Can parents make their kids swim faster?

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My daughter swimming in college.

“Dad! It Doesn’t Help!” is a sports parenting book to “Become the Ultimate Sports Parent” by Mark A. Maguire. Although the book is based in Australia with a dad figuring out how to be a better sports parent for his son with USA Major League Baseball dreams, I could relate as a swim mom.

Maguire explains in his book: “The title came about after my son used this phrase when I asked him how he feels when I holler out at his baseball games. His response stunned me. His response and my first blog must have stunned a lot of sports parents and coaches, because it was read and shared during 2017 (through the COACH UP website in the USA) over a million times.”

So what did his son say that stunned him? Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter:

During the baseball season a few years ago I asked my eleven-year-old son what do all the kids in the dugout think when their parents urge them on with instructions and encouragement as they are playing the game?

He said bluntly: “they don’t like it.”

I further pressed him. What about when I call out some last second reminders just before you bat, you know, the things we’ve talked about during the week and to help you remember what to do.

Again, he didn’t mince his words and said, “Dad, it doesn’t help.”

He went on to say: “When I’m in the batter’s box I follow the instructions from my coach. I put myself in the zone to block out every other noise. It doesn’t help me, or any other kid when our parents are yelling things out.”

Okay. That one struck home. As a swim mom who used to search frantically for my kids before each one of their races to impart some last minute instructions, I am frankly a bit embarrassed. I honestly thought that whatever wisdom I was going to tell them right before they got on the blocks was helpful. Not only helpful but would be the determining factor on whether or not they won their heat, got their coveted cut to the big meet, and would earn a college scholarship. Well, I’m exaggerating a bit with the outcomes, but I thought they wouldn’t do as well without my input.

In truth, I was probably a distraction. An annoyance. A royal pain in the behind. My stress level was running high, I was climbing over parents, pushing through crowds to grab my kids and do our little last minute good luck ritual. Ugh. Yes, that was me. Eventually I calmed down. Or at least I wasn’t so obvious about my nerves—and let the coaches coach while I sat in the stands or at the end of their lanes and cheered.

I asked my daughter what she thought when we yelled and screamed for her. We’d yell at the top of our lungs “Kick!” “Keep your head down!” or my husband’s favorite “Go now!” — like she wasn’t doing all those things without us screaming. It’s funny today looking back at it. I wonder if she heard us when she was under water. She said, “Yes, dad is really loud. But it didn’t help.”

I do think cheering has some small affect on our kids’ sports. It shows our enthusiasm for the sport. Cheering helps us release tension. And it shows we care.

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Teammates cheering at PAC-12 Women’s Championships.

What things have you done as a sports parent that you’d never dream of doing today?

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Why I’m a fan of Sam Darnold–and his parents

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I wrote this a while ago when Sam Darnold was a quarterback with USC. I liked his low key, humble way about him. Tonight I’m watching his debut as starting QB for the Jets. Yes, I’m still a fan.

I’m so impressed with the parents of Sam Darnold, who is rumored to be the first pick tonight in the NFL draft. They were parents who let their phenom athletically-gifted kid, be just that. A kid. Tonight we’ll find out if Sam is the first pick, or not. We can learn so much from Sam’s parents regardless of the level of talent our kids have, or what their passions are. I wrote this about USC’s quarterback eight months ago:

My husband asked me to read a story from the Bleacher Report about USC Quarterback Sam Darnold. I put him off for a day because frankly, I wasn’t that interested. I finally read it to appease him and found Sam’s story to be fascinating—mainly because of the parenting style of Mike and Chris Darnold.

From childhood through high school, Sam played basketball, football, and baseball. I think he played volleyball, too. His parents let him try and decide what sports he participated in. They didn’t make him specialize or get him private lessons or coaches. In fact, Sam believes his success in football is from playing all different sports and learning a variety of skills. In a refreshing story written by Jeff Perlman, you find out about a dying breed of parents—ones who believe in fun and no pressure. Parents who let their child lead his own life.

“USC’s star quarterback and his parents do not live by the LaVar Ball theory of the universe. They let a multisport supernova grow up into his own man. And that’s why this 20-year-old might be the No. 1 pick in next year’s NFL draft.”

Yet the story of Sam Darnold isn’t the story of the modern quarterback, loud and sparkly and created to own the internet’s 24-hour hype machine. Nope, it’s the story of a young man on the verge of superstardom because, not long ago, he was allowed to diversify.

He was allowed to be a kid.

The Darnolds’ Capistrano Beach household is in the heart of south Orange County, where there are youth sports leagues atop leagues atop leagues, and private coaches atop private coaches atop private coaches.

In Orange County, it’s not uncommon for a nine-year-old pitcher to throw sliders and curveballs nine or 10 months of the year—with a father behind the backstop holding a radar gun. It’s not uncommon for a quarterback to play Pop Warner, then a season of flag and then spend the summer under the watchful eye of a $200-an-hour passing guru.

This was not going to happen to Sam.

“My parents,” the quarterback says, “wouldn’t have allowed it.”

On paper, this might come as a surprise. One would be hard-pressed to find a more sports-centric family than the Darnolds. Mike (Sam’s dad) was an offensive lineman at the University of Redlands, Chris (Sam’s mom) a volleyball player at Long Beach City College. Sam’s older sister Franki starred in volleyball at the University of Rhode Island and three of his cousins—Allie, Michele and A.J.—also participated in collegiate volleyball. Sam’s late grandfather, Dick Hammer, played basketball at USC and was on the 1954 team that went to the Final Four. He was also a member of the 1964 U.S. Olympic men’s volleyball team.

Put simply, organized athletics are a big deal in the Darnold world and have been for decades.

“But,” says Chris, “they’re not everything. We’ve always tried to keep things in perspective. Yes, our children have always loved playing sports. But around here, in this part of California, it too often becomes live and die. That’s a big mistake in my opinion. It has to be fun.”

“One day you open your eyes and it’s, ‘Holy cow, your son is in this position,’” Mike says. “I mean, it’s crazy, right? Crazy, crazy, crazy—one in a million.”

He pauses. Though Chris is acknowledged by family members as the emotional one, the father has been showing his soft side of late. He insists he never cared whether his children played sports or an instrument or worked a job—as long as they were involved and happy and tried different things. But to have a son as USC’s starting quarterback; to have a son who is a Heisman Trophy front-runner; to have a son who is humble and decent and respectful?

“Say what you want,” Mike says. “Sam’s not flashy, he’s not a yeller, he’s not a trophy collector, a bragger. But I feel like we worked hard to raise our kids the right way. And it’s paid off.”

I believe the Darnolds have lessons for many sports parents, myself included. Of course, they had an exceptionally athletic son who could have been recruited in basketball, baseball or football. But more than that, they raised a humble, balanced kid. They are proud of him as a person, not just as a star athlete. Their attitude and parenting style helped develop Sam into the man he is and will become.

I hope you take the time to read the entire Bleacher Report article about Sam Darnold and his parents. There’s also another great article in the Los Angles Times called “As expectations swell, USC’s Sam Darnold finds comfort at home near the beach” by Zach Helfand.

I’m excited to watch him play football this year. Here’s a YouTube of his 2016 highlights.

Click here to watch a recent interview with Sam Darnold by CBS’s Allie LaForce.

What do you think about kids specializing in one sport at an early age?

 

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photo of Sam Darnold from the Bleacher Report

 

Week One After Surgery and I’m Feeling Good!

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The mountain where one bad turn and I’m down since January 2nd.

It’s officially one week since I had surgery after a ski accident. It’s been a long haul from the slopes of Utah early January to my home in Palm Springs with several trips in between including my daughter’s final dual meet in Salt Lake City and the PAC 12 championship swim meet in Federal Way, WA.

I was diligent about physical therapy and I can honestly say now how important that was. I’ve been told not to put weight on my left leg and I have to jump up from the sofa or chair on one foot and I have no problem with that. The toughest thing for me is getting around with a walker and one leg. I move the walker a few inches, hop on one leg and repeat. I’m going nowhere fast!

I asked my husband to get me crutches so I could whip around the house. He did and I hate to say it but the walker is easier for me to move around than the crutches. Both really, really hurt my upper arms. Yikes! I hurt more in my arm muscles than in my carved-upon-knee. But, I’m getting stronger and just think how strong my arms and stroke will be once I return to the pool.

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My view isn’t that bad!

So, what do I do all day? I sit on the sofa with the remote control, my laptop, and several books. I haven’t felt up to writing until today. So, I’ve been reading lots. I’ve read an Ann Patchett book, Taft, and recommend it whether you’re laid up or not. I haven’t felt bored despite being confined to a small space in the house. I guess that’s because I’ve never experienced boredom–at least not as an adult. Maybe I was bored as a child from time to time, but I don’t remember that feeling. There’s always so much to do that I haven’t gotten around to yet–and need to accomplish. I don’t have enough time to do everything. Whether it’s interviewing people, writing stories, rewriting a novel, reading books, hanging out with friends, doing the taxes, cleaning out closets–there’s a heck of a lot to get done.

One of the blessings of being hurt I’ve discovered is the support from family and friends. I can’t tell you how many calls and texts I’ve gotten with people offering to help out in any way they can. It’s really brightened my days and makes me appreciate the people in my life.

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Olive helping me recover by cuddling on my lap.

How have you passed your time when you’ve been injured or sick?

Why visit the original Starbucks?

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My son on our day trip to Pike Place Market.

While we were in Washington for my daughter’s last PAC 12 meet, we took a day trip to Pike Place Market. If you are visiting Seattle you have to visit the market. It was a favorite place for my mom to take us when I was a young kid and I have memories of shopping there for seafood and fresh vegetables throughout my college years.  One of the main attractions are the fishmongers at Pike Place Fish Market, who throw whole salmons through the air. Click on the link to watch the action. Another highlight is the doughnut shop that sells tiny freshly made donuts–which were so hot the steam came off them as we enjoyed a half dozen cinnamon sugared ones.

When I was young, I hated the Public Market. It scared me. The downtown area known as “Skid Row” surrounded the market and I was terrified of winos and drunks falling in the streets. The area was originally called Skid Row, not because it was an urban blighted area with people on the “skids” but because it referred to the path along which timber workers skidded logs.

When I was around 10 or 11 years old, my parents liked a restaurant called Henry’s Off Broadway. It was the special occasion restaurant reserved for birthdays and anniversaries. Henry’s closed in 1991 to be raised in favor of an apartment building. http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19910626&slug=1291262 The reason why I’m bringing up Henry’s it was the first time my parents drank Starbuck’s coffee. They loved the strong coffee served in white china cups and saucers and asked what type of coffee it was. The waiter told them Starbucks and told them about the small coffee shop in the Pike Place Market with a variety of roasted beans.

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My son and husband enjoying their Starbucks from the original store.

 

They made there way down there, with me in tow, and soon my parents gave up large cans of Folger’s and Yuban and were grinding Starbuck’s beans with a small electric grinder—which I still have by the way.

When we took my son to Pike Place Market, he wanted to go into the original Starbucks. What was so funny, was there was a line to get inside complete with a cordoned off area. The wait often exceeds an hour, we were told. The coffee shop hadn’t changed since I was 11 years old, except for the tourists. Wall to wall people taking selfies and waiting to purchase $100 aprons with the Starbucks logo surprised me!

 

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Taking a selfie in the original Starbucks.

Have you visited Pike Place Market and what is your favorite things about it?

 

Eight Thoughts About the First PAC-12 Championship Meet

It was February 28, 2015, when I wrote this. It was after the first so exciting college conference meet. In no time at all, it’s time for the last one. I can’t figure out where the time went. My daughter asked me today, “Why don’t you write on how to prepare for the last meet?” I don’t think you can prepare for it was my answer. You just have to experience it.

27750385_10216008558030578_2414009673401613488_n1.  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 crowd at the PAC 12s.

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.

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 lifelong 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.photo 2 (1)

How do you handle milestones with your kids? From kindergarten graduation to the first prom, high school graduation and then college, the time keeps flying by.

The last meet is coming

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PAC 12 2015

There I’ve said it. My daughter’s last meet is days away. It’s her senior year and her final meet will be the PAC 12 conference meet in Federal Way, WA. I’m kind of jumbled up on how I feel about it. I love being a swim mom and I find myself looking back on little moments with nostalgia and sadness. I will miss going to her meets.

My husband and I were browsing through the App called Meet Mobile this morning looking at different conference results from local schools where our children’s friends are swimming like UCSB and UCSD. I realized that I know a couple of the seniors’ names, but other than that there aren’t a whole lot of swimmers I recognize.

The past few years haven’t been all rosy. After a great freshman year, she got a high ankle sprain chasing after Trax, the public transportation train in Salt Lake City. That meant she couldn’t push off the walls for weeks during long course season and didn’t get her Olympic Trial cut. I think that was a devastating blow to her at the time, although it doesn’t seem like such a big deal now.

Then at last year’s PAC 12s, she got the flu. A really bad flu where the coaches didn’t let her swim or even out of her room until the final day of the meet. It was decidedly weird sitting in the stands for PAC 12s and not having a participant in the meet. Her last and only event she gave it everything she had. I was so nervous I thought I’d faint. I wasn’t sure if she was going to survive that mile-long race, but she did. Her coach said it was a “heroic swim” and he was so proud of her. It was close to a best time.

This year she’s been fighting through a bad shoulder injury. I worry if it was because she started swimming so young, so intensely or for so many years? What should I have done differently as a swim parent? Make her stop? Let her take time off?

She will take time off this year. But what I’m hoping for is next year, after my surgery and I’ve healed, that she will swim with me at a Masters meet–so I can be a swimmer and a swim mom all in one day.

 

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My daughter’s coaches and teammates cheering for her during the 1650 at last year’s PAC 12s.

Any bets on if I’ll cry at my daughter’s final college meet?

 

 

Day One Without FaceBook

images-2The first day of Lent, I almost made it without Facebook. Actually, my only mistake was first thing in the morning. It’s my habit to check a few news websites on my phone and then look at FaceBook before I start work.

I automatically opened up FB and then stopped myself. Oops. It’s Lent! I quickly clicked out of it and haven’t been tempted to see what my FB friends are posting since. When I’m at the PAC 12 Swimming Championships, I’ll want to see what my daughter’s team is posting. I’ll miss all the fun pictures that will be shared by the kids and parents, too. Rest assured they will all be there after Easter and I can check them out then.

I went to noon Ash Wednesday service at St. Theresa’s and it was short and sweet–less than half an hour. The pastor said it was his “quick get back to work service.” He had a few ideas to make Lent more meaningful. He said the objective is to become a different person than when you started the 40 days and 40 nights Lenten season.

He said we should break Lent into weeks and gave the following suggestions:

WEEK ONE
Spend time alone and listen to the Lord. Give yourself 15 to 30 minutes all to yourself each day to reflect and meditate.

WEEK TWO
Reflect on the Lord’s Prayer daily and think about how it relates to you. Also, create your own prayer.

WEEK THREE
Give something away. Give a gift that you’ve been meaning to give. Give something you own away to someone, who could even be an enemy.

WEEK FOUR
Volunteer in the community. Find an organization and give your service to others.

WEEK FIVE UNTIL EASTER
Look in the mirror and observe and reflect on how you have changed as a person through this Lenten season.

I think that’s an interesting suggestion and helpful to have some structure and do things like giving back to our community rather than “I’m giving up chocolate.” When my daughter was in grade school she’d say, “I”m giving up piano lessons for Lent.” She hated piano and admonishes me today for making her stick with it way beyond what was useful to me or her! In contrast, my son loved it and took lessons from age five through his senior year of high school and should probably still be taking lessons today! It’s funny how different personalities are, isn’t it?

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My kids at a piano recital playing a duet.

 

If you observe Lent, what do you give up or do?