What I love about being a swim mom

I wrote this the second year of my daughter’s college swim career. It’s fun to look back on how much I enjoyed age group swimming and all that goes into it. I’m looking forward to getting back in the pool myself — after my two-month ordeal with eye surgeries end. I’m almost there! In the meantime, I miss swimming and being a swim mom.

My daughter diving in for the 1000 free during a dual meet. Utes vs. USC.

My daughter diving in (with pointed toes) for the 1000 free during a dual meet. Utes vs. USC.

We went to my daughter’s first college dual meet of the season this weekend. I loved every minute of the meet, but even more, spending time with her. She invited several swim teammates out to dinner. It felt like the sprinkle of rain after a long drought—listening to them laugh and talk about their meet and practices.

I didn’t realize how much I miss the little daily things about being an age-group swim mom.

I miss the kids hanging out. So many personalities, so many different families, all bound together by one common goal. Swimming.

My son and swim team friends.

My son and swim team friends.

I have a fierce loyalty to our team and the couple times when factions of parents split off to form their own teams, I was shocked and hurt. It felt like losing members of my immediate family. I’d always wonder why? I never thought we had a bad experience—maybe at times less than perfect—but I guess that’s part of the reason I didn’t understand.

Good times were sitting together in the stands cheering for all our kids. Getting the new team t-shirts, sipping Starbucks on a chilly winter morning under the pop-up tents. Chatting and laughing with parents while we waited to see what the day’s meet would bring. I loved working with our parents and officials under the admin tent, in awards, or in the snack bar at our home meets.

The team cheer at an away meet.

The team cheer at an away meet.

I loved having kids over to the house to hang out between morning and afternoon practices during long hot summer days. I loved cooking eggs, bacon and sausage in bulk for a pack of hungry swimmers. I was amazed at how much they could eat as a group. I loved having the team over for painting t-shirts for a big meet.

Swim team girls painting t-shirts for a meet in our back yard with their coach.

Swim team girls painting t-shirts for a meet in our back yard with their coach.

I loved listening to the kids laughing about silly things that happened in practice and the goofy songs they played and sang to like “Funkytown  and the “Numa Numa Song.”

Most of all, l I loved seeing my kids smiling, laughing and enjoying their friendships. Throughout the years, my kids were surrounded by amazing kids, families and coaches. Just being in the background was a joy.

I miss those days.

Group photo on t-shirt painting day.

Group photo on t-shirt painting day.

My daughter receiving ribbons from her first coach.

My daughter receiving ribbons from her first coach.

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Reflections on the big meet–or when life doesn’t go as planned

Two years ago, my husband and I flew to Washington state to watch our daughter swim in the PAC 12 Swimming and Diving Championships. We were so excited because she felt so good about her swimming. As swim parents we were pumped up with the anticipation of watching our child shine in her element. But, life doesn’t always go as planned. Here are my reflections from two years ago:

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The Utes cheering for a teammate.

It has been an exciting, disappointing, amazing and depressing meet. With one more day to go with PAC 12, NCAA and American records falling all around, I’m enjoying the show. But with my daughter’s mile this afternoon, I’m holding my breath.

I got a call last week from my daughter who said she had a tickle in her throat. I begged her to see a doctor and get on it, after all PAC 12s, her season’s championship meet, was less than a week away. She replied, “Mom, it’s just a tickle!”

So, if it was “just a tickle” why did she bother to tell me?

A few days later, she was sick. My husband and I told her to go to urgent care. She fought about it because she was so miserable she didn’t want to leave the warmth and comfort of her bed. A few hours later, she called to tell us she had the flu. They packed her full of meds and told her to return to her house for total bed rest. This was Saturday. She was leaving for the big meet on Tuesday.

She’s been scratched out of a few events, swam a single event, but mostly is lying in bed, waiting for today to be better and swim the 1650 free.

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My daughter and coach on the sidelines.

 

What I’m really impressed with is her attitude. She’s not showing us that she’s upset. She doesn’t appear to be down. She’s enjoying the time with her team. She’s proud of her teammates and shares in their successes and feels hurt when they’re upset and fail to meet their goals. About her own situation, she’s realistic. She said, “Isn’t this the craziest sport ever? What other sport do you train for eight months for one single meet and then you could be hurt or sick?” She also said that she’s tried her best and is content with that. “This isn’t in my control.”

Good luck today is all I can say. I may have my eyes closed, or peek through my fingers while she swims. I also wonder why am I the parent of distance swimmers? It would be so much easier to be the parent of a sprinter!

As for the exciting, fun wonderful stuff, we hung out with our fellow Ute parents. It’s once a year, we’re together for this long four-day meet. We send the kids off every evening during our pre-function with cheers and pompoms, which makes us laugh out loud together. We have fun watching other team parents, whether it’s trees on their heads for Stanford, blue wigs and a giant flag for UCLA or our own red mohawks. Rarely do we parents get to act so silly. It’s refeshing and fun, and gives us memories we’ll hold dear.

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UCLA Parents.

 

As for the meet itself, it’s indescribable. Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel, Abbey Weitzel, Kathleen Baker, Ella Easton, Lia Neal, Katie McLaughlin, etc. The world’s greats all gathered together for a college meet. Records falling left and right. Shaking my head with disbelief at what amazing swims I witnessed.

It’s a special meet, and although things in life don’t always go as planned, I’m proud to be a small part of it.

The following to videos are exciting races I was privileged to see, the 50 and 200 free.

 

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Last year, my daughter and teammates cheering during the 200 fly.

P.S. She did great! The 1650 was ok!

8 Thoughts About the First PAC 12 Meet

I can’t believe my daughter’s first PAC-12 Conference swim meet was in February 2015. All four meets were great experiences for the most part–exciting times spent with great families. It wasn’t as much fun the year she got the flu, or her senior year, when her “shoulder wouldn’t shoulder.” This year, my daughter and I are going together as spectators. She wants to cheer on her friends who will be swimming in their last conference meet, plus a distance swimmer friend, who she thinks will qualify for NCAAs. We’ll be able to visit Mom, too, who lives near the meet. I’m looking forward to a mother-daughter-grandmother visit!

Here are my thoughts after my first PAC 12 championship meet:

Olympic swimmers competing at the PAC 12s.

Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin competing at the PAC 12s.

ONE

I couldn’t believe the conference meet was here already. What happened to my daughter’s first year of college swimming?

TWO

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.

THREE

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.

 

FOUR

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.

FIVE

I have met some great swim parents on our new team. Don’t get me wrong, there are great families on our club team that I’m life long friends with. I’m thrilled to meet parents on the college team that are friendly and fun, too. I guess that’s what swimming parents are like.

SIX

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!

SEVEN

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?

EIGHT

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)

There is a college for everyone

I wrote this article a few years ago and I think it still resonates today. If you’re a swim parent, your kids can swim in college and it will add to their experience most definitely.

My kids and their teammates at a meet in Irvine a few years ago.

My kids and their teammates at a meet in Irvine a few years ago.

I read an interesting article today on my favorite website, SwimSwam.  It was written by a college swimmer encouraging high school swimmers to swim in college. It’s very inspirational you can read it here. His story reminded me of my own kids. I wish he was a few years older and could have talked to my son, who also thought he wasn’t fast enough to swim in college.

My son, who is now in is fourth year at college, refused to talk to any swim coaches while we were looking at schools with him. We tried to encourage him, but he didn’t think he was good enough. Or, that he liked swimming enough.

In our opinion, as parents (what do we know anyway, right?) he had a beautiful stroke and he had always loved swimming. It seemed natural to us that he’d want to continue with his favorite sport. We also knew swimming could open doors for him. It couldn’t hurt for him to communicate with swim coaches at some of his dream colleges, right? We had looked at swim times and he would have fit in nicely at a lot of them. No, I’m not talking about Cal or Stanford, which he applied to, but are in the higher echelons of D1 swim teams. His other top schools that are very selective academically had men’s D2 or D3 teams.

robert meet

But, no. He did not listen to us. His senior year, he received rejection letters from all of his top schools. It’s really a numbers game and there are millions of talented, smart kids competing for those college spots from not only the USA, but from all over the world. 

He is enjoying the school he landed at. But, it was an adjustment at first. He wasn’t happy being there. He was all alone. Now, in his fourth year, he loves it. He’s swimming again, on his own at the student rec center. He missed swimming.

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In contrast, my daughter who’s a freshman, was recruited for swimming. What a difference her entire college decision process was. She loves her college team. The entire team knocked on her door with goodies for her, while we were moving her in. They had team activities during the first few weeks, like barbecues, and volunteering to hand out balloons at a football scrimmage. The team made sure that the freshman felt the love.

My son told me recently that he sat alone in his room watching Netflix, too shy to join in the freshman welcome activities.

Last July, he came with us to watch his little sister swim at a big meet. His eyes opened when he saw coaches from all across the country there recruiting. He saw some of his top school choices. It was like a light bulb went off.

He did what he wanted to do at the time, though. One thing about swimming or any sport — it has to come from your child. We may think we know best, but in reality it has to come from them.

Robert and Kat a few years ago on photo day for the Piranha Swim Team.

My kids a few years ago on photo day for the Piranha Swim Team.

It’s All About Friends

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My daughter diving off the blocks at the Pac-12 Championships.

I spent 10 days in the Seattle area last week. I had two intentions for my trip. The first was to watch my daughter in the Pac-12 Championships. I grew up in the area, so I extended my trip to visit a few days with family and friends.

What I discovered at the meet was a bunch of new friends! As a group of parents, we really got into the team spirit. I enjoyed meeting parents for the first time, and renewing friendships with others.

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Door decorations for our girls, thanks to a creative and organized Ute parent.

We were more organized this year, my second, at conference. Parents stayed in the same hotel so we ate breakfast together and sat together in the stands. We met with pompoms and cheers to send our swimmers off for finals. Then we hung out for happy hour and got to know each other better. I was impressed that some traveled as far as New Mexico, Texas, Georgia, Finland and Norway!

A shout out to my dad, who flew up with us from So Cal to watch his grand-daughter swim. He drove from my brother’s house, an hour each day, alone to sit with us and support her. For the past 8 or so years that he moved from the Seattle area to the desert of Palm Springs, he’s been a regular fixture at all her club and high school meets. The officials had a chair saved for him in a spot no other grand parent or parent was allowed to sit. Thanks, Dad! He’s over 80 by the way. So thankful and proud to have his support.

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My dad with his swimmer Ute grandchild.

Two friends from years’ past came to cheer for our daughter. That meant so much to us that they drove an hour to support her.

Then, after the meet, I stayed with another friend from college and it was so nice to catch up and see each other. After having been roommates with my two girlfriends, we have very easy, yet deep relationships. We may let years go by without a visit, but then the moment we’re together it’s as though we haven’t been apart a day.

I was so touched by my friends on this trip. I realize how important they are to me. I pledge to be a better friend and make more of an effort to visit, stay in touch and make dates to hang out.7999f5f1e5d933c7e407214c6b04db59

I also sat back and watched my daughter as she makes life-long friendships on this team. She met up with club teammates from other Pac-12 schools, too.

Our lives are made brighter with friends.

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My daughter and teammates cheering during the 200 fly.

The Instant Gratification Generation and Helicopter Parents

Back when it was okay to helicopter.

Back when it was okay to helicopter.

The numbers don’t lie. ACT states that 50% of kids do not return to college for their second year, and then only 25% of those graduate in five years. US News and World Report, which ranks colleges annually, changed one of its measurements from a graduation rate of five years to six years! I don’t know about you, but I’d like to know the percentage of kids that get out in four!

Letting my kids play and be kids.

Letting my kids be kids.

I’ve given my two cents worth in Four Reasons Why Kids Fail Their Freshman Year. This time around, I asked Nicolle Walters, RN, PhD, Clinical Psychologist for her expertise. In addition to being a practicing therapist, she’s the mother of two kids in college about the same ages as mine.

Why do our kids have such a hard time once they’re away from us? They’ve worked so hard to fill their resumes with high grades, SAT scores, leadership, community service, sports, or music. Yet, these kids who look perfect on paper can’t handle the daily demands of life on their own. How much of the failure is our fault? 

According to Dr. Walters, our kids aren’t prepared for college. She said, “Part of the reason is our instant gratification society. They want everything right now—and get it with technology like streaming, etc. They don’t learn self discipline. They don’t have to wait for things, like we did.”

When parenting took all my time, but I was not interfering.

When parenting took all my time, but I was not interfering.

She said, “I know it sounds contrary or strange, but kids who come from dysfunctional families and had to take care of themselves are more equipped to deal with everyday problems, compared to kids who had parents who did everything for them.”

“Also, A lot of kids don’t learn how to work hard. If you’re smart, you don’t need to work hard in high school, and then aren’t prepared for college. Our kids need skills like planning ahead and self discipline.”

Here’s another thought she had, “College is totally different. Class time is switched and it’s the opposite of what they are used to. They are used to spending eight hours in class and studying a smaller amount of hours at night. In college it’s two or three hours a day of class, but they need to study for six to eight,” Dr. Walters said.

Today on TV, I heard a Stanford expert, Julie Lythcott-Haims, talk about her book, “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.” She says we are literally ruining a generation of kids. She said it’s not just at Stanford, but in colleges throughout the country. You can read more here.

This week on SwimSwam I list the things we do for our kids that we need to stop doing. Like today.

We are smothering our kids and crippling their self development. I know this because I’m guilty of a ton of it. I’m looking back at how concerned I was with performance, how busy my kids’ lives were, and because of those two factors I jumped in and did too much for them.

My kids being kids. They're okay despite my hovering.

The kids are okay despite my hovering.

Here’re are links to a couple other stories I’ve written about getting our kids ready and self-sufficient for college:

My Confessions as a Helicopter Mom 

10 Things Our Kids Need to Know Before College

If we as parents are over parenting like the experts claim, then what should we do to help our kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts, too.

A few thoughts about college recruiting

Signing day.

Signing day, 2013.

Now that July 1 has passed, the magic date where coaches can start recruiting your kids for swimming, what happens next?

It’s been two years since my daughter went through that hectic, exciting, fun summer. Looking back here’s a few things to think about during recruiting season. My experience is specific to the sport of swimming for my daughter. Although my son swam, he opted out of swimming in college. He doesn’t regret it at all. So, remember, swimming in college isn’t for every kid. But if your swimmer is interested, here are my thoughts about the process. Many of these ideas will apply to other sports, too.

Make sure your swimmer replies to each call or email.

If your swimmer isn’t interested in a team, let the coach know quickly so he or she can focus energy on other swimmers.

My daughter and teammates at JOs a while back.

My daughter and teammates at JOs a while back.

If your swimmer does not hear from their dream team or some of the teams they are interested in—what do you do? I would suggest to your swimmer to send an email and tell the coach they are interested. Ask what the walk on times are, or what they are looking for. Maybe your swimmer will figure out why they haven’t been contacted.

Sometimes an email can get lost in the spam folder, or a coach may have overlooked your child. They may be happy to find out your swimmer is interested. Your swimmer has nothing to lose by writing an email.

I remember one of my daughter’s friends wanted to go to a certain PAC-12 school and she was so disappointed to not get an email or call from the team. After she did sign with a different PAC 12 university, she went through her spam folder and found an email from the coach of her dream school that she had not replied to! The good news is that she loves where she is and couldn’t be happier.

My daughter racing.

My daughter racing.

During recruiting, my daughter made a list of teams that contacted her. In each conversation with coaches, she wrote down notes of things that were important to her. She wanted to swim outside. She wanted a team with men and women. She hadn’t decided on a major yet, so that wasn’t part of her criteria, but for many swimmers it will be.

Each swimmer will have their own idea of what they’re looking for in a school and a team.

Does your swimmer want to be a big fish in a small pond? Or do they want to be pushed by faster swimmers? Do they want to be at a major university? Or a smaller private school? Are they set on D1 or D2? Don’t overlook the many amazing schools in D3, NAIA and NJCAA.

There are a lot of schools out there and swimming may open a door for your child to a school that would be more difficult to get into without their sport. My kids have friends that were accepted to great universities–John Hopkins and NYU–as swimmers. They had the grades and SATs to get in on their own. But coaches can “flag” athletes. It may be the deciding factor between your child and thousands of other great students.

My son listening to music at a meet.

My son listening to music at a meet.

There were a few schools I wanted my daughter to look at. I was so disappointed to hear my daughter tell the coach that no, she was afraid it wouldn’t be a good fit for her. But, remember, it’s your daughter or son’s college experience—not yours.

After the summer, your swimmer will decide on where to go for recruit trips. In D1, if the rules haven’t changed, they get to select up to five schools.

I’ve heard one coach say not to waste a school’s time or money if your swimmer knows they aren’t interested in a school. On the other hand, I’ve heard another coach say that it’s good to visit schools and get a feeling for the school. Your swimmer may fall in love with a program and school that they weren’t seriously considering before.

Super JOs.

Super JOs.

It also comes down to time. How hard is it to travel five weekends in the fall and miss practice and perhaps school, too? The trips may all run together in your swimmer’s mind. You may want to limit the number of recruit trips to two or three of the top choices. That’s what my daughter did.

The hard thing was when she came back and made her decision. She had to call the coaches of the schools she chose not to attend. The coaches were unbelievably gracious, professional and she would have been happy at any one of her top choices. That was a tough thing for her to do, but it was—as everything else about swimming—a learning experience and an opportunity to grow.

It may come down to a difficult decision. I remember one of my daughter’s club teammates choosing between USC, Berkeley, and Stanford. She couldn’t make a decision. I remember thinking—must be amazing to have such a choice!  She waited until Spring to sign. So, remember that’s an option too. If your swimmer hasn’t found the right school by fall, there’s another window of opportunity in the spring. Waiting until Spring may limit choices or scholarships, because rosters might be filled. It worked for my daughter’s teammate, though.

Wherever your swimmer ends up, be supportive. It’s an exciting time in your life and your swimmer’s. Be thankful they have this opportunity.

My daughter liked her green fuzzy robe better than the team parka.

My daughter liked her green fuzzy robe better than the team parka.