What to do about obnoxious sports parents

diving off the blocks
My daughter diving during at a swim meet where the swimmers were selected from So Cal teams.

As a swim parent, I saw my share of obnoxious swim parents. And I had my own moments of not being able to contain myself — although not to the point of punching a ref out — or yelling at a coach.

I saw so many parents taking over their kids’ sports, coaching from the stands, and yelling at their children when they had a less than awesome swim, that I wrote weekly articles with sports parenting tips. You can read them on SwimSwam Parent Tips on my blog or on SwimSwam HERE.

We hear about “those” parents in the news. Their videos of violence on the field or gym go viral.

I saw an article today that had the perfect solution. Duct tape.

Here’s an excerpt from the NY Post’s “The solution to obnoxious sports parents? Duct tape” by  Kyle Smith:

Last July, a woman on a flight from Dallas to Charlotte bit a flight attendant, then tried to open a door to the plane while screaming. Crisis was averted when she was duct-taped to her seat

An excellent start! Now let’s get out the duct tape for sports parents, who need to sit down, shut up and remember that Pee Wee football is not the Super Bowl. In Mississippi this month, an umpire presiding over a ballgame played by 12-year-olds was punched in the face and given a black eye by a woman wearing a Mother of the Year shirt who had been thrown out of the stands for cursing. “It gets harder and harder to staff these tournaments because no one wants to listen to the verbal abuse and run the risk of what happened to me happening to them,” the umpire, Kristie More, told WLBT

Like other forms of bad behavior (deaths in car crashes are way up), hyper-reactive-sports-parenting seems to have spiked during the pandemic, when tempers have been running as hot as Bidenflation. Even before that, anyone who was thinking about helping out the kids by signing up to be an umpire or a referee would have been smart to buy a Kevlar jacket and make sure his insurance was paid up. “There has been a huge drop off in the number of available referees and officials in youth sports due to the obnoxious behavior of parents,” Rick Wolff host of WFAN radio’s “The Sports Edge” told The Washington Post in 2020

https://nypost.com/2022/04/23/the-solution-to-obnoxious-sports-parents-duct-tape/

I highly suggest you read the article. It’s funny, but highlights what’s wrong with public discourse in today’s world.

What’s the most obnoxious thing you’ve seen parents do? What solutions do you have? Do you think things have gotten worse since the COVID shutdowns?

Thoughts about women’s athletics

women's swimming meet poster
My daughter featured on a women’s swimming meet poster for her University.

You’ve all heard about the controversy swirling around transgender Lia Thomas winning events at the Ivy League and NCAA championships.

First, as Kaitlyn Jenner said, Thomas isn’t breaking any rules — she followed NCAA stated rules. Jenner also said it’s not fair for someone who went through male puberty to compete against women. They are taller and stronger. They have bigger hearts, lungs, feet and hands. Those things don’t change with hormone suppression.

The swimmer who got bumped out of finals by one place (she was 17th and there are only 16 spots) wrote a letter to the NCAA. She’s supportive of Thomas but thinks the NCAA rules are not fair. I read she was banned from Twitter for expressing her opinion.

I know several women swimmers who competed against Thomas at the Ivy League champs and NCAAs. I watched them when they were young race against my daughter. The woman who got second place at the Ivy Leagues Champs to Lia Thomas in the 1,650 (the mile) used to race my daughter in So Cal. She was younger and would be in the lane next to my daughter, drafting at her hip. My daughter couldn’t shake her but would touch her out in the end and say “Who is that?!”

I feel for this young woman who lost the title of Ivy League Champion. I wonder how her parents feel?

Prior to 1972 and Title IX, there were few opportunities for women in college sports. Since then, we’ve taken women’s athletics for granted. Yet 50 years ago, most colleges didn’t have women’s sports.

I’ve interviewed swimming stars and coaches for my website socalswimhistory. One story is about Bonnie Adair, the Loyola Marymount head swim coach who as a swimmer held 35 National Age Group records. She talked about when she was college age and there weren’t many teams for women swimmers.

Her freshman year of college was pre-Title IX, and there were limited opportunities and college programs for women. She was training with Jim Montrella for the ’72 Olympic Trials and didn’t want to change up her training regime, so her freshman year she was a commuter at UC Irvine and lived at home with her parents. She said during those days she swam 11 practices a week and lifted weights. 

Looking back, she said it was unfair that the women stayed at home and didn’t get to experience college life.

“All of a sudden when school began, there would be all girls in our training group. The fast guys went off to swim at UCLA and USC. We were freshmen and sophomores in college, and we stayed with our club team to train. We lost that experience of being a freshman away at college.”

https://socalswimhistory.com/2017/02/03/bonnie-adair-held-35-national-age-group-records/

Prior to the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, women weren’t allowed to compete in the marathon.

When I was in high school, one of my friends and I joined the Boys Golf Team because there wasn’t a girls team. We went to practice every day, but we never once got to compete in a match. We were not the worst players, either.

My daughter and her friends who swam, put in years of hard work and sacrifice beginning at age five. They benefitted so much from swimming and being part of a team. I’m glad my daughter had that experience. I hope that other women get the same experience, too.

What are your thoughts on women’s sports? Did you know how limited the opportunities were 50 years ago? What are your experiences with women’s sports as a mom or competitor?

A vacation to recover from vacation?

Carpinteria State Beach, known as the world’s safest beach.

I am guilty of over planning vacations. I did this when I was first married and my husband and I would leave Palm Springs to return to my home state of Washington. I’d bring my Daytimer with me and schedule visits with friends and relatives — sometimes on the half hour.

Honestly, I’m not that bad anymore. But this year, after moving from our former home of 28 years in December 2020, we decided to stop for two days in Palm Springs. It’s on the way to the coast after all. We stayed with my dad, took him out to dinner and spent the next morning with him. My husband had meetings with his boss and met with others (they’re still working remotely). These were the first in-person encounters since March 2020. I visited with one of my former swim parents who remains a close friend. I got my hair done by my hairdresser who needs to move to Arizona. That’s a lot to pack into the “start to our vacation.”

Once at the coast, our VRBO was still 24 hours away. We stopped in with other dear friends that we haven’t seen in a year. We had dinner with them, spent the night and hung out until check-in time.

FINALLY — we made it into our VRBO and said “Whew! It’s time for vacation.” My husband set up his remote station and immediately the phone began to ring. It’s his “week off” which turned into days of driving, meetings and no down time. The rest of the time he’ll be working remotely.

I had scheduled an interview. It’s for a story I’m writing about a swim mom of a 14-year-old who is breaking Missy Franklin’s records. I figured if my husband is working, I can squeeze a little work in, too.

Then I got an invitation to a luncheon tomorrow. My friend said I have to go because it’s in a historical landmark and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. I told her I can’t go because although I packed a few sundresses, I only brought a pair of flip flops and running shoes. She told me either one is fine. I begged to differ for a fancy ladies’ luncheon. She told me to check out the two boutiques in Summerland, which are two blocks from our VRBO.

I told her they wouldn’t have my size. I have very big feet for a 5’4″ frame. Guess what? I found two pairs of sandals that fit. They are a bit dressier than my beach flip flops, but probably not dressy enough. I’ll be gone from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. tomorrow. We have dinner scheduled with friends tonight and over the weekend.

When is it truly vacation? What is vacation? I’m ready for the beach and a good book. I’ve brought a stack of them. If I keep up at this rate, I’ll need a vacation from my vacation. Maybe after a year of mostly solitude, being with friends and family is the vacation?

How do you vacation? Do you over schedule? Or are you able to check out and relax?

Will Caeleb Dressel be a household name?

My son and swim team friend winning the high school Physics cardboard boat race in the city pool. She competed in Beijing and London Olympics in distance freestyle races.

I wrote a an article called Why Isn’t Caeleb Dressel a Household Name? for SwimSwam in 2018. Dressel had competed in NCAA championships and had broken barriers like the 40-second mark in the 100-yard freestyle. But at the time, only swim nerds knew his name.

After this past week, I’m sure he will be better known, but after the Olympic’s fades away will his name fade, too?

Swimming like gymnastics are collegiate sports and there’s not much attention to them until Olympic years. It all comes down to money in my opinion. Football and basketball are money makers for schools. Swimming loses revenue. No fans are buying tickets, the meets are free and sparsely attended. The pool costs money to maintain.

During my years as a swim parent, I wondered how to get swimming to be more popular. In 2019 the International Swimming League began holding competitions. Have you heard about it? There are teams in the US and abroad filled with the world’s swimming stars. The teams compete against each other and it gives swimmers a chance to earn money, race and hopefully get more fans to appreciate swimming. But it isn’t televised, at least I haven’t seen it. I think it’s livestreamed.

Here’s the article I wrote that mentions Caeleb Dressel and wonders how to get more people into swimming:

Why isn’t caeleb dressel a household name?

BY SWIMSWAM 

March 27th, 2018 Lifestyle

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

We witnessed amazing things this past weekend watching the 2018 Men’s D1 NCAA meet. Who can believe that a human being broke 40 seconds in the 100 free, or 18 seconds in the 50 free—not to mention 43 seconds in the 100 fly? Caeleb Dressel should be a household name this week after breaking through these barriers at his final meet as a senior swimming for the University of Florida.

We watched from home on the computer, something that wasn’t possible years ago. The livestream was clear, the narration entertaining and professional. I remember trying to watch one of our friend’s kids at Trials in 2008 and the production quality wasn’t great and the livestream paused repeatedly. Swim coverage has improved significantly through the years, but I wonder if the audience has increased?

Of course, Olympic sports don’t get the attention at the collegiate level as the big money sports, like football and basketball. In addition, we hear heartbreaking news of universities canceling swim programs regardless of high GPAs or how many times the teams win conference meets, like the recent news of Eastern Michigan University. We have to wait every four years for the Olympics to come around to show the nation how great our swimmers are. Is there anything we can do as swim enthusiasts to change this? In all reality, probably not much. I personally don’t have the power to change TV schedules or viewing habits, but I can work on several little things.

Here are a few ideas about how we can help the popularity of swimming:

ONE

Scorekeeping. We’ve had friends come to meets and they don’t know what’s going on because there’s never a score posted. In other sports, you know which team is winning. Is it possible to post scores often and prominently at meets where they are keeping team scores?

TWO

Bring a friend to the pool. Whether your team has a “bring a friend day” or you ask one of your child’s friends to visit practice, we can reach out to more kids and introduce them to swimming.

THREE

Keep swimming fun. One reason why kids quit swimming is it’s “not fun anymore.” By allowing our kids time to goof off with their friends around the pool deck, either before or after practice, and keeping our attitudes light, we may keep our kids in the pool for more years.

FOUR

Invite friends and family to a meet. We can share our excitement and enthusiasm with our friends and family. Maybe not ask them to sit on the deck with us for two or three days, but have them stop by for an hour or two. Explain what’s going on so they can follow along and maybe they’ll catch the swimming bug.

FIVE

Be an ambassador. Talk about swimming with your non-swimming friends and share how much the sport has helped your kids. Encourage friends at any age to get into the pool and enjoy the great feeling of floating in the water. It’s never too late to join a Masters team.

My daughter has her foot still on the blocks as they dive in for the 200 free. The swimmer in the lead is Olympic medalist Abbey Weitzeil. This was the summer of 2013, while they were still in high school.

Are you watching the Olympics? What are your favorite sports to watch? Do you keep track of those sports on off Olympic years? Also, what do you think of this year’s Olympics with all the ups, downs, and drama?

The Excitement of Trials

Four boy swimmers hanging on the lane line.
My son with swim friends during Piranha practice.

The excitement comes from all the personal stories. As a swim mom for more than 15 years, I get swimming. I understand all the sacrifice, hard work and life choices these swimmers and families have gone through.

I’m caught up watching the US Olympic Trials for swimming — Wave 2. Because of COVID they broke Trials into Wave 1 and Wave 2 to have less swimmers in the stadium as well as spectators. Wave 2 — the faster wave — is going on now.

In addition to the famous Olympic swimmers in the meet trying to punch their ticket to Tokyo, I still know a few of the swimmers personally. That makes it incredible to watch.

Here’s one of the personal stories that has touched me. We’re watching a Cal swimmer who grew up in Southern California named Trenton Julian. He had a 200 fly swim last night that was the gutsiest swim I’d ever witnessed. The 200 fly is grueling and swimmers pace and control themselves so they can make it all the way through and finish strong. Trenton let it rip. He went all out as hard as he could the entire time. He had a huge lead until his body started to slow down during the final lap. He got touched out by a few tenths of a second and he ended up third overall — which was were he was seeded at the start. Tonight is finals for the 200 fly. The top eight swimmers will compete for the top two spots and a ticket to Tokyo.

What gets my heart about his story is his family. His dad Jeff Julian is a well-liked and respected coach in Southern California of the Rose Bowl Aquatics. I interviewed him for a story HERE. Jeff is best friend’s with my daughter’s club coach — who later became my Masters coach. We’ve known Jeff Julian as an acquaintance on the pool deck for years. Trenton’s mother is Olympic medalist, Kristine Quance-Julian.

Jeff, who was also a 200 flyer himself, has been battling stage four cancer and has a WordPress blog of his story HERE. He’s currently cancer free but it’s been a road of ups and downs. I can only imagine how it’s affected Trenton during his college and high school years. I’ll tell you what. It’s given him grit and courage. He’s faced a lot harder things than a race at Olympic Trials. He swims like he’s not afraid of anything. Just like his father.

Best of luck to Trenton tonight! Along with our other friends swimming for their spot on the Olympic team — or just going after their lifelong dreams and enjoying the big stage.

My daughter racing when she was in her teens.
My daughter at a swim meet.

Here’s a recap of this morning’s swims. This is a link to the livestream for Olympic Trials. Prelims are every morning, with semis and finals at night through the end of the week. Finals are broadcast on NBC.

I’m curious, how much to you follow the Olympics? What’s your favorite sport to watch? Do you know the swimmers? Or athletes?

Is it genetics or performance pressure ?

swimmer with JO medal
My daughter with a Junior Olympic medal as a young teen.

Yesterday I wrote about Amy Osaka and her withdrawal from the French Open due to her taking care of her mental health. You can read that post here.

Immediately after I posted that story, I ran across a SwimSwam article about a swimmer retiring because of her mental health. I remember this swimmer because she was at the big meets in Southern California as one of the youngest, if not the youngest swimmer entered — and she was from Virginia! She was very fast, too. She held the national age group record for 11-12 years olds in the mile.

“Isabella Rongione announced the end of her competitive swimming career, opening up about her personal struggles and the need to put her mental health first.”

PAC-12 STANDOUT ISABELLA RONGIONE RETIRES, OPENS UP ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH
by Jared Anderson SWIMSWAM

Rongione shared the news in an Instagram post this week. Her last swim came in December of 2018, the month before Rongione says he was admitted to treatment following a suicide attempt.

“My mental health had to be the priority over the past couple years and I never was able to fully commit to getting back into the pool,” Rongione writes.

“To all those athletes dealing with mental health issues — make sure to take the time you need in order to heal yourself properly.”

There are many famous athletes who suffer from depression including Michael Phelps, Amy Osaka, Allison Schmitt (Olympic swimmer) and Serena Williams. You can read about 10 of these athletes here. I wonder if it’s genetics or the pressure with being an athlete at such a young age?

My daughter who was a swimmer at a high level (college scholarship athlete and high school All American) suffered from anxiety and then depression while swimming in college. She swam competitively from age five through 22 — when her shoulder gave up on her.

Looking back, we were such enthusiastic parents cheerleading her swim career along the way. It was exciting and took over a lot of our family’s life. Did we create an unsustainable path for her? What happens when the swim career, the center of her world and identity ends? Or in the case of someone like Amy Osaka or Isabella Rongione, is the pressure to perform too much?

Here’s a study published online from Cambridge University by Lynette Hughes and Gerard Leavey called Setting the bar: athletes and vulnerability to mental illness.

Risk factors for athletes

“Although moderate or vigorous-intensity aerobic activity is important in the prevention of and recovery from mental and physical health problems, when performed more intensely at ‘professional/elite’ levels, physical activity can compromise health. 1,5 Beyond the national prestige, fame and glory of Olympic success lies the darker side of overexposure to elite sport such as overtraining, injury, burnout, increased risk for sudden cardiac death and other non-cardiovascular conditions such as respiratory symptoms, iron deficiency, increased incidence of allergies, immunological suppression and infection, gastrointestinal symptoms, diabetes mellitus and eating disorders. 6

“Athletes may also be vulnerable to mental illness for several reasons. First, the social world of many organised elite sports is one that requires investments of time and energy, often resulting in a loss of personal autonomy and disempowerment for athletes. 7 The elite-sport environment can result in ‘identity-foreclosure’ leaving athletes few other avenues through which to shape and reflect personality. 7 High athletic identity has been linked to psychological distress when this function of identity is removed, and to overtraining and athlete burnout. 7 The latter conditions strongly correlate with affective disorders such as major depressive disorder.”

I also read that 30% of NCAA athletes report having depression. It could have only gotten worse this past year.

young swimmer getting medals from coach.
My daughter, age 5, receiving medals, ribbons and applause from her coach after a swim meet.

What are your thoughts about athletes and depression? Do you think it’s genetics? Performance pressure? Or both?

10 and unders relay team with medals at JOs
My daughter’s relay team after winning third place at Junior Olympics in Southern California.

What animal begins with N?

Cactua pool in Scottsdale
Cactus pool in North Scottsdale

Last week I finally jumped back into the pool. It’s been a year of mostly not swimming due to COVID closures. I swam in the backyard pool on a bungee cord velcroed around my waist at my old house. Then when the city pool finally reopened, I rarely made it to practice because of the busyness of moving. Once in Arizona, it took me months to get settled and the weather was too cold! We had snow, rain, wind, and I just didn’t want to go.

Today, I managed to make the 30-minute drive, got my own lane and swim laps. No, I’m not swimming Masters yet. I want to get stronger. Plus the Sun Devil’s Masters that practice in this pool look so fast and fit that it’s intimidating.

My third day back in the pool felt so much better than the first two attempts. I swam my normal Palm Springs warm up of 4 -3- 3 (400 yards freestyle, 300 yards kick, 300 yards pull). That’s all I intended to do but I felt good so I swam some more.

My fellow swim mom, school mom, Masters swimmer and dear friend Linda said she keeps track of her laps by the alphabet. I’ve tried that and it works. So, today I played the animal alphabet game. Each 50 yards was an animal. I started with ape, bear, cat and dog. You get the idea. However, when I got to “N” I was stumped. Does anyone know an animal that begins with the letter N? Another tricky one was Q. I decided Queen Bee was good enough — not quite an animal but it’s a living being. The last 50 yards was X….

Entrance to Cactus Pool and Recreation center.
The entrance to my new home pool.

Can you help me with N, Q and X animals?