True Grit and Early Sports Specialization: Are They Related?


It takes grit to become an elite-level athlete. Not every athlete has it. And it can’t be developed without internal motivation.

Both of my kids began swimming at a young age. My daughter began swimming with a year-round team at age five, while my son began swimming at age eight. (He’s three years older).

They did do other activities for a few years before they decided to specialize. And that is the key: they decided. My son was running between t-ball, tennis, karate and swimming and felt like he wasn’t making progress in any of them. He got the swimming bug and wanted to compete. So, we dropped the other sports.

My daughter was being shuttled between the ballet studio and the pool. She honestly thought that ballet was some weird form of punishment — especially putting on pink tights and a black leotard in the 110-degree heat — while her brother got to dive into the pool!



I listened to a podcast by Ritter Sports Performance on early sports specialization and the main thing I took away was that an athlete has to be internally motivated. They can’t be putting in the hours and training to please their parents or their coach.  If they have the passion and are hardwired to compete at their sport, then they will reach the elite level regardless when they start.

In swimming, two examples are Rowdy Gaines and Ed Moses, who both started late in high school. They did a lot of other sports before they found the pool. Once they started swimming they excelled and loved it.

So, why do we insist on sports specialization a young age? It’s because some sports like swimming take a lot of time to develop technique. Parents naturally want their kids to have a head start.

Then there’s the 10,000 rule from Outliers: The Story of Success that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be good at something.  But, an interesting theory is that it’s not the quantity, but the quality of practice. You can’t be looking at the clock waiting for practice to be over. You have to be in the moment giving it your all.

There are certain guidelines that kids should do a lot of different activities before they specialize, but that by the time they turn 12 or 13 years old they need to focus on one sport.

I say, follow your kids’ lead. They will know what sport ignites their passion. By allowing them to follow their passion, they can develop the grit it takes to be successful.

What sports are your children in and at what age did they specialize?



Reflections About My First Masters Swim Meet


Yes, that’s me–diving off the blocks! Two teammates are in yellow caps.

My first swim meet was two years ago this week. I found this story I wrote about the experience and have reposted it. Last year, I signed up for our Piranha Masters meet and during the meet, a truck hit an electrical pole on the block where our city pool is located and the power went out. Right before my heat, the meet was canceled due to the pool pump being out. I had waited patiently with butterflies in my stomach for my turn to swim. 

I wrote about it for Swimswam here. I wrote about how nervous I was in my prior blog–which was before the meet. So, what else do I have to say about the meet? Here’re a few more details and photos.

I loved the people. I especially enjoyed talking with an 18-year-old from Mission Viejo Nadadores who said it was her first Masters meet, too. I asked her if she had been an age group swimmer.

Her answer, “What’s that?”

I asked if she had swam for Nadadores as a child. “No, I started swimming as a sophomore in high school.”


The home town pool the morning of the meet.

She was a new swimmer, like I was—although we were definitely in different age groups! She did very well and won her events. I won a blue ribbon for my relay—in the mixed 45 and older medley. I think we were the only relay in that age group and event. 

I loved cheering for and watching my teammates compete. I have a great group of friends and coach on the team. We’re all supportive of each other. The officials are great, too! Honestly, is there a better community than the swim world?

I had fun cheering for two swim moms in particular—our kids swam and went to school together for years. It was a first swim meet experience for all three of us–as swimmers. Both of these swim moms want to continue to compete and get faster. Honestly, I’m content that I survived the experience.


Me and one of my swim mom now US Masters friends.

Sadly, I look nothing like my daughter, who is in the video below, lane one. I can’t believe how slow I look watching the video of my 50 free. Or how my stroke doesn’t look anything like I thought. While swimming, I visualize my daughter’s stroke in my mind.

I was definitely out of my comfort zone, which is a good thing. If you’re interested in swimming, I strongly suggest you find a US Masters group and dive in. You don’t have to compete, and I guarantee you’ll get in shape, get tired, sleep well–and make great friends.

What have you done to get off the blocks and out of your comfort zone?

A Healthy Update On My Progress



Our gorgeous Palm Springs pool has reopened after replastering.

This week was fun and busy. I had lunch with a couple great friends on different days. I am so thrilled that our friendships continue through the years and different stages of our lives. They’re both inspiring women who are smart and kind. Next, I got the results of my MRI, saw the doctor and started Physical Therapy. I will work on strengthening and improving my range of motion for several weeks and go back to the doctor to schedule reconstructive surgery on my ACL. The good news is it can wait until I go to my daughter’s last home meet and PAC 12 championships. I wouldn’t want to miss them for anything! Not even for a fixed leg.

Earlier this school year, my husband and I flew to Salt Lake City to visit our daughter and watch her swim. On the flight home, things didn’t go as planned and we had to get off the plane and wait for another one, due to technical difficulties. While we waited on and off the plane, we were seated with two young women who looked like athletes—tall and fit. We got to talking and they were a former swimmer and softball player who are physical therapists and own their own business in our area called Dynamic Therapy.  We enjoyed their company and bonded over swimming and college athletics. Now, I’m visiting their office as a patient. It turns out the swimmer has been part of our team’s Masters program and I’m working on convincing her to get back into the pool.

My physical therapist said I can get in the pool—but not to swim. She suggested walking and exercise. I won’t have to wear the uncomfortable leg brace and the lack of gravity should make it easier for me to move. My only concern is how do I get in and out of the pool? The walking in water sounds like a great idea, but how do I start and how do I leave? Yes, there is the required handicapped lift, but do I want to use it? No, I don’t. I’ll see how that one goes when I get my courage up to jump in.

I also have a list of seven exercises that I’m supposed to do several times a day. I did three of them, which are done standing, but I have this fear of the ones where I am supposed to be sitting on a mat. What happens if I can’t get up? It’s not the actual exercises that are the problem, it’s my mobility in getting down and off the ground, just like in and out of the pool. Funny problems, if you think about it.


I’m missing my morning walks but should be able to return to this view soon.


In any case, things are shaping up and I’m feeling better getting on track to recovery.


What a difference a pool makes in a community


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.


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.


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? 


How to find balance in parenting—surf or swim!



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 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.


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?



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




How parenting is like being an athlete

Letting my kids play and be kids.

I read a post on Facebook on our swim team’s site that had some great advice for swimmers but I believe it extends to success in other aspects of our lives as well, including parenting.

Here’s what I read on the Piranha Swim Team’s FB page:
“The path you take to get to the next level is a unique experience and may be longer or bumpier a ride at times than others. Common denominators of athletes with long term success: aiming high but with realistic steps, not reaching a goal results in more determination, focusing on your own progress compared to you and not others, and believing in your support system, training and team. Patience and perseverance will be rewarded at sometime when you do these things.”

How do those points apply to parenting? Substitute being a parent for the athlete.

We can aim high but with realistic steps. As a parent, my objective is to raise kids who become independent, successful, happy and kind adults. For example, to raise a person who is independent doesn’t mean throwing a 10-year-old out into the world to fend for themselves, but to allow them room to fail and learn from their mistakes. It means teaching them the skills they need to function on their own, like cooking, cleaning, living within a budget, etc.

Yes, we want to aim high and we have great expectations for our kids. But we need to keep in mind that any goal is the result of small steps along the way. My husband once told me, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

IMG_7214Not reaching a goal results in more determination. That was true for both my kids. I think swimming helped them develop this trait which can be called “grit.” My daughter would get frustrated when she missed a cut for the next level, like junior nationals, and somehow she’d turn that into motivation to try harder the next time. In parenting, we can have days where nothing seems to go right. It’s knowing that the next day will be full of promise and new opportunities that keep us slugging along.

Focusing on your own progress and not others. When my kids were young they were in a small private school and the parents were competitive, as were the kids. It’s natural to compare how your child is doing grade-wise or in sports to other kids—even how well liked they are. I remember Valentine’s Day in my son’s fourth-grade class when boys and girls came in with elaborate gifts. It was painful for me to see presents stack up on a couple kids’ desks, while several kids had nothing, including my son. Finally, a present or two arrived from his friends.

Believe me, nothing good comes from a parent comparing their kids with others whether it’s their grades, test scores or athletic ability. It puts pressure on your own child and can encourage feelings of jealousy or disappointment in themselves.

Believing in the support system, training, and team. Our families and friends are our support system and my husband and me with our kids make up the team. I trust in our day-to-day “training” to reach our goal of parenting happy, successful and kind adults. Together we’ll get there. Mine are well on their way. Remember to have patience and persevere when things are less than perfect or downright difficult. Also, everyone’s path is different and some people’s journey to the next level may be bumpy while others are smooth.

How do you view the journey of parenting?



9 Reasons To Visit the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway


One of the best things we do each summer is buy summer passes for the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Palm Springs may sound like a wonderful place to live, but it does have its drawbacks—the main one being heat. I don’t want to hear “Yes, but it’s a dry heat.” Actually, it’s not always a dry heat. The Gulf of Mexico is below us and storms come through during the summer bringing humidity, thunder and lightening. Besides, even if it’s a perfectly dry day with blue skies and sunshine it’s too hot when the thermometer reaches 115 to 126 degrees.

Living in an air conditioned world feels claustrophobic. I find myself staying inside staring out the window, not wanting to leave the comfort of my home. When I do, I turn on the car and get the AC cranking before I buckle up.

I have a few strategies to deal with the constant heat. One is walking early in the morning—by 7 a.m. it’s too hot. The other is swimming at the Palm Springs Aquatic Center with Piranha Swim Team’s Masters.  The pool is cooled and feels so good—completely refreshing compared to our own pool that’s hot as a bath. Plus, I get pushed by my friends and coach and end up accomplishing so much more than if I swim laps on my own.

The third is the tram. Here’s a description from the tram website:

“The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway—the world’s largest rotating tram car—travels over two-and-one-half miles along the breathtaking cliffs of Chino Canyon, transporting riders to the pristine wilderness of the Mt. San Jacinto State Park. During your approximately ten-minute journey, tram cars rotate slowly, offering picturesque and spectacular vistas of the valley floor below. Once you reach the Mountain Station—elevation 8,516 feet—enjoy two restaurants, observation decks, natural history museum, two documentary theaters, gift shop and over 50 miles of hiking trails.”

Here are my nine top reasons to visit the tram:

From the mid-century architecture of the Valley Station to the Mountain Station, the beauty is striking. Pay close attention to the details of how the architects made the most out of breathtaking views. “Both tramway stations were designed by notable mid-century modern architects. The Valley Station, finished in 1963, was designed by Albert Frey and Robson C. Chambers. The Mountain Station, built in 1961, was designed by architect E. Stewart Williams. Additionally, the distinctive Tramway Gas Station at the foot of Tramway Road was designed by Frey and Chambers.” —Wikipedia

Hiking Trails.
A quick fix to feeling cooped up in the summer means a short drive to Tramway Road and a 10-minute ride up the mountain. We start the season off with small walks—either on the Long Valley Discovery Trail or the Desert View Trail to get used to the elevation. Once summer is well under way, we advance to more challenging hikes among the more than 50 miles of hiking trails. My favorite is Round Valley Loop which is described as a “moderately strenuous 4-mile hike,” but manageable for after a day of work. It’s a really good work out.



Round Valley Loop view.

Fresh Air.
Did I mention it’s hot in Palm Springs during the summer? The first thing you notice riding up the tram car is fresh air. The windows are open and on the 10-minute ride up the mountain, you feel a cool breeze. At the mountain station, the air is about 30-degrees cooler than on the valley floor—and it’s cool and fresh. What a relief from air conditioning!

I’m hit by the delicious aroma of pine trees and especially the Jeffrey Pine’s butterscotch smell. Not only is the air fresh and cool, the aroma of the forest is enticing. It lifts my spirit.

Breathtaking views. Everywhere you look, whether it’s the panoramic view of the Coachella Valley or a view of the Mountain Station from the Round Valley Loop, it’s amazing. A babbling brook or a stately pine are awe inspiring.



A stop along the Desert View Trail.

“The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is a major gateway to the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument traversing the southerly side of the Coachella Valley – officially designated a treasured natural and cultural resource.” There’s plenty of squirrels and lizards and I’ve heard there’s raccoons, foxes and big horn sheep. I notice the birds most of all. I must bring binoculars and a bird book next time.

Bring Your Children.
You’ll hear the excited voices of children ringing as they chase lizards, pick up pine cones and enjoy the outdoors. Many families visit the tram to let their kids explore nature. What a great way to escape the heat with your children and let them burn up energy.

Elevation Training for Athletes.
When my daughter was in high school, she used to run a few miles dryland training for her swimming. She and I would buy summer passes and she’d run at least two days a week at elevation. We often saw other athletes running the Round Valley trail, too.

The ride.
Some people buy their ticket for the tram for the ride alone. The views are spectacular and it’s a unique experience all its own. We, however, enjoy the tram for the world it transports us to. Ten minutes above the valley, we get to experience a slice of heaven and it makes the summer doable in Palm Springs.



Granite views from the tram window with the other tram approcahing in the distance.


You can see why the summer pass is such a great deal!

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How do you stay active during hot summer months?