What a difference a pool makes in a community

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Our gorgeous city pool, home of the Piranha Swim Team.

I’m researching the history of our swim club because it’s the 50th year since the Piranha Swim Team began. Plus, a big chunk of our family life centered around the pool and the Piranhas beginning with mommy and me classes, learn to swim, through the kids’ years with our team and their high school. Now my husband and I both swim Masters.

This project has been fun because it’s like putting together a complicated puzzle. I talk to a variety of people and learn about their love of swimming and how the team and city pool has impacted their lives. I’ve spoken with an “original” Piranha, who joined the team at age six from day one of the team when it was called the Palm Springs Swim Club. I’ve talked to a coach from the ‘80s who grew the team from a dozen swimmers to more than 150. 

I learned about a woman who was one of the team’s early coaches, Pearl Miller, who was greatly loved and respected by many—and found her US Masters records online. Coach Miller competed in her 70s through age 92! She began coaching the team at age 74 and held a contest to name the team. The top two names were Palm Springs Sunfish and Palm Springs Piranhas.

One of my longtime writing friends told me she moved from Montreal to work as an assistant coach for the Piranhas in the ‘80s. She said her career as a freelance writer and her marriage all came about because of her years on deck. She became close friends with several swim families including her future husband’s. Another swim family’s dad worked as the sales manager for KPSI, a local radio station, and hired her as a copywriter that spurred her career of decades.

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My kids and Angus the Guide Dog flunkie who inspired my son to fundraise at the city pool.

I remember with pride my son’s second-grade birthday party when he invited his class at school plus his swim friends. I was stressed about where we could host 50 kids.The pool at the time charged less than a dollar a kid and a pool party it would be. Then my son surprised me when I said he couldn’t have presents, because 50 presents were ridiculous. I thought about the nightmare of watching him open a stack of presents and what to do with them at home. He was okay with that and asked if he could request donations for the Guide Dogs of the Desert in honor of our Guide Dog flunkie Angus. He ended up raising close to $2,000 for Guide Dogs from the pool party, not only from his friends, but news spread and people showed up at the pool to donate.

Every year our Masters team raises money for Angel View’s Crippled Children’s Homes thanks to local CPA Steven Erickson who started the event. It’s a New Year’s Eve lap swim of 10,000 yards where we adults ask for sponsors and pledges. The pool is not just for kids, but it’s part of our adult community, too.

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Two of my friends swimming their 10k for Angel View.

 

The pool sees visitors from all over the world who enjoy lap swimming in our gorgeous pool while on vacation. The Piranhas host meets several times every year with literally a thousand families traveling from throughout the southwest United States to compete at a single championship meet and stay in our vacation resort town.

I think of all the kids who learned to swim at our city pool. It must be in the tens of thousands. Pools in backyards and condos are common in Palm Springs, where summer temps hit 90 to 126 plus degrees. Because pools are in backyards everywhere, children die from drowning. The city pool offers learn-to-swim and water safety classes. It’s literally a matter of life and death, not just recreation or sport, or a way to open doors for college. Think of those lives our pool and swim team have impacted.

From the World Health Organization:

Drowning Fact sheet
Updated May 2017:

In the United States of America: drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in children aged 1–14 years.

Access to water

Increased access to water is another risk factor for drowning. Individuals with occupations such as commercial fishing or fishing for subsistence, using small boats in low-income countries are more prone to drowning. Children who live near open water sources, such as ditches, ponds, irrigation channels, or pools are especially at risk.

Teaching school-age children basic swimming, water safety and safe rescue skills is another approach. But these efforts must be undertaken with an emphasis on safety, and an overall risk management that includes a safety-tested curricula, a safe training area, screening and student selection, and student-instructor ratios established for safety.

How is the community pool part of the fabric of your life? 

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10 Things to Know About College Recruiting–for Students and Parents

I wrote this post after going through the recruiting experience with my daughter. I’ve received a few questions about recruiting lately and realized now is a good time to repost this with some updated info. If you have any questions for me, please ask them! I’d be happy to help if I can.

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My daughter in a race as a Piranha.

My daughter started college a little over a month ago as a student-athlete for a PAC 12, D1 university. She signed her letter of last Fall and now she’s hosting recruits at her college. As exciting as it was to go through the recruiting process, it’s even better to look back on it!

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Three teammates from my kids’ club team on the blocks in yellow caps.

Looking back, there was so much to know. I’m sharing 10 tips on HOW to be recruited to help you and your swimmer wade through pools of confusion and make it less overwhelming. A lot of these tips can be used for your student-athlete’s sport — even if it’s not swimming. Have fun! Enjoy the recruiting experience — because it’s an exciting time in your swimmer’s life — and in yours, too.1554486_780165738665332_1948124021_n

  1. Join a USA Swim Club. If you want to swim in college and you’re swimming in high school — join a club team right away! Most swimmers at the collegiate level have been USA Swimmers for years. It’s rare for college coaches to recruit high school only swimmers. Click here to find a local club! usas_logo
  2. Go to practice! Every single day. College coaches will call your club coach and ask about your character and work ethic. If you’re trying to be the best you can be, your club coach will recommend you wholeheartedly.
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    Teammates racing.

     

  3. Register with NCAA Clearing House. If you have questions, ask your high school counselor. It’s something all athletes have to do who want to participate in college sports.
  4. Take the right classes, SAT or ACT, and get good grades. Again, meet with your counselor. He or she can make sure you’re on track and doing everything you need to do to be eligible.
  5. Make a list of the schools you’re interested in:
    Dream schools — where have you always wanted to go.Geographic location — do you want to be close to home? Or in an entirely different part of the country?DI, DII or DIII? There is a division, conference and school for every swimmer. Determine where you fit by looking at the NCAA Division results.
    Do you score points in the conference championship meet? When you have a list of schools, check out the results from their conference meet. Chances are if you’d finish in the top 8, you’re a good candidate for a scholarship.

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    A meet in LA during my daughter’s age-group years.

  6. Contact coaches and schedule unofficial visits via email. Start early, sophomore or junior year. Unofficial visits offer a chance to look at campuses and visit teams. It also provides an opportunity to practice meeting and talking with coaches. We made a few unofficial visits at nearby schools our daughter was interested in before she was being recruited. The coaches were very good about taking time to speak to her and one gave my daughter, husband and me a campus tour.
  7. Most schools have online questionnaires for athletes. Be sure to fill out the ones you’re interested in. You can follow up with an email to the coach that you’ve completed their questionnaire. Plus, when you email, tell coaches something specific about why you’re interested in their school. Ask them questions about what they look for in a swimmer, or what their time requirements are.
  8. Ask your club coach about the rules of talking to college coaches at swim meets. Rules change, but generally, a college coach cannot approach you  — until after you’ve swum all your events at a meet. Again, your club coach can help with this.
  9. Be polite. Return phone calls and emails. Once the official recruiting season begins, be sure to be respectful of all coaches and colleges — even if they weren’t on your list. You never know where or when you’ll run into these people again. Coaches move around — and they tend to have friends they talk to that are coaches!
  10. You’re allowed to take up to five official recruit trips. If you’ve talked to coaches on the phone or in person and they want you on their team, they’ll invite you for an official visit. You’ll stay with freshman or sophomore teammates and have a full schedule of events so you can get a feel for the school and team. Let coaches know right away if you’re interested or not in taking the recruit trip.

If you want more information, or have specific questions, I’ve linked several stories. Or, leave a comment and I’ll answer your question.

Here’s a great article about preparing for recruit trips from SwimSwam.

Two more articles: Swimming Recruiting – 5 Tips to Swimming in College and Quick Tips For College Swimming Recruits

Who knew youth sports was a $15 billion industry?

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My daughter racing, a few years ago.

Who knew that the youth sports industry in the United States has turned into a $15 billion a year industry? According to Time Magazine’s Sean Gregory, “Across the nation, kids of all skill levels, in virtually every team sport, are getting swept up by a youth-sports economy that increasingly resembles the pros at increasingly early ages.”

As a swim mom, I understand how easy it is to get swept up in kids sports. “Before Swimming” is how we refer to the years before club swimming took over our lives. “BS” we used to take ski vacations in Snowmass, CO and ski weekends in Big Bear. I took my son and daughter to youth tennis where they laughed and ran around with their friends. My son tried Cub Scouts and my daughter went to ballet.

They did a number of activities back in those days. Then they both fell in love with the pool. After taking lessons for water safety since they were six months old, my son around age seven was skilled enough to join the Piranha Swim Team. We were so proud! Then my daughter soon followed and every evening we found ourselves with other parents around the pool deck.

During my daughter’s high school years, I’d add up the costs of swimming just to see….I won’t give you a figure—but with dues of $160 per month, private lessons, and hotel stays at travel meets, and meals out, it added up. Then we came up with the brilliant plan of buying an RV to avoid the hotel costs and restaurants. Thing is….we never used it for a meet. It never seemed to be convenient.

From the Time article called “How Kids’ Sports Became a $15 Billion Industry:”

“The cost for parents is steep. At the high end, families can spend more than 10% of their income on registration fees, travel, camps and equipment. Joe Erace, who owns a salon and spas in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, says Joey’s budding baseball career has cost north of $30,000. A volleyball dad from upstate New York spent $20,000 one year on his daughter’s club team, including plenty on gas: up to four nights a week she commuted 2½ hours round-trip for practice, not getting home until 11:30 p.m. That pales beside one Springfield, Mo., mom, who this summer regularly made a seven-hour round-trip journey to ferry her 10- and 11-year-old sons to travel basketball practice. Others hand their children over entirely. A family from Ottawa sent their 13-year-old to New Jersey for a year, to increase his ice time on the travel hockey circuit. A sponsor paid the teen’s $25,000 private-school tuition. This summer, 10 boys from across the U.S. stayed with host families in order to play for a St. Louis–based travel baseball club.”

I enjoyed reading the Time magazine article and I agree with most of the parents who are interviewed. If your child is passionate about their sport, it’s natural to do everything you can to help them out. My life soon got absorbed by the team. I was writing the newsletter, press releases, fliers to hand out at schools. Soon, I was serving on the board, planning banquets, fundraisers, organizing goodie bags and buying year-round gifts. I remember breaking down in tears when I had to chase one parent down to do a minimum of a few hours volunteering at a meet—and he refused. He refused loudly and rudely. But then, I also remember early on when our family was asked to help at a meet with set-up and tear-down and we told the president of the team, “Sorry, but we have a life.” I guess we did, but that was “Before Swimming.”

I don’t regret a moment of my swim parenting days, though. I’d do it all over again.

Are you involved in the $15 billion youth sports phenomenon? What sports do your kids participate in and how involved are you as a sports parent?

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Third place relay at Junior Olympics, 9-10 age group.

 

How to find balance in parenting—surf or swim!

 

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My swimmer daughter trying surfing.

I enjoyed reading a story about “surf parenting” as an alternative to helicopter parenting written by Amy Preiser. In her article, “Forget Helicopter Parenting — I’m ‘Surf Parenting’ From Now On,” she said:

 

“Gather ’round and listen to the tale of how I, your average working mother with a tendency to over-schedule, over-analyze, and over-stress, changed my life with a single surf lesson. Of how I, a woman constantly seeking balance, found it atop a board. How my cares melted away — but what was important become crystal clear — as I rode atop a ferocious wave, hair glimmering, smile broadening, feet angled just so. I knew all my problems were solved. I would never again procrastinate or fall victim to guilt. I would be a more present mother yet a more creative and focused worker. My friendships would improve. So would the whiteness of my teeth! I would start referring to a handful of almonds as a “great snack.”

Yeah, that was not how it went. (Did you already guess?)”

I’m big on getting out of your comfort zone to try new things. I’m impressed she took on surfing, which is a little too much out of my comfort zone—and will never try. I also liked her article because I was writing about finding balance as a swim parent today for SwimSwam.com. Swimming requires balance in the water, kids need to balance their academics, social life and sport—and parents and families need to find balance with all the demands of being a busy swim parent.

Another thing I liked about her story was the surf instructor was an ambassador for Sanuk, a flip-flop manufacturer that I adore. I have worn Sanuk sandals with soles made from yoga mats for years and years. I absolutely love them for their comfortable, sinking in feeling. They remind me of two decades of summers in Laguna with the kids–where I bought my first pair of Sanuk flip-flops.

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Me and my college roomie discovered we had good taste–Sanuk sandals.

 

My leap out of my comfort zone came through swimming, of course. Signing up for Masters with the Piranha Swim Team—my kids’ team for 15 years—was tough. I procrastinated and thought about it for four months before finally showing up on deck. Then, the following year, I signed up for a meet and just about died of fear learning to dive off the blocks let alone race in the meet! Then this past spring, I swam at my first (and only?) US Masters Nationals meet. I came in last in my age group, but seriously, it was about the experience–not winning medals. I’m thankful to have made it through the day with all the anxiety and stress I felt.

Practice at the city pool is my zen space. I practice my balance in the pool, standing on the blocks, and making time for myself in my busy day to get outside and exercise.

It’s all about finding balance.

How do you find balance in your life?

 

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That’s me diving off the blocks at my first meet.

 

 

 

Remember It’s Their Sport–Not Yours

 

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My son and teammates in the pool.

We all know helicopter parents are out there. Some of us may have been former ones ourselves or we may know friends who are overly involved with their kids. We see them at practice, meets or games—whether it’s soccer, baseball, football or swimming. They hover in the classrooms, waiting to talk to the teacher every day before and after school to make sure their child is adequately challenged and grades reflect that.

Here are two excerpts from articles I found helpful, the first written by a youth football coach and the second from a sports coaching and parenting expert.

From GridIron Now, A youth football coach’s advice for ‘helicopter parents’ By Dan Hancock:

It’s not the first time in my many years as a coach that I’ve dealt with a “my kid only” parent. On this occasion, though, I was amazed at how truly focused this parent was on his child only and not the team. I’ll skip the gory details and say that I removed the family, and consequently, the player from my team.

My job is to do what’s best for the team. This may mean putting a player into a position that he may not like if it helps the team. It also may mean removing a player from the team if effort is not given or respect not shown to the coaching staff.

I’d like to offer parents with kids playing youth sports advice from a coach’s perspective: Be supportive. Period.

Of course you want to see little Johnny score every touchdown, but it takes a team to get in the end zone. If your son or daughter is not playing in the position they want, or receiving the amount of reps that either of you find sufficient, be supportive. Work harder.

Talent and ability never goes unnoticed. Talking about ability does little come game day. Playing time is earned in practice.

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My daughter racing.

Here is an excerpt from David Benzel’s article that explains the only thing parents need to ask of their child. He’s an author and founder of Growing Champions for Life. Go check out his website and blog. He has so much valuable information and books and workbooks to order for you and your kids. USA Swimming has partnered with him to help swim parents, and he works with many other sports, too.

There’s No Strings Attached Parenting in Youth Sports

To see it we’ll have to go back to the early days when our child was in T-Ball, Guppy swim class, Tiny Mites football, or half-court basketball. In those days, we gave our parental support with no strings attached. It was an unconditional gift given for the sake of an experience we wanted our child to have. They were not expected nor required to do anything but have an enjoyable time playing the sport they loved.

Then things changed…

As we invested more time and money we expected them to learn and improve. And when the dollar figure got high enough or the miles reached triple digits, we expected maximum effort and peak performance every time!

Unfortunately for our children, what starts out as a gift suddenly appears to have strings attached and comes with the message, “You must perform well for me to feel good about the money and time I’m spending.”

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My daughter with her first medals.

Finally, here’s an excerpt from a helicopter sports article I wrote for SwimSwam this week:

 

What could possibly go wrong with ensuring our children’s lives are smooth and saving them from costly mistakes? Studies show that kids of helicopter parents often suffer at school and in the workplace. By hovering over our children and never letting them learn from their mistakes or face consequences, we can stunt our kids’ growth. Here are traits children of helicopter parents may share: acting out in the classroom, anxiety, difficulty making decisions, lack of “adulting” skills, and struggling in college and at work.

I’ve never heard of a parent who wants their kids to fail in life. That’s obviously not our objective when we help finish homework and drive forgotten lunches and papers to school. We’re just trying to help with the best intentions.

We should take advantage of the pool and swim team as a unique world within itself where our kids can practice skills for “adulting.” There are many life lessons inherent through years of swimming—we just need to let our kids experience them.

Kids gain so much from sports—from time management, good sportsmanship to being physically fit. They also have fun with their friends. It’s wonderful to encourage sports, but we need to always remember it’s their sport, not ours.

Do you know any helicopter sports parents? What have they done that bothers you the most?

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8 and under girls holding the team’s trophy after breaking a team record.

What Matters Most: Times Together

18920581_10213697294890444_4649514921325596156_nThis past weekend, I was in mom heaven. My daughter was at a swim meet an hour away from where my son now lives. We didn’t do anything that special, we got to hang out together. It was one of my favorite weekends in recent memory.

At first, I was worried about how my daughter was going to do at the meet. She had already told us that due to other things going on in her life, her last few weeks of practice were not consistent at all.

I told her, “You can still get a best time and swim well.” 

She thought I was delirious. She was very realistic about what she could do at that point in time. I have to admit that after her first race, I got it. I relaxed about the times and understood that this meet was about being together as a family. It was a small slice of time where we could hang out and enjoy each other’s company. If I had been focused on her times and upset that she wasn’t at her peak fitness, I’d have been so disappointed. Instead, I reflected on being the mom of two almost grown kids that I’m so proud of. And, the fact that they enjoy being with me and each other.18920513_10213697294250428_7072346138704993087_n

While we were driving around town, the kids were in the back seat pretending to be little kids elbowing each other. I turned around from the front passenger seat and said, “Children, there’s an imaginary line going down the middle of the car. You can’t cross that line!”

My daughter immediately yelled out, “Mom, Robert crossed the line!”

Later, after fits of laughter, we hung out together in a park, lying on the grass and staring at the green leaves and blue sky.18835878_10213697294490434_3338216834463049598_n

We shared books, ideas and meals. My son’s vocabulary had us looking up new words and trying to memorize and pronounce them, like “primogeniture.” One of my kids favorite things to do was to copy our faces. My son does an imitation of me, while Kat has perfected her dad’s scowl. It always ended in a burst of laughter and fits of giggles.

The swim meet was exciting with a who’s who in the swimming world in the final heats. I witnessed amazing races and the international flavor was so hopeful and invigorating with countries in attendance including Argentina, Mexico, Japan and China.

It may be the last time we’ll be staying in a hotel with our daughter at a meet. Ever. Her final college season is ahead this fall and she’ll be with her team, not us. I was a little teary-eyed when the weekend flew by and it was time for me to return again to my empty nest.IMG_7880

Role Reversal: From Swim Mom to Swimmer

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US Master Spring Nationals, 2017 at Riverside City College.

Is it easier to watch your kids compete? Or, swim yourself? I found out the answer at the US Masters Spring Nationals in Riverside, CA this past weekend.

It was the second time I’ve competed in a swim meet in my entire life. I was nervous, anxious and wondered repeatedly, why on Earth did I sign up for the meet? Who do I think I am that I can dive in with Ryan Lochte and Nathan Adrian?

The answer from one of my fellow masters swimmers was “You’re not racing either of them!” True. I’m not in their age group, nor do I share their gender. But, still. Who do I think I am to swim at a meet with 2,026 swimmers and some of them Olympic champions? I am in my 50s, new to swimming—and slow.

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Me and two of my masters swim buddies.

While riding in the back seat to the meet, with my husband and daughter up front, I looked back at car rides to meets with my kids with a smile. The mornings were filled with anticipation as I wondered what the day ahead would bring. I wasn’t nervous at all then. I hoped for a successful, fun day and a happy car ride home.

But, when they were behind the blocks for their first event, I’d get a tight feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’d wring my hands and hope for a good race. I was a nervous wreck until their first race was over. Then I sighed with relief that yes, they actually could swim and I relaxed for the rest of the day.

Then this past weekend at the pool, it was my turn to be the swimmer. I had a pit in my stomach. It was all up to me to get to the blocks in time for my race. I had my daughter at my side. She helped me with my cap, sprayed on sunscreen and held my towel. She said she’d been looking forward to this day. I wanted to make her proud.

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My daughter in the 8-and-unders, when she swam 25’s.

She walked me to the warm-up pool and I stood there. She told me to get in and warm up. Each lane had seven or eight swimmers—real swimmers—not wannabes like me. They wore fast suits, flipped fast and hard. How could I get in with those sharks?

“Mawm, get in!” she said.

“How? They’re so fast.”

“Get in there, then,” she said pointing to the lane marked 65 and over.

I do have some pride, so for the first three-hundred swim part of my warm up, I jumped into the mosh pit and repeatedly felt my foot pulled, got flipped turned on and stressed out on how I was going to make it through warm up. For my kick and drill sets, I did move over to the 65-and-over lane. After all, it was empty and I’m really, really slow when it comes to kicking and drills.

It dawned on me that the race would be okay. I would have my own lane. If I could survive warm up, I could make it through my races in one piece.

My daughter was at the end of my lane cheering for me along with my husband, coach and teammates. After my races, she told me how proud she was of me.

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Role reversal: my daughter sitting in the stands reading a good book.

Sometimes it’s a good to switch roles with our kids. My daughter said after Masters Nationals, that she never wants to be a swim parent. After all, it was a long hot day, with two swims, hours and hours apart. But, in spite of that, she was a darn good one. She was encouraging, positive and her presence made me feel calm. I knew I had her unconditional love, no matter how I swam. She acted like a perfect swim mom. I could learn a few things from her.

My 50-breast with husband and daughter cheering me on.