Sports Parents: Support, Don’t Criticize

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Age Group swim meet.

In a post on Popsugar called “One Sports Mom’s Reminder About the Importance of Supporting Kids Rather Than Criticizing Them Is Gold” by Murphy Maroney, she talks about a Facebook post that went viral:

 

Valli Gideons, a mom and blogger, is giving sports parents some food for thought, but hers is a reminder that we could all use. In a poignant Facebook post, Valli explains that parents should consider dialing back the need to go over every detail of a game, or worse yet, criticize their child’s performance. And as a life-long sports-obsessed tomboy and former Division I athlete, I couldn’t agree more.

“Parents. Stop the madness. The lectures. The play-by-plays. The analysis. The should’ve, could’ve,” she wrote. “Look around and you will see it on every court, field, ball park. All the talk. Think about it. As an adult, how would you feel if you came out of a huge presentation at work and had someone immediately going over every sentence? How would it feel for someone to criticize your every word or move, in your ear, going on and on?”

I used to ask about every detail with my kids on the drive home from a swim meet. My daughter said I would “hash and rehash.” And she was right. I wanted to know what was going on inside their brains when they dove off the blocks, made a slow flip turn or came from behind to touch out their competitors. No detail was too fine for me to hash and rehash and hash again some more. I drove them nuts.

I can tell you one sure-fire way to shut them up is to ask a host of questions about their swims. They’d tune me out, put on headphones or get out Gameboys and focus on Pokemon. Better yet, try criticizing their technique, their dive, their drive or any other detail of their performance.

And Valli makes an important point. When did it become OK for parents to obsess over every last detail or play of a game that’s meant to simply be fun? And at the end of the day, is it really helping? The short answer is no. Now, she’s suggesting that parents go about their post-competition conversations a little more casually.

“What would happen, instead, if after a game we gave kids room to breath[e]?” she asked. “If we let them marinate in knowing we simply enjoyed watching them play, rather than giving them a lecture? What would happen if we instead gave them permission to take it all in and have fun? What if we simply praised them for their effort? Even when they didn’t score. Even when they didn’t win. Even if they turned over the ball, flubbed up, or missed the catch. What if we just listened quietly?”

Best advice I’ve learned as a “recovering sports parent” is this: Tell your kids six little words — “I love to watch you play.” Then say nothing. It’s amazing what may happen.

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PAC-12 Championships

What advice do you have for parents on the car ride home?

 

 

Should kids compete for club versus high school sports?

27750385_10216008558030578_2414009673401613488_nThere’s a conflict many high school students face regarding their sports. With club and travel teams more common than years ago, how do students balance their high school season with their year-round team? Our experience is with swimming and I saw many of my kids’ classmates and friends struggle with this dilemma.

In a perfect world, club and high school coaches work together in the best interest of their swimmers, so training stays consistent and meets won’t conflict. But often, coaches on either side of the fence, are not able to work together and believe their program is the most important.

My son had a high school coach who wouldn’t allow him to miss practice, even though the club team was swimming at the same pool right after high school practice ended. He had to swim high school practice, get out and swim club — making him swim extra junk yards that he didn’t need and weren’t helpful to his growing body. Of course he didn’t HAVE to swim club, but he wanted to. That’s where he found improvement and success.

Our daughter’s coach took the opposite approach and said the girls needed to check in with him daily and then swim with club. He wanted to keep track of their attendance and make sure they were working out, but he knew his workouts weren’t going to help them.

I ran across an article in the Wall Street Journal from 2015, when California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) introduced the first statewide meet. It pitted the north versus the south after the championships regional meets were over. It posed another challenge for club swimmers who were representing their high schools by extending the season. Here’s an excerpt:

Does High-School Swimming Matter?

As California finally holds a statewide high-school swim meet, elite swimmers face a dilemma: whether to compete for their school or focus on bigger things

By Frederick Dreier

California is to high-school swimming as Texas is to high-school football. The Golden State is the sport’s scholastic epicenter.

Northern California produced Mark Spitz, Summer Sanders and Matt Biondi, Olympic champions all. Southern California gave us Janet Evans, Amanda Beard and Aaron Peirsol, among others.

But until now, the two sides of the state never battled it out. There was no such thing as a California statewide swim meet.

“In my day you never knew how you stacked up against a lot of those guys from Southern California,” said Spitz, a nine-time Olympic champion and 1968 graduate of Santa Clara High School. “There was no way to know who was really great.”

This weekend, the California Interscholastic Federation will hold its inaugural boys and girls swimming and diving state championships in Fresno. “I can’t imagine another state meet having the caliber and quality of swimmers as California,” said CIF executive director Roger Blake. California previously held 10 regional contests because of its tangle of incongruent school calendars.

But while the state is beating its chest about the powerhouse new event, the swimmers themselves aren’t all thrilled.

The state championship meet has created a dilemma for California’s high-school swimmers who are also aspiring Olympians. The meet falls during a crucial training period for summertime club swimming meets, such as the junior national championships in San Antonio in July, as well as international events in Russia, Australia and Canada. All are steppingstone meets for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“If I want to really train for [Olympic] trials seriously, I’m going to have miss it,” said Aidan Burns, a senior at Bellarmine Preparatory High School and a member of the U.S. Junior National team.

It’s a hobby; it’s not serious.

—Coley Stickels of the Canyons Aquatic Club on high-school swimming

The situation highlights a long-standing rift in the swimming world between club and high-school teams. Club swimming spans the entire year, while high-school swimming is relegated to just a part of it. Club swim meets are often held in Olympic-size 50-meter pools. High-school meets are held in shorter 25-yard pools, which means that finishing times can’t qualify a swimmer for Olympic trials or other high-level meets.

And while high-school teams often allow casual swimmers to join, club teams generally attract more serious athletes.

“I’m not a huge fan of high-school swimming, and I get tons of backlash because of it,” said Coley Stickels, who oversees the Canyons Aquatic Club in the Los Angeles area. “It’s a hobby; it’s not serious.”

Top-level swimmers plan their annual training schedules around a handful of peak competitions. A swimmer may spend several months preparing for a single meet with weeks of endurance-building volume, followed by subsequent periods of strength workouts and lung-bursting sprint intervals.

Like marathon runners, swimmers then taper their workload in the weeks before a peak meet. The goal is to arrive with rested, strong muscles. After the competition, the monthslong training process starts anew.

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Some of my best memories are from high-school swimming.

—Olympic champion Janet Evans

“I never rested for [high-school sectional championships] but I still took it very seriously,” said Beard, a two-time Olympic champion who attended Irvine High School. “It was the only chance my friends got to see me race.”

Beard and Evans said they were glad that they competed in high school and attended the regional championship meets. High-school swimming exposed them to greater social opportunities, they said, and provided a break from the pressures of competing at national and international events. An Olympian at just 14 years old, Beard said she fondly remembers high-school swimming parties, where she socialized with “regular kids” who weren’t training for the Olympics.

“You need to have a balance so these kids don’t get burned out by the pressure to make the Olympics,” Evans said. “Some of my best memories are from high-school swimming.”

There are benefits to swimming club — and high school. Some club swimmers, like Michael Phelps never swam in high school. But, for many swimmers, it’s a chance for their high school friends and peers to see them race for the first time. All those hours of hard work, year-round allow them to shine during high school season.

High school meets can help college bound swimmers because the meets are similar in a dual meet format and schedule. It’s all about the team and individual times are the most important thing. It’s scoring points for the team that counts. The team spirit at high school meets and college are contagious, while many club teams focus more on the individual accomplishments. However, without a club foundation, it’s rare for swimmers to get into college.

Like I said, both are great experiences, and hopefully coaches put their student-athletes ahead of their egos to help them succeed on their journey.

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The home pool during warmup at a meet.

What are your thoughts about club versus high school sports?

Another side of the new NCAA rule

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Me and fellow swim moms at PAC 12 Champs.

Yesterday, news broke that the NCAA is going to change their rules: student-athletes will be able to earn money from their name, image and likeness (NIL). This new ruling followed one month after California passed the “Fair Pay to Play Act,” which was the first state to allow student-athletes to earn money from outside sources for their NIL. Other states soon followed, despite the NCAA saying it violated their rules and they might ban California schools from competing in NCAA sanctioned events.

There’s a lot of discussion about the pros and cons of student-athletes being able to make money. Some think it will have unintended consequences of Olympic and minor sports being eliminated. Others say only big name football and basketball stars will make money. Most of the conversation centers on student-athletes getting endorsements from corporations or boosters outright paying students to go to their alma maters. There’s a lot of hoopla going on without anyone knowing exactly how it will change the college athletic experience.

I wasn’t aware of it, but the NCAA rules have affected student-athletes from using their own name or likeness on outside businesses like tutoring, teaching swim lessons or selling t-shirts! A friend of my son’s was an NCAA champion for rowing at Cal. She said while she was in school, she started her own business–but couldn’t use her picture, name or say she had any affiliation to rowing at Cal. Doesn’t that seem ridiculous? You’d think it would be a good thing to talk up your resume and accomplishments. Why should the athletes be treated differently than non-athletic students, who are free to print their name, picture and connection to a school?

Here’s a story in SwimSwam about two swimmers who tried to start up a t-shirt screening business:

Two University of Iowa swimmers found out the hard way just how seriously the NCAA takes its policy regarding college athletes using their own names, photos or athletic links to promote their own business.

Hawkeye seniors Chris Dawson and Tom Rathbun launched their own t-shirt screening business earlier this year entitled Trailheads Apparel, complete with a GoFundMe page that garnered $645 in contributions in just its first 2 days. However, the NCAA compliance alarm was almost immediately sounded as the fundraising page included the student-athletes’ names and bios, including a bit about how Dawson and Rathbun met each other while swimming at Iowa.

The connection to a collegiate sport was thereby established, leading to the Iowa AD contacting the athletes with ineligibility news. The swimmers were conscious about not intentionally violating any NCAA compliance rules, with Dawson saying, “We tried our best not to put anything about swimming in it.”

Nevertheless, changes had to be made at Iowa’s request, including the athletes’ names, photos and any Iowa-related reference being removed from the Trailheads Apparel website. The founders now only identify themselves as ‘Rocky and Slide’.

Here’s an excerpt from a SwimSwam article by Torrey Hart called NCAA Votes to Permit Student-Athletes to Profit from Name, Image, Likeness:

After California passed the Fair Pay to Play Act, which will allow NCAA athletes to profit of their name, image and likeness, the NCAA decided to act.

The NCAA Board of Governors voted unanimously Tuesday to allow student-athletes to profit off of their own name, image, and likenesses in “a manner consistent with the collegiate model,” the organization announced.

The Board is directing each of the NCAA‘s three divisions to “immediately consider updates to relevant bylaws and policies for the 21st century.” The divisions have been asked to create rules that take effect no later than January 2021.

“We must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes,” Michael Drake, chair of the board and president of The Ohio State University, said. “Additional flexibility in this area can and must continue to support college sports as a part of higher education. This modernization for the future is a natural extension of the numerous steps NCAA members have taken in recent years to improve support for student-athletes, including full cost of attendance and guaranteed scholarships.”

The move comes almost exactly a month after California passed bill SB 206, otherwise known as the “Fair Pay to Play Act,” which was set to grant California-based NCAA athletes the opportunity to profit off their name, image and likeness come 2023. After that bill was passed, other states quickly followed with their own versions, challenging the NCAA‘s long-standing stranglehold on keeping its athletes amateur in the financial sense.

The Pac-12 Conference – the major conference in which Division I teams in California participate – and its schools in the state publicly opposed the bill, voicing concerns regarding recruiting and the support of Olympic and women’s sports.

I think changes were needed. We’ll wait and see if it there are unintended consequences or if it’s a win win for everyone.

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My daughter and teammates cheering at the PAC 12s.

What are your thoughts about the new NCAA rules?

What I love about being a swim mom

I wrote this the second year of my daughter’s college swim career. It’s fun to look back on how much I enjoyed age group swimming and all that goes into it. I’m looking forward to getting back in the pool myself — after my two-month ordeal with eye surgeries end. I’m almost there! In the meantime, I miss swimming and being a swim mom.

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

My daughter diving in (with pointed toes) for the 1000 free during a dual meet. Utes vs. USC.

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.

Humility: Is It Overlooked in Athletics?

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My daughter with teammates.

Yesterday I wrote an article about the amazing role models our children have in the world of swimming for SwimSwam.com. I was pointing out three greats as examples: Michael Phelps, Kaitlin Sandeno and Ryan Lochte. Yes, Ryan Lochte.

For non swimming fans, Lochte did something amazing this past week. His suspension ended a few days ago and he won a gold medal at the US Nationals in Stanford on Sunday. He turned 35 years old the day before. He was racing kids who were 17 and 19 years old! And he won decidedly. Talk about a role model. He didn’t give up despite really screwing up and blowing it at Rio and beyond. Instead he got his life back on track and trained. He got married, has two beautiful babies and entered rehab. He showed a sense of humility and gratitude after winning the gold medal that quite frankly was missing in his youth. Here’s the video of him winning the 200 IM.

As far as Michael Phelps, I was honored to hear him speak a few years ago. He told a story of his bouts with depression and substance abuse and said at one time he no longer wanted to live. He’s refocused his life and is making a difference in the charities he volunteers for as well as being a father and husband.

I am reading “Golden Glow: How Katilin Sandeno Achieved Gold in the Pool and in Life” and she is truly inspirational as well. She was a 17-year-old phenom who earned a spot on the Olympic Team in 2000 and 2004. Through her stellar career, she faced many hardships including undiagnosed asthma, a fractured back, shoulder issues and weight gain in college. Through it all she was humble, inspiring and a joy to be around. I highly recommend the book for parents and kids! For many years, she’s dedicated time as spokesperson for the Jessie Rees Foundation, named in honor of Jessie who died from inoperable brain tumors. Sandeno visits hospitals and connects with kids fighting cancer and brings them “Joy Jars.”

What incredible role models these three are, and they all show humility. Of course there are many more in the world of swimming, too.

I found an article called “Humility in Sports–Why Does It Matter?” by Malcom Shaw, a soccer player. He has some good stuff in his article. I feel like humility doesn’t get as much attention as other traits of successful athletes like talent or hard work. Yet, it’s just as important. Here’s an excerpt:

Humility is one of the most respectable and admirable traits that an athlete can possess. The prime essence of a humble athlete is the act of selflessness and modesty which transcends to the world. Oftentimes in the realm of sports we witness many accounts of prideful behavior, whether it be on or off the playing field. Being a competitive athlete myself, I’ve watched and observed professional athletes of the highest caliber. As much as I would gravitate to their individual skills and talents, I would even more so be observant of their character and demeanor.

When athletes talk about humility and comprehensively act on it (Principle 2), they set a precedent for fostering good character.

Below are a few ways humility is exemplified and embodied in an athlete. 

Modesty

A modest athlete is one who handles character gracefully on and off the field. An individual who doesn’t excessively floss their achievements goes far in character cultivation. When they are in the spotlight, they carry themselves in a way that draws limited attention (even when there is). Modesty in a successful athlete is a trait noticed and respected by many.

Leads by example

Leading by example can come in many forms. Whether on or off the field, leadership is noticed everywhere. Being the hardest and most consistent worker, or being the only one to help clean up equipment after practice are all ways leadership is exemplified . Leadership in the world of sports is not prideful, but it looks to inspire and better others.

Lifts those around them

Athletes who embody humility take responsibility for their actions, especially when things don’t go well. In a team sport setting, there are usually situations where blame shifting occurs. Examples of blame shifting can be things such as, “We lost because of you” or “Your mistake costed us the game.” In situations like these it takes someone with humility to diffuse the problem by sharing some of the responsibility. 

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Team cheer on the college swim team.

What are your thoughts about humility in today’s society?

Reflections on the big meet–or when life doesn’t go as planned

Two years ago, my husband and I flew to Washington state to watch our daughter swim in the PAC 12 Swimming and Diving Championships. We were so excited because she felt so good about her swimming. As swim parents we were pumped up with the anticipation of watching our child shine in her element. But, life doesn’t always go as planned. Here are my reflections from two years ago:

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The Utes cheering for a teammate.

It has been an exciting, disappointing, amazing and depressing meet. With one more day to go with PAC 12, NCAA and American records falling all around, I’m enjoying the show. But with my daughter’s mile this afternoon, I’m holding my breath.

I got a call last week from my daughter who said she had a tickle in her throat. I begged her to see a doctor and get on it, after all PAC 12s, her season’s championship meet, was less than a week away. She replied, “Mom, it’s just a tickle!”

So, if it was “just a tickle” why did she bother to tell me?

A few days later, she was sick. My husband and I told her to go to urgent care. She fought about it because she was so miserable she didn’t want to leave the warmth and comfort of her bed. A few hours later, she called to tell us she had the flu. They packed her full of meds and told her to return to her house for total bed rest. This was Saturday. She was leaving for the big meet on Tuesday.

She’s been scratched out of a few events, swam a single event, but mostly is lying in bed, waiting for today to be better and swim the 1650 free.

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My daughter and coach on the sidelines.

 

What I’m really impressed with is her attitude. She’s not showing us that she’s upset. She doesn’t appear to be down. She’s enjoying the time with her team. She’s proud of her teammates and shares in their successes and feels hurt when they’re upset and fail to meet their goals. About her own situation, she’s realistic. She said, “Isn’t this the craziest sport ever? What other sport do you train for eight months for one single meet and then you could be hurt or sick?” She also said that she’s tried her best and is content with that. “This isn’t in my control.”

Good luck today is all I can say. I may have my eyes closed, or peek through my fingers while she swims. I also wonder why am I the parent of distance swimmers? It would be so much easier to be the parent of a sprinter!

As for the exciting, fun wonderful stuff, we hung out with our fellow Ute parents. It’s once a year, we’re together for this long four-day meet. We send the kids off every evening during our pre-function with cheers and pompoms, which makes us laugh out loud together. We have fun watching other team parents, whether it’s trees on their heads for Stanford, blue wigs and a giant flag for UCLA or our own red mohawks. Rarely do we parents get to act so silly. It’s refeshing and fun, and gives us memories we’ll hold dear.

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UCLA Parents.

 

As for the meet itself, it’s indescribable. Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel, Abbey Weitzel, Kathleen Baker, Ella Easton, Lia Neal, Katie McLaughlin, etc. The world’s greats all gathered together for a college meet. Records falling left and right. Shaking my head with disbelief at what amazing swims I witnessed.

It’s a special meet, and although things in life don’t always go as planned, I’m proud to be a small part of it.

The following to videos are exciting races I was privileged to see, the 50 and 200 free.

 

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Last year, my daughter and teammates cheering during the 200 fly.

P.S. She did great! The 1650 was ok!

8 Thoughts About the First PAC 12 Meet

I can’t believe my daughter’s first PAC-12 Conference swim meet was in February 2015. All four meets were great experiences for the most part–exciting times spent with great families. It wasn’t as much fun the year she got the flu, or her senior year, when her “shoulder wouldn’t shoulder.” This year, my daughter and I are going together as spectators. She wants to cheer on her friends who will be swimming in their last conference meet, plus a distance swimmer friend, who she thinks will qualify for NCAAs. We’ll be able to visit Mom, too, who lives near the meet. I’m looking forward to a mother-daughter-grandmother visit!

Here are my thoughts after my first PAC 12 championship meet:

Olympic swimmers competing at the PAC 12s.

Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin competing at the PAC 12s.

ONE

I couldn’t believe the conference meet was here already. What happened to my daughter’s first year of college swimming?

TWO

I was surprised by how easy it was to find a seat. Coming from age group meets that are crawling with kids and parents and you have to squeeze to get a seat, it was a pleasant change. However, it did get more packed as the days passed and always at finals.

The crowd at the PAC 12s.

The stands at the PAC 12s.

THREE

I still get nervous before Kat swims. Maybe it’s even worse than before. Especially at prelims. I thought I’d get over that queasy feeling, hand-shaking, palm-sweating attack. But, no I did not.

 

FOUR

I wanted to spend a little time with Kat. But, she’s on the deck with her team, and we’re up in the stands with the parents.

That's me up in the stands looking down on my daughter.

That’s me up in the stands looking down on my daughter.

FIVE

I have met some great swim parents on our new team. Don’t get me wrong, there are great families on our club team that I’m life long friends with. I’m thrilled to meet parents on the college team that are friendly and fun, too. I guess that’s what swimming parents are like.

SIX

It’s fun to cheer at the PAC-12 conference, hold up signs, and wave pom poms. Kat would have killed me if I behaved that way at an age group meet!

SEVEN

Now that it’s the last day of PAC-12s, I’m shocked at how fast the days went by. Do I really have to wait an entire year to experience this again?

EIGHT

Looking down from the bleachers at my daughter, I’m amazed at how much she’s matured this year. She’s happy and comfortable with her new family, her college team. She has grown independent from us and she’s doing really, really well. I’m happy and proud, but I’m wiping a few tears from eyes, too.photo 2 (1)