the morning.

Here are four of the eight things on her list. To read her complete list click here.

1. Waking them up in the morning
2. Making their breakfast and packing their lunch
3. Filling out their paperwork
4. Delivering their forgotten items

Monday morning we pulled out of the driveway and screeched around the corner of the house when daughter dear realized she forgot her phone. “We have to go back, Mom!” Another exclaimed that he forgot his freshly washed PE uniform folded in the laundry room. I braked in hesitation as I contemplated turning around. Nope. Off we go, as the vision surfaced of both of them playing around on their phones before it was time to leave.

Parents don’t miss opportunities to provide natural consequences for your teens. Forget something? Feel the pain of that. Kids also get to see, that you can make it through the day without a mistake consuming you.

We also have a rule that Mom and Dad are not to get pleading texts from school asking for forgotten items. It still happens, but we have the right to just shoot back “that’s a bummer.”

What happens when we do too much for our kids? In my opinion, they aren’t allowed to grow up. They have no consequences for their actions or lack of action. They don’t know how to plan, be responsible or own up to their mistakes. If you’re a parent who is continually jumping in to save your child, stop. You can’t move into the college dorm with them and by then it’s too late.

 

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When they were young and at the beach. 

Both of my kids swam from elementary school through high school and one continued in college. I liked having my kids in year-round swimming because it taught them there was a direct correlation between their actions (how hard they tried) and outcomes (getting faster.) Also, practice every day, six days a week with a few doubles thrown in, taught them time management. They were responsible for their own equipment, too. There are tons of life lessons in the pool. But, because of how busy and dedicated they were, I overcompensated in other areas of their lives.

 

Here are a couple of SwimSwam articles I wrote on the subject:

In 11 Tips for Parents on What Our Kids Need to Know Before College, I have created a list of life skills that we should check off before the kids move out.
In 12 Hints You Might Be a Hovering Helicopter Swim Parent, I write about the little things we do for our kids without a second thought, that will put them at a disadvantage when they move away.
What are your thoughts about getting kids ready for the real world? Are we helping or hurting our kids by doing too much for them?

Food for Thought, Fuel and Recovery

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Nutella stuffed 1/2 cronuts. Food for thought?

 

I called one of my mentor swim moms, who has advised me all along the way from my son’s first swim meet in 2001 to navigating college recruiting years later. She worked as a dietitian years ago, and I wanted her input for a SwimSwam article about what kids should eat at meets. I asked a half dozen more moms what their kids ate at meets because we happened to be at UCLA and USC swim meets watching our Utah kids compete.

After I wrote that story, that you can read here, I thought, “Yikes! I do not practice what I preach!” I’m finding it harder to recover after a workout and perhaps if I looked at my own diet, I would feel stronger.

I’m swimming consistently three days a week, and after I swim I get so hungry. I have a tendency to believe that because I made it through a tiring swim practice, that I can eat whatever I want. Most often, I make terrible choices including a #1 meal at Taco Bell (taco and burrito supreme) or fried chicken! Seriously, what am I doing to myself?

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At USC for a swim meet.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s okay to eat unhealthy now and then. But this has turned into a habit to reward myself after a healthy workout with fattening food that lacks much in nutritional value! It’s totally unproductive.

I discussed this with another mom via text. This mom is crazily fit and works out for hours every day. She had some great tips that I’m incorporating into my daily life that she promised would improve my muscle recovery.

AVOID SUGAR AND CARB LOADING

“I’ve actually been learning to fuel my body with fat. However, I’m not a swimmer so I would not begin to offer advice. But, after doing research I started limiting my carbs to less than 50g/day and saving them until dinner. During the day, I fuel my body with healthy fats. I’ve noticed a huge difference! Swimmers need a lot of energy but they won’t get any energy from sugar.”

PLAN AHEAD

“Have a plan. Know what you’re going to snack on after practice. Prepare eggs and a meat before you leave for practice so that it’s ready when you get home and you won’t eat the ‘worst stuff.’ Plus, the protein in the eggs will assist in muscle recovery. Or have peanut butter on a rice cake. But the important thing is to have it prepared so you can grab it right away.”

HOW ARE YOU FUELING YOUR BODY?

“Also, when eating your snacks, look at it and determine how you are fueling your body for recovery and the next day’s workout. That’s what keeps me honest with myself.”

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At my first meet a year ago with my good friend and fellow swim mom, Linda.

Yesterday, after practice I had a half banana and a hard boiled egg when I walked through the kitchen door. I was able to make it through until dinner without fast or fried food and I feel less sluggish and tired today. I’m curious to see how this plan works for me and if I’ll feel stronger after a few days. After all, I have my own swim meet coming up this month!  I’ll let you know how it goes.

What do you eat after working out?

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At UCLA last Friday.