My daughter with her coach, who also was a mentor.
In my SwimSwam parenting articles I often stress that parents and coaches have different roles. There’s a saying that I learned from USA Swimming back when I wrote a monthly newsletter for our swim team: Swimmers swim, parents parent and coaches coach.
As a long-time swim parent, my role seemed to be filled with endless loads of washing towels and feeding super hungry kids.
Yesterday I listened to a webinar that took this topic head on. It was by David Benzel of Growing Champions for Life called How to discuss performance issues with your child — and remain friends. Benzel said that the word coach was first used in the days of the stagecoach. You know, that vehicle that helped people get from point A to point B. A teacher referred to himself as a “coach” back then and today we all use the word to describe the person who helps our athletes on their journey.
Another point he made was that parents main role is to be a mentor in life lessons, while a coach helps on the field of pool with improving their skills. All mentors are coaches, Benzel said, but not all coaches are mentors.
Coach Dwight was an amazing mentor to our young swimmers.
Here are the words Benzel used to describe coaches: instructional, inspirational, analytical, authoritarian, organized and encouraging.
The mentor or parent is supportive, exemplary, compassionate, authoritative, empathetic and loving.
If you get your roles mixed up and tell your kids how to improve or what they did wrong they can get really confused and upset. They don’t know if you’re coaching or criticizing. If you’re inspiring or disciplining. So often our kids fear they are disappointing us. Coaching them will make them defensive and feel like they’re never good enough in our eyes.
Isn’t that amazing? We are only trying to help our kids be better and want them to succeed.
In order to help our kids Benzel said we need to tell them “I love to watch you play.” And then be silent. Don’t say anything more until you’re asked. He said if we as parents ask thought provoking questions like “why do you enjoy swimming?” or “What are you doing when you feel the best?” — then we aren’t being judgmental but may open up a conversation.
Here are the life lessons Benzel listed that we can help our kids learn in our role as a parent and mentor:
self-esteem, self-confidence, self-discipline, self-control, empathy, generosity, sacrifice, patience, personal responsibility, grit, optimism, handling emotions, humility, gratefulness, fairness and loyalty.
Boy, that’s quite a list. Yes, I hope my kids learned these things through their years in the pool. I hope I helped them along the way. Because as Benzel said, If not you — WHO? If not now –WHEN?
My daughter with her college coach at a big meet in Santa Clara. Another coach who was also a mentor.
If your kids are in sports, what do you see as your most critical role?
I made a major mistake as a swim mom. This is a true confession of how I blew it and how I wish I knew years ago what I know today. I’m talking about understanding the role of a swim parent. I listened to a webinar yesterday by Growing Champions for Life’s founder David Benzel. He said he started his not-for-profit because he made so many mistakes as a sports parents and wanted to help others from making the same mistakes.
That’s how I feel, too. That’s why I began writing parenting advice for SwimSwam, the world’s most read swimming site. What I heard yesterday from Benzel made me remember a lot of the mistakes we made — yes, I’m dragging my husband into this, too.
Picture a triangle. In the center of it all is the youth sports team, whether it’s club or school. Your child, the student-athlete, is at the top of the triangle. The left bottom corner is the coach and the remaining corner is the parent. We each have a different role to play. It’s crucial we understand what our role is and not get in the other person’s lane.
For athletes, their role is to have fun, learn new skills and develop character through sports.
For parents, we need to teach character lessons, build family unity and reinforce sports messages.
For coaches, their job is to teach sports skills, build team unity and to reinforce character lessons.
That simple equation of Swimmers swim, Coaches coach and Parents parent hit home. I realized that one big mistake in swim parenting started when the kids were very young. There was a much more experienced swim dad who worked at the same firm with my husband. He told us how great a sport swimming was. He suggested reading up on technique because of the fine details like how a swimmer holds their hand and enters the water could make a difference in how fast they swam. That sounded so fascinating to me and my husband.
That little bit of advice and information opened up a can or worms. We thought it meant IT WAS OKAY TO COACH OUR KIDS. It’s not. It’s very confusing for kids when we are yelling from the sidelines, or telling them to do something a certain way after practice, on the drive home. Their coach may be focusing on something altogether different.
Now that I became a swimmer with my own coach. I understand that he often gives me one or two things to work on. He doesn’t overwhelm me with everything that’s wrong with my stroke. He tries to correct head position, or rotation. Something basic and integral, before moving on to the next “fix.’
As parents, we often have no clue what the coach’s objective is. We don’t know what they are focused on. By inserting ourselves into the wrong lane — the coach’s lane — we can cause confusion for our kids, frustration for us and the coach. I talked to my daughter about how we tried to coach and how wrong that was. She said, “You did forever. You guys never stopped.”
Another reason why it’s bad to put on the coaching hat, when we aren’t the coach, is this: kids want to please their parents. Continual coaching and correcting can make our children believe they have failed us.
Best to focus on telling our kids, “I love to watch you swim.” Tell them how proud you are of their hard work and let them have fun.
At the PAC 12 swimming championships with my son and daughter.
What experiences did you have as a sports parent and did you ever catch yourself coaching when you shouldn’t?
How our children handle adversity is more important to their success than their intelligence. I heard this during a webinar for youth sports parents, but it also applies to every day life. David Benzel, sports parenting expert, from Growing Champions for Life, discussed this and gave other gems of advice in “Overcoming Adversity in Sports and Life.”
Benzel said, “Opportunities for personal growth usually come disguised as setbacks, disappointments and problems.” An interesting statistic he shared was that only 25 percent of success can be predicted by IQ, while 75% is because of the level of optimism, social support and the ability to see adversity as an opportunity and not a threat. So the answer to my headline question is a resounding “NO.” Our IQ isn’t as valuable as our AQ (Adversity Quotient.)
He gave examples of adversity in sports that included an injury, time off from practice due to COVID-19, not connecting with a coach, losing to an inferior opponent or being in a slump. Think of what so many kids are going through today with schools not opening, sports being cancelled. They are facing adversity like never before in their young lives.
According to Benzel, there are three types of reactions to adversity that he described as the Prisoner, the Settler and the Pioneer. The goal is to get to a pioneer mindset. That’s because the other two aren’t great. The prisoner gives up, is controlled by circumstances and feels fear and anger. The settler settles. That mindset seeks to be comfortable and feels they are doing as well as possible considering the circumstances.
The pioneer learns continuously, challenges assumptions and adjusts their strategies to succeed. They believe that they can accomplish anything if they bring light to the situation. Bringing in light makes the darkness go away.
Here’re four tips Benzel gave to have a pioneer outlook to adversity:
Listen to your adversity response. Is it fight, flight or freeze? Do your internal thoughts help you with the situation?
How can I bring light to this?
Take charge of what you can control.
Create a state of wonder to create a solution. Ask the question, “I wonder how I can…” Suddenly the pity party ends and your brain goes to work to find a solution.
One of the more helpful things I learned from the webinar is that optimism can be learned. So, if we’re feeling down or defeated, or our kids are, remember to ask the “I wonder how I can” question.
When you are faced with adversity how do you see your mindset? Do you see yourself as a pioneer in spirit?
I ran across an interesting email that talked about motivating a student-athlete. It reminded me that motivation is internal and no matter how much a parent or coach may want to light a fire under someone — it doesn’t work that way. This is an excerpt from the email from sports parenting coach David Benzel of Growing Champions for Life:
The following situation came from a coach, but it could have easily been a parent. I was asked if there’s anything that could be done about a 14-year-old athlete who is loaded with natural talent but has lost his motivation.
“The desire to work and improve seems to be missing.” said this coach.
While this is frustrating for a coach or a parent who takes a personal interest in an athlete, the short answer is “love him where he’s at.”
Despite the urge to become a protector of this athlete’s career, you cannot give someone a “want to” if they don’t have one of their own. You can create opportunities, provide an inspiring environment, and tell uplifting stories, but a “want to” comes from the inside, not the outside.
There’s usually a story behind the story when dealing with an athlete who has lost his motivation. It may stem from a relationship issue at home, strife with a coach, or other pressing priorities.
As parents, we need to let out kids live their lives and be cheerleaders on the side. We cannot make them do anything like a sport or piano lessons because we want it. We can manipulate and bribe, but that’s not an ideal way to build a healthy relationship. I like the advice to “love him where’s he’s at.”
I wanted my daughter to love ballet because I did. She hated it and big tears would run down her cheeks when I made her go. That was true of piano lessons, too. I really wanted her to stick it out. My son loved piano. I was already driving him, so she could have her lessons, too. She loved swimming instead. My son like swimming, too, but with severe asthma it was a battle staying well during the winter months. He’d make progress only to get sick and miss weeks and weeks of practice. His interest moved to music in high school and he formed a band and performed with his non-swim friends.
I love my kids for who they are — not for what they did. I hope they know that now.
My son and swim team friends.
In what ways have you tried to motivate your kids?
My daughter with teammates and friends during the homeschool years.
It can be overwhelming trying to decide the best course for educating our kids. With so many parents working remotely from home and schools not opening up, many parents want to explore the options available to them.
When I homeschooled my daughter for middle school, I went to a homeschool conference in Long Beach, CA called CHEA (Christian Home Educators Association) that helped me get started. Back then it was in person of course, and I was able to browse through hundreds of vendors of curriculum on every subject imaginable. I took my son with me, who is three years older than his sister. I figured he’d already made it through grades 6, 7 and 8 with flying colors and could help me select curriculum that would be as good or better than he had at our private school.
The reason why I chose to homeschool was based on several factors, including my daughter’s commitment to swimming and conflicts with her school. They were pretty strict about missing school for non-school sponsored sports or activities. Also, they piled on heaps of homework that homeschoolers don’t have to do. I loved many of the teachers, but with new administration in place, we saw changes we weren’t in agreement with.
Deciding to homeschool was a freeing experience. I remember vividly making the call to tell the school that my daughter wasn’t coming back. It was the start of an adventure. I knew several homeschool families and they directed me to a charter school that offered some in-class options as well as homeschool. They had a teacher assigned to each family that we met with to review assignments to make sure my daughter was on track. They offered standardized testing at a local college for all their students. Also, they had a huge selection of field trips such as Disneyland, whale watching, and Sea World. I was shocked when we went on our first field trip to Medieval Times in Orange County and the entire arena was filled with thousands of homeschool families.
I felt like I had plenty of support by the charter school which was Springs Charter School. Also, I hired a tutor for math because that’s not one of my strong points. I won’t say homeschooling was easy breezy. In truth, it was a lot of work and a full time job for me. But they are years I’ll never forget. My daughter told me last week that she was happy I homeschooled her. By the time 8th grade was finished, we were both ready for her to return to school and she entered our public high school.
Search google for “online educational content” and you’ll find 126,000 results. That just goes to show how many options parents have to choose from.
The pandemic has seen an increased need for these resources as parents try to help educate their kids during school closures and uncertainty about the fall.
But Lauren Minor, a former teacher and curriculum creator, explained it doesn’t have to be a stressful crisis of choices.
“Sometimes we can get paralyzed in this fear of making a decision, worried we’ll make the wrong one,” she explained. “Every option has the opportunity for the child to be successful.”
That provides some comfort, because it can be stressful trying to pick one option. Between ABC Mouse, Khan Academy, PBS Kids, Sesame Street and so many others, choices abound.
Whether it’s education-focused videos or just content to keep your kids entertained and moving, there seems to be something for everyone. Which is why it’s important to know your own child’s needs.
“What do they easily engage with?” Minor asks. “Are they more tactile? Do they like working with their hands? And then, what excites them? Do they get really excited about and feel successful when they complete a workbook page or do they feel really excited and successful when they complete a science experiment?”
Those are the questions parents should try to answer when making their plan.
Fortunately, many subscription-based offerings allow for a trial period. Minor explained that’s a great way to see what works for your family.
“I would recommend looking into a few trials right now and seeing which ones your child really engages with and feels successful in doing.”
The other article I read discussed the different types of options for homeschooling, like the charter school option we selected to forming learning pods at home.
Growing interest in true, hands-on home school options as school year nears by Amanda del Castillo at ABC7News.com in the Bay Area discussed how parents can homeschool. Here’s an excerpt:
SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) — It’s no secret the pandemic is pushing parents to become more involved in their child’s education.
Education experts say the move toward true home schooling is growing across the state, and right here in the Bay Area. The approach is different from the distance learning expected this fall, as it’s known to be more hands-on.
While navigating options for education during COVID-19 may seem overwhelming, the Homeschool Association of California (HSC) said there’s proof that more parents are pivoting to homeschooling.
“Distance learning and homeschooling are two different things,” HSC board member and secretary treasurer, Jamie Heston told ABC7 News. “With distance learning, you are tied legally to a school. They’re telling you what you need to do. They’re directing the education.”
She continued, “True homeschooling is when you are directing the education. That doesn’t mean that you have to do everything yourself. That can encompass using classes, or tutors, or other parents.”
Heston said parents are able to use online class curriculum and other resources to find success.
“So, you’re directing the education but you’re not necessarily doing all of it yourself,” Heston added.
She also serves as a moderator of several local home school groups, and is a home school consultant.
Heston explained she usually points parents in the direction of Charter Schools. It’s a public school option that offers resources, and teachers to support homeschooling.
“Generally, for families who are going to just home school for a short time and pop back into school… I usually recommend using a charter because that’s still a public school, but you’re doing the day to day work at home.”
According to the article, it states the charter schools have huge waiting lists, but I think it’s still worth checking out. They may have alternatives and several different programs still available.
The article gave advice to comply legally in California for homeschooling, which is important.
“Create a small private school in your home, which is how I’ve always home schooled,” she said. “And that’s filing the private school affidavits and keeping a few things on file. The government has no say in how private schools are run. So, you have a lot of decision making and a lot of responsibility as a small private school.”
Option 1: Homeschooling as a home-based private school
Option 2: Homeschooling with a private school satellite program (PSP)
Option 3: Homeschooling via instruction by a private tutor
In the South Bay, A TEAM Homeschool Community Executive Director Ann Wolfe said the pandemic is forcing parents to become more involved.
“Parents are more engaged, more on-board,” Wolfe told ABC7 News. “Listening to their kids, and not just expecting somebody else to do all the educating.”
She’s home-schooled for nearly 20 years.
“A friend and I decided to start our own,” she said, referring to the A TEAM program. “And we brought in teachers to teach those things that we didn’t want to teach. We started in our homes and then eventually went into facilities, church facilities, and expanded our programs.”
Now, Wolfe provides support for home-schoolers.
“The ranges from everything from PE to physics, and from Kindergarten through 12th grade,” she explained. “Ao people can pick and choose- a la carte- whatever classes they want, whatever days they want, to round out their homeschooling curriculum.”
About the growing interest, Wolfe explained, “I just see all these Facebook groups popping up- Pandemic Pods.”
“People coming on home school groups that have been around for a while and asking, ‘Hey, what do I do about this? How do I home school legally?’ And all these different questions,” she told ABC7 News. “I’ve received emails from people saying, ‘I’m considering homeschooling for the fall. Can you tell me something about your program? Or how do I do this?’ And so, a lot more interest in homeschooling that I’ve never really seen before.”
The swim team offered lots of fun times with friends, teammates and coaches.
Have you considered homeschooling during the pandemic? If your schools aren’t reopening what are your plans?
If I could go back in time, say 15 or 20 so years, I’d do things differently as a parent and a swim mom. I’ve loved every minute of being a swim parent and truly believe that signing my kids up for our local club, the Piranha Swim Team, was the single best thing we’ve done for them. Sticking with the team through ups and downs was a plus, too. Not only did my kids become crazily physically fit and skilled swimmers, they learned to never give up through tough times—whether it was an illness, a plateau or learning what a new coach expects.
So what would I do differently? Here’s my list:
One Not focus on performance.
Sometimes, I get way too caught up in big meets and best times. I wish I could kick back, relax and enjoy the little moments more.
Medals at a meet.
Two Not get involved in parent drama.
Like most sports today, where you find a bunch of enthusiastic and involved parents, there’s bound to be some drama. If I could do it over, I’d never take sides or get involved. At times, I didn’t have a choice because of being on the board. But, the drama and problems we lived through don’t amount to beans, anymore.
Three Realize everybody is different.
Not every swimmer has the same drive or goals. Not every family is going to focus their lives around the pool. It’s okay for some kids to skip practice and have other interests besides school and swimming. I’d be less judgmental if I got a do over!
Four Not compare my kids to others.
When my kids were young and new to swimming, it was common for us to compare their progress to other swimmers. That led to upset feelings all around. Looking back on it, things that seemed so big at the moment, were only a fleeting moment in time.
My son learning to dive with the swim team.
Five Enjoy every moment of the process.
The years go by so quickly. The friends made with other parents, coaches and officials are ones to treasure. Enjoy it all.
What would you do differently as a swim parent?
Back when my daughter liked her green fuzzy robe better than the team parka.
I was listening to a webinar from “Growing Champions for Life” sports parenting expert David Benzel and he went through a list of nine of the worst sports parenting mistakes. It was during a talk about whether to push our kids in sports–or not.
Who is David Benzel? He’s a former sports parent himself, whose kids were athletic, loved their sports and made it to the pros—as he says—in spite of him. He felt like kids were coached in sports, but felt he was sorely lacking in knowledge about being a sports parent. He said that he and his wife changed throughout the years and now he coaches sports parents in many different sports including gymnasts, tennis, baseball and swimming.
I discovered Benzel on USA Swimming and have read his book from Chump to Champ, plus I have several copies of his little booklet “5 Powerful Strategies for Sport Parent Success” lying around the house in case I need a refresher.
I too changed through the years as I learned from my swim mom mistakes. I continued to grow as a parent, and looking back there are many things I’d never dream of doing today that I thought were perfectly normal years ago.
The list of 9 awful things sports parents do that Benzel presented was from the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University.
Here’s the list:
Exhibit an outcome orientation.
TWO Are critical, negative and overbearing.
THREE Apply pressure to win or perform.
FOUR Make sports too serious.
FIVE Are over-involved and controlling.
SIX Compare child to other athletes.
SEVEN Distract child during competitions.
EIGHT Restrict player’s social life.
NINE Too much sports talk.
Between me and my hubby, I think we’ve got this list covered. We’ve been guilty of every single one on the list.
Junior Olympics for my daughter.
How many on this list have you done? What are things you’ve done in the past as a parent that you wouldn’t do now?