Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin competing at the PAC 12s.
Five years ago in February, my daughter swam in her first of four PAC-12 Championship meets. It’s fun to look at my thoughts and remember the excitement of the experience.
1. I couldn’t believe the conference meet was here already. What happened to my daughter’s first year of college swimming?
2. 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 stands at the PAC 12s.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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!
7. 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?
8. 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.
I wonder why so many kids fail college? I was shocked to read a statistic from ACT that 50% of freshman students do not return for their second year. Then, 30% of those remaining, do not graduate within five years!
Why? What can we do to better prepare our kids for college? There is so much pressure on our kids to get into great schools.You’d think with the great expense, and all their work to get in, it would be a breeze once they are there. But, it’s not.
My daughter and friend on a recruit trip.
Here’s my list of why I think kids fail their freshman year:
Too many kids go to college. I do not think everyone should go. When I was in high school the majority of students did not continue their education past high school. They were able to get jobs, support themselves and their families without a college education. Today, a college degree has become the norm and standard. There are many kids who would be better served to work for a few years, and then decide if they want to go to college. By having everyone go, and not everyone is equipped to go, some kids are set up for failure.
High school doesn’t prepare kids for college. The work is often spoon-fed by teachers in little lumps of daily assignments and reading. Having a syllabus with a couple dates on it and no day-to-day requirements is more what college is like. It takes discipline, motivation and self-determination to not procrastinate, but to work and study in advance of deadlines.
A gorgeous location. UCSB.
We do too much. As helicopter, hovering parents, we are afraid to let our kids fail. We don’t let our kids learn from their mistakes. They need to have more chores, part-time jobs or something to do besides homework. Some of the crazy, heavy AP schedules don’t allow for real life experiences. Plus, we cater to our kids’ every needs—even to the point of helping them complete projects or assignments. My conversation with four-time Olympian and former University of Texas head coach Jill Sterkel included some great advice that you can read on SwimSwam here. She believes in letting kids work out their problems in a less high-stakes environment. We need to give them room to do this.
Millennials mature later, according to Kari Ellingson, Vice President at the University of Utah. I attended a talk by her at orientation with my daughter. I wrote more about her talk here.According to Ellingson, “It used to be people matured around 19, 20, 21. Today it’s 26, 27 or 28.” It’s no wonder they can’t handle the many demands of laundry, getting their own food, studying, etc. Maybe our kids are not mature enough to handle the responsibilities of college at age 18?
What can we do to help our kids be prepared for success in college? I’ll talk to some more experts and will get back to you! What do you think are the reasons why so many kids fail in college? I’d love to get your feedback.
My kids not wanting me to take their pic on the UCSB campus.
My daughter swimming with club teammates during break at the home pool.
My youngest child came home for one week of Christmas break. I’m sad to say, she left already for two weeks of intense swim training at school. She’s a freshman and when she was home, it felt like she had never been away. It was such a great feeling to have her go to morning practice, come back and lounge in her room watching Netflix. I think I was shocked that she had to leave again!
My son, who’s in his fourth year — notice I don’t say senior year — came home for a few days. Left to return to his part-time job. And will be back to celebrate New Year’s with us.
In the meantime, I received a letter from my daughter’s University — The Center for Student Wellness — with interesting information for parents of children of all ages.
They said in the letter that they’ve found on their campus 5 issues that affect academics:
The letter went on to explain that while sleep is fourth on the list, sleep affects everything else on the list. I’m not quite sure how they distinguish “stress” from “anxiety”because they seem to go hand in hand.
However, they state that lack of sleep can be mistaken for stress. It can lead to anxiety. It can make your student more susceptible to getting sick. They suggest 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Then your child will be in a better mood. Plus, they will score higher on tests and have a higher GPA!
As the parent of a swimmer, my daughter gets her sleep. She has had no problem falling asleep. Ever. My son, on the other hand, can’t fall asleep. He stays up until the wee hours, and then we cannot wake him up in the morning.
My tip for getting enough sleep is simple: Swim!
Here are the tips from the University of Utah:
Go to bed around the same time every night, and wake up around the same time each morning.
Have a quiet, dark space to sleep in that is not too hot or cold.
Be sure to remove distractions like televisions, iPods, computers, and tablets from bedrooms. Beds shouldn’t be used for activities like reading, watching movies, or listening to music.
Begin powering down lights and electronics about an hour before bed.
Avoid large meals, nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol right before bed.
Limit naps to 20-30 minutes a day.
Engage in regular physical activity.
BINGO! There is it. Number seven. If you have a child in athletics — particularly swimming — your child will sleep. Maybe that’s why they say that swimmers have the highest GPAs of all sports? Even though they get up at the crack of dawn for practice–they’ve had a full night’s sleep.
The dolphin statue in Puerto Vallarta by Bud Bottoms. It’s a twin statue to the one at Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara.
We were on vacation in Puerto Vallarta — enjoying “empty nesting” that I first wrote abouthere.We went to a brunch at a luxurious gringo resort — complete with every type of food imaginable — waffle and omelet stations, a taco bar, sushi, every type of seafood and protein known to man, plus gorgeous arrays of fruits and salads.
I was being so good, trying to stick to a high protein, low carb plate — salmon, pork, a taste of sushi. And then I saw roasted Serrano chilis near the elaborate Mexican dishes.It wouldn’t hurt to just have a taste, would it? I plunked the single chili onto my plate next to the scrambled eggs.
Later, sitting at the table with my husband, friends, and a person we had just met, I cut off a small bite of the chili. POW! YIKES! Help me, Jesus! How could I sit still, be polite and nod and smile?
My eyes watered, I shifted up and down in my seat and I thought I was crawling out of my skin. I was ready to jump on the table and do a happy dance!
That was the all time hottest chili. Ever. So much for the high protein low carb diet — I began stuffing my mouth with bread, tortillas, chips — anything to get the soaring heat to die.
The next evening at dinner, I listened to one of our friends tell a story about when he was in college and ate his first jalapeño. He was told that the secret was to keep the chili from getting any air. So right from the jar, he slipped the jalapeño into his mouth and closed his lips tight. Then he chewed and was blasted with unbelievable heat. He said the guy who told him “the secret way to eat chilis” laughed so hard that he’s probably still laughing today — 40 years later.
Now that I’m away from the freshly roasted peppers, I looked up a few things about chilis. First, serrano chilis are typically eaten raw and have a bright and biting flavor that is notably hotter than the jalapeño pepper. No kidding!
The Scoville Scale
There is a thing called the Scoville Scale that measures the spicy heat of the pepper! Who knew?
What makes a chili hot? The answer is capsaicin. What is that you ask?
If you ever have the horribly uncomfortable occasion of biting into a super hot chili — milk and dairy is the answer. I did not know this. Do not drink water, tea or coffee. Try milk, yogurt or cheese to cut the heat. The next best thing is bread, rice or pasta.
Besides the great food and hot peppers, what did I enjoy about Puerto Vallarta? Try this!
My daughter diving in a competition with her club team at the East LA City College pool.
I Am Woman Hear Me Roar or You’ve Come a Long Way Baby, Part II
Isn’t it strange that women swimmers a few decades ago ended their swim careers in their teens, while it’s not uncommon to have women compete in their 20s and 30s today?
I was talking to Bonnie Adair — a former swimmer who held 35 National Age Group records during her career — including the 50-meter free for 8-and-unders that stood for 29 years. She quit swimming at age 19. Contrast that to say Olympian gold medalists Dara Torres, who swam in her fifth Olympics at age 41, Natalie Coughlin, still competing at 32, or Janet Evans who swam in the 2012 Olympic Trials at age 40.
What has changed so much in swimming since the 1970s that gives women the ability to still compete throughout their 20s and beyond?
I interviewed Bonnie Adair, the head coach of Loyola Marymount in LA, for another writing project I’m undertaking. She began swimming at age five and was an amazing and gifted swimmer. She said after she graduated high school she wanted to train for her third Olympic Trials. She lived at home with mom and dad and commuted to college — so she could still swim with her club team, Lakewood Aquatics coached by the legendary Jim Montrella.
She noticed one day that there were no guys in her training group. They had all gone to swim on scholarship at colleges such as UCLA and USC. The girls did not. Why not, you ask? Because they didn’t have college swim teams for women!
Isn’t that stunning? My daughter, age 18, is swimming right now — this very minute — at a D1, PAC 12 school (Go Utes!). It was always her dream — since she was five years old — to swim in college and go to the Olympic Trials. She took it for granted that she had the opportunity, and that if she worked really hard, she could possibly achieve those dreams. She’s made the college dream come true and she has a couple seconds to drop for Olympic Trials 2016.
I was shocked and stunned to realize that these dreams were not remotely possible for women just a few years older than me! Their swim careers were cut short if they wanted to have a college experience where they lived on campus and were away from home. It was difficult or nearly impossible to keep competing with a club team for many years past high school.
When I was in high school, we had no pool or high school swim team, boys or girls. I remember we had girls track and field and tennis. Cheerleading was the big thing for girls to do. Cheer tryouts was one of the horrors of my teen life, a total embarrassment that makes me cringe remembering being put on exhibition in front of the entire student body.
We didn’t have girls basketball or golf and I played golf. Since I didn’t make the cheerleading squad, I tried out for the boys golf team with my lifelong friend and fellow golfer Christy.We were allowed to go to all the practices with the guys. We were the last group out on the course— a twosome.We were never included in any of the tournaments or competitions. I honestly don’t know if we were that much worse than the boys — or if it was because we were girls.
I wrote about how far along we’ve come from the time my parents told me I was going to college to get my MRS degree and when girls were required to take home ec in high school in “I Am Woman Hear Me Roar, or You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!” Our young women take all of this for granted. They are truly lucky and blessed to be alive today in the United States.
Of course, the main reason there are women’s collegiate sports today and weren’t say before 1972 can be summed up as Title IX — which has its benefits and its unintended consequences. This will be discussed on another day.
What high school and college sports did you participate in? Were there girls teams for all the boys sports?
My son applied for college four years ago. Yes, he got in. But, it wasn’t to his first choice school. Nor, to his second. It was more like his 9th. Yes he got into one out of nine schools — his fall back school.
So what did this smart, kind, valedictorian, athlete, musician student do wrong?
First, the list of schools he applied to were all big-name top tier schools, ie. Harvard, Columbia, Yale, CalTech and Stanford, to name a few.
Please, do your research and apply to a wider variety of schools. Each application costs you money. Pick each school you apply to with care. There are many great state schools, small private schools and everything in between.
Second, he freaked out about the essay.
He sat for countless hours worrying about what to write staring at the blank computer screen. Looking back on it, he said it terrified him because he thought the essay was going to be the definitive work of his life.
Trust me. It’s not. Keep it simple, write in your own voice and give yourself time to rewrite, revise and rewrite again.Let someone — a parent or teacher — read it before you send it in.
Robert with bandmates at the scholarship banquet
Third. He refused to show need of any kind. One of the 14 factors colleges look for in admissions is: “Academic accomplishments in light of your life experiences and special circumstances, including but not limited to: disabilities, low family income, first generation to attend college, need to work, disadvantaged social or educational environment, difficult personal and family situations or circumstances, refugee status or veteran status.” I wrote about that here.
He truly had struggles with asthma. He had so many setbacks with swimming and missing school because of his health that most kids won’t experience. But, he said he wasn’t “playing that card.” My advice? Play whatever cards you’re given!
With upwards of 75,000 applying to a school that accepts less than 5,000 incoming freshman — it’s a numbers game. I wrote more about the numbers here in “My Son Wrote About His Crazy Mom for His Senior Project.”
Just for fun, you can listen to his highschool band, The Saucy Stenographers here. The song is called Desert Nights, written by Robert and sung by Marilynn Wexler.