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?

What makes you happy?

Woods cove in Laguna Beach

Wood’s Cove in Laguna Beach

This morning I was writing my daily morning pages and I wrote a long list of things that make me happy. I woke up feeling a little down, so my brilliant idea was to focus on what brings me joy and incorporate the things on my list in my daily life — or at least weekly. I had quite a list. A few of the items were :

A trip to the ocean

A good night’s sleep

Working on a project I’m proud of

Spending time with family and friends

Swimming in the nearby lake

Swimming laps at the city pool

Reading a good book

Catching up with friends via the phone

Hiking

I need to take time to do things I enjoy — as well as take care of the things I have to do.

I read a blog this morning by one of my favorite bloggers that I follow. Her post today included the following quote:

“There’s only one rule. Follow the line of your own desires.” — MALCOLM BRADBERRY

“While I think that this has merit, I have problems with some of the intent. Should you always follow your path? What if a parent really wants to leave their family and join the circus. Do they really just wake up in the middle of the night, fill their bandana with worldly possessions, toss it on a stick, flip it on their back and just jump on the next freight train to the town with the tightrope and three rings?”

Click the link below to read the rest. The comments are interesting.

https://wakinguponthewrongsideof50.com/

Her blog post made me realize the flip side of following desires can be selfishness. We all know people who put their own desires over their loved ones or responsibilities. The end result can be damaged relationships and pain.

sleeping kitty
Olive asleep on our bed when there were no strangers around.

What are some of the things that make you happy? Do you make time for them in your day to day life?

I’m off to swim laps in the city pool! Time to get the endorphins moving!

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.

Looking back at May 2020

Last year in May our daughter was staying with us. We had taken up tennis, sort of, and we were swimming in our backyard pool with a bungee cord tied around our waists anchored to a weighted umbrella stand. My big concern at the time was wanting the city pool to open and being able to swim with our team.

This morning we woke up to a flood in our courtyard and we had to turn the water off to the house while we wait for someone to fix it. I decided to drive to the city pool in my new town, because I can shower and wash my hair after my swim. I got about halfway there and realized I forgot a towel. So, I turned around and came home, driving 30 minutes for nothing. Now I’m not motivated to return. It’s one of those days…But better than last year, for sure.

Here’s a look back to my thoughts from last May:

Ruth Hardy Park with Mt. San Jacinto
The park.

First the good news. Things are opening up a little bit in our county and my daughter and I played tennis two mornings in a row. Prior to this week, the tennis courts were padlocked. I found that almost as annoying as the pool being closed. It looks so wrong to see padlocks and yellow tape wrapping around our park, parking lots, playground equipment, etc.

Ruth Hardy park with playground roped off for COVID
COVID playground at our park.

Before we became a full-on swim family, my kids took tennis lessons. My daughter was at preschool at the time and two of her good friends were taking lessons with her. My son had his buddies in his group as well. The instructor was a big goofy tennis pro who the kids called “Charlie Farlie.”

I took lessons in high school with my mom at the University of Washington, some sort of fun extension class. It was in the Hutchinson gym and there were huge windows up several stories in height. My mom and I both managed to hit the ball out those windows — several times — and we weren’t even trying! I’m mentioning this because my daughter and I do have some sort of background in tennis, although we’re hardly proficient at it.

Brick north face of Hutchinson Hall on Stevens Way East. The building hosts the School of Drama, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA. The 1926 building (architects Bebb & Gould) was named for long-time faculty member Mary Gross Hutchinson,
Hutchinson Hall where my mom and me took tennis.

Fast forward to when we decided to homeschool my daughter for middle school. We had several homeschool families on the swim team and I envied their schedules. There were no late nights after practice completing pages of math problems or filling out worksheets for them. These homeschooled kids were really smart, well behaved and looked so happy. So we gave it a whirl. We went through a phase where we started our day with a bike ride around the park, played tennis together and then returned home to hit the books.

This week brought me back to those days. We had fun reminiscing about them and laughed at our bad shots while enjoying the cool mornings. I got a better workout than I do walking around the park. I got my heart rate up because my tennis is mostly running to corners of the court to pick up balls.

Now for the bad news. The city may not open up the pool. It’s been closed since shelter in place began 55 days ago. I was going to write a letter to the city to complain when our team was no longer allowed to use the pool, but individuals could lap swim. By the time I was composing my scathing letter, the pool had closed altogether.IMG_9355

Our town’s main industry is tourism. The hotels have been shuttered along with vacation rentals for two months. There’s no way to enjoy our beautiful weather, golf courses, tennis courts and hiking trials unless you are a resident. That means the city budget is devastated. Along with the pool, the city is talking about closing the library, animal shelter and cutting salaries, too.

We have one of the most gorgeous pools in state. Our Piranha Swim Team has a history of more than 50 years — one of the longest running teams in California. The kids who go through the program can swim in college if they choose. I think our success rate of kids going on to the next level is close to 90 percent. It was the single best thing we did for our kids in terms of activities. They were Piranhas from age five until they went to college. My daughter represented Piranhas in the summer after she went to college. I can go on and on about how great the team was for my kids, and now for me as a swimmer, too. It helped develop their healthy lifestyles, competitive spirits, and their character.

I’ll be devastated is the pool doesn’t reopen.

Palm Springs city pool
My Palm Springs pool with the mountain view.

What was your May 2020 like compared to this year?

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?

Back to the pool again

swimming pool in Palm Springs
Our beautiful Palm Springs city pool where our team practices.

I did it! I finally drove to the pool today for lap swimming. I haven’t been swimming since I moved four months ago. I used to live a mile from the pool and it was a big part of our lives. From swim mom to swimmer, I built friendships and healthy habits around the pool. It’s now a 30-minute drive and it’s much easier to find an excuse not to go than when I lived close by. Plus, I had friends who were there and we’d text and call to encourage each other to go.

Today, I drove by myself to a pool where nobody talked to me except the lady who took my $3. It was so hard to swim! My shoulders were tight. I got winded so easily. I noticed most of the swimmers were women who had their hair up and wore visors or hats.They used kickboards or walked. I felt like a superstar for actually swimming with my face in the water and managing an occasional flip turn!

Looking back at the pandemic, and then my move, it’s been a year of mostly not swimming. I hope I can get back into my swimming shape again soon. I can’t believe how hard it is!

Pool in north Scottsdale
My new pool.

Here’s what I wrote last fall:

Today I am returning to the pool. I’m nervous yet excited. I haven’t been swimming at the city pool for months — since February would be my best guess. The pool quickly shut down when shelter-in-place began in March. It reopened while we were out of town in August.

Although I keep saying that swimming outdoors should be perfectly safe, I’ve been a little bit afraid to swim anywhere but in my backyard. I tried swimming at home with a bungee cord, which is hard because it’s boring! Plus it’s swimming against resistance.

I see one of my Piranha Masters friends at the park during my morning walks. He’s been swimming three times a week and asked me to join him this week. It’s been my goal to return to swimming, so I’m diving back in. I’ve also invited Linda, my Masters buddy and fellow swim mom, to join us.

I think getting back in the swim of things is going to make a big improvement to my overall health — physically and mentally.

It’s time to get ready. I wonder if my swimsuit still fits?

bungee swimming in pool
My daughter using the bungee in our backyard.

What have you had a hard time doing because of the global pandemic?

Parenting tip: When to keep your mouth shut

freestyle stroke in pool
My daughter swimming on her own during vacation.

I read a great article, “The first rule of sports (and all) parenting: Don’t speak,” in the Washington Post by Nancy Star:

Your child doesn’t have to play in the Super Bowl for you to know the feeling. Their team was supposed to win and then they didn’t. What do you do? Being the mother of two girls who played soccer and ran track, I thought I knew the answer: Talk it through. Tell them you love them. Say it’s just a game. Remind them there’s always a next time. Isn’t that what good parenting is all about? Keeping channels of communication open even in tough moments?

Turns out the answer is no. I learned this when I had a “don’t speak” moment.

I understand this all too well. After my kids would have a disappointing swim, I’d try to reassure them. I wanted to take away their hurt and make them feel better. Most often after I’d say, “That wasn’t so bad,” or “You have another swim ahead.” I’d be met with negativity and a statement like “I sucked!”

I’d get a barrage of negativity that would take me by surprise. I never figured out that by trying to protect them from their upset feelings, I wasn’t making it better for my kids, but was making them feel worse. They weren’t ready to talk about a bad swim with me and “hash and rehash,” as my daughter would say. I read in a David Benzel sports parenting book, “From Chump to Champ,” that we should wait for our kids to talk to us. We need to be there and listen. But, if we start the conversation first, even with the best intentions, they’ll probably pull away and stay quiet. They want to please us so much and may take any little thing we say personally, as though they’ve let us down. It’s best to be quiet and listen. They may surprise us and open up more than ever if we let them take the lead.

Here’s more from the Washington Post article with the mom watching her daughter’s varsity soccer team lose their final meet. She received advice from a dad, Peter, who had more experience with soccer parenting and she followed it.

“Their lead slipped to a tie toward the end of the second half. In the last minute of play there was a stumble, scrambling and a goal for the other team.

Parents supplied transportation for home games, so we waited while our daughters gave sullen high-fives to the winners and then huddled with their coach, listening as he shared his disappointment. When he was done they separated and, backpacks slung over shoulders, trudged across the field toward where we stood.

Watching their grim faces approach I wished a meteorologist were present to confirm my suspicion that 22 high school girls who’ve just lost a chance at a state title can change the atmosphere, collectively sucking the light out of the sky. Their fury was frightening.

But Peter had been through this before. “Don’t speak,” he said. As I started to turn my head he added, “Don’t look. Just walk. Go to your car. She’ll find you.”

I tried not to move my lips as I objected. “All I want to say is I’m sorry.”

“Don’t,” he advised. “Don’t speak. Not until she talks to you.”

Because he had been through this before, I listened and walked to my car alone. I felt her before I saw her, walking silently beside me. Reassuring phrases immediately formed in my brain but, channeling Peter, I said nothing.

A moment later I noticed her teammates walking with their parents, mothers mostly, who offered words of consolation. “Are you okay?” and “You played well,” and “There’s always next time.” To me the words sounded gentle and kind.

The girls did not agree. “No,” they snapped, and “I sucked,” and “There won’t be a next time.”

By the time we reached the car, every daughter except mine was crying and the moms were, understandably, annoyed and lashing back. “Why are you yelling at me?” and “Being upset is no excuse for being rude.”

We were silent on the ride home, silent as I turned on to our street. It was when I pulled into the driveway that my daughter finally spoke. “That was such a bad game.”

I nodded.”

How do you handle your children’s athletic or academic disappointment?

PAC 12 swimmers cheering on teammates
My daughter on the blocks cheering with teammates.