A Word of Advice for Sports Parents: “Chill”

 

 

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Our gorgeous Palm Springs pool.

I volunteered a couple hours at my swim team’s big November meet. It’s been three years since I’ve had a swimmer at that meet and the distance of time allows me to look at parents and swimmers through a different lens.

Wow. Do parents ever get worked up watching their kids swim! I observed some parents running around the pool deck, yelling and visibly shaking. I was worried a few would have heart attacks. I acted exactly the same way years ago and I still get nervous and worked up. But I don’t show it as much, anymore. I believe it’s newer parents who are the most anxious because it’s all new to them and confusing. Give them a few years, and they’ll probably relax a bit.

One woman frantically came to the admin tent and said in a panicked voice—bordering on hysteria—“I can’t find my son! I don’t know where he is! Help me find my son!”

My friend, who was running things for the parent volunteers under the tent, asked in a very calm voice, “Please, tell me how old is your son?”

“Twelve.”

“Twelve,” my friend repeated. We managed to keep straight faces. If it was a child of say five or six, there might be a reason for a mom to panic. Well, not a real reason to panic, but the anxiety would be more understandable.

“Do you know where he is supposed to be?” my friend, who is also a psychologist, asked. Her calm approach led me to believe she faces many hyped-up parents in her practice. The frantic mom said he was swimming the 200 fly and she couldn’t find him with her coach or warming up. She asked us to have him paged to report to the admin tent.

“Do you want to give him a little time? If we announce for him to come to the admin tent to meet his mother, he’s going to be embarrassed,” she told her.

“Really? Why would he be embarrassed?” the mom asked.

We didn’t have an answer to that. We had a deck marshal assist the mom walking around the pool deck and into the men’s bathroom to help find her son. I never heard a word after that, so I’m assuming her son made it to his event and back to her side.

Another thing I noticed this past weekend was that the space behind the blocks can get really hectic. That sign that says “Swimmers Only” means just that. It doesn’t mean “Swimmers Only and Me the Swimmer’s Parent Because I’m an Exception to the Rule.” It’s amazing how many parents ignore the sign, have to be told to leave the “Swimmers Only” area and a few want to argue about it. Once again, it’s interesting to look at this from a distance, when a few years ago, I was the one trying to stand behind the blocks with a water bottle and towel for my kids.

I’m reminded of advice I received from Ref Paul on more than one occasion, “Relax, have fun. It’s just a swim meet.”

 

 

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The pool deck during a meet with the “Swimmers Only” area behind the blocks.

 

Why do you think we get so worked up over our children’s athletic performances?

 

 

 

 

 

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Enjoy it while it lasts!

 

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Afternoon walk with Waffles in Salt Lake City.

Today while packing up after a fun weekend in Salt Lake City, where we went to two meets to watch my daughter swim and hang out with friends, I realized this part of my life is almost over. I checked the swim schedule to see what meets she has left and we’re down to only a few.

This weekend, I reconnected with a swim mom dear friend who has a son starting his freshman year. It was like no time has passed since we last sat together at a meet — rather than six or seven years. We also visited my husband’s best childhood friend, Pastor Scott McKinney and his wife Sara, who have made this area their home and founded a church, Centerpoint Church in Orem. After his powerful service, we sat together at lunch laughing so hard we cried as well as solemnly discussing the world’s problems. It’s been a highlight to reconnect with these friends, visit our daughter — and enjoy this part of the country.

I felt more than a little sentimental this morning. I like it here. I like the hotel we stay in, the Little America, like it’s a second home. I like their coffee shop because it brings back memories of my childhood with their comfort food of open-faced turkey and roast beef sandwiches with mashed potatoes and gravy and their weekend prime rib specials. I like the cool crisp weather, the spectacular views and changing fall colors of the leaves. I like the tall buildings downtown, where you’ll find the City Creek Center with its glass ceilings. I like the friendliness of the people and the clean bright city, which has a small town feel.

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Beautiful views from City Creek Center.

 

It seems like we just moved our daughter in for her freshman year. She got a notice Friday that she’s been accepted to study abroad for her last bit of school, so we’re already thinking about moving her stuff out and driving her car home. How weird is that? Especially when I say we just moved her up here! At least it feels like that.

When my kids were toddlers, older women would stop me at the mall or on the street and say, “Enjoy it while you can, because the time flies by.” Knee deep in the daily grind of bottles, baby food, diapers, laundry, endless picking up toys and chasing little ones, I couldn’t relate. Now I believe it and understand. Enjoy the swim team or whatever activities your child is in like it’s their last meet. Enjoy the visits to their college town. It’s over in a blink of an eye. And will you really go back without them there?

It’s not like I thought it would last forever, I just thought four years would take a bigger chunk of time.

How have you noticed time flying by?

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My daughter at the blocks at the HPER Natatorium.

 

A Conversation With Legendary Swimmer and Swim Mom Sippy Woodhead

 

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Sippy Woodhead in Russia during her first U.S. National Team trip at age 13.

I had a great conversation yesterday with Cynthia “Sippy” Woodhead, a phenomenal swimmer who began breaking world records at the age of 14 and still holds a number of records for Southern California Swimming. She’s the mother of twins and enjoys being on deck in her role as a swim parent.

 

She has great advice for swim parents and works to ensure her kids enjoy the same carefree experience she enjoyed before the days of hovering and helicoptering parents. Sippy grew up a block from a pool and her summers were spent “waiting outside the gates for the pool to open at 10 a.m. and playing sharks and minnows and chasing lizards until it closed at 6 p.m.”

When she was a swimmer, she said meets were like “playdates” and she knew her parents were on deck, but she never saw them. To read more about Sippy and her accomplishments as a swimmer and her ideas on parenting click here.

As a swim family, we have great memories from meets at the Sippy Woodhead Pool. I’ll never forget that it was one of my daughter’s first long course meets and her age group coach wasn’t at the meet. It was the head coach instead and my daughter was a little nervous. When she swam her 50 free as she passed him, she lifted her head up high, paused mid-stroke and gave him a huge smile!

What a neat thing to get to talk to Sippy and understand the person behind the pool bearing her name. Her former swim team, Riverside Aquatics Association has a great story called “Who is Sippy?” on their website. Click here to read it.

 

 

“I Don’t Have a Life!” and other Swimmer Problems

My daughter racing, a few years ago.

My daughter racing, a few years ago.

One of the reasons why swimming gets so difficult as kids get older, is they want to have a life. A life outside the pool, that is.

There were so many conflicts for both of my kids with swimming when they were in high school. I longed for the earlier years when there were fewer demands on their schedules.

Having a heavy AP class load and getting up before 5 a.m. for practice wasn’t easy. My son eventually lost interest in swimming, because he had a tough time balancing six AP classes and competitive swimming. Then he joined a band, and music became his passion. One of my favorite songs he wrote is here: “I Love Desert Nights” by the Saucy Stenographers.

My kids with a swim friend.

My kids with a swim friend.

My daughter stuck with swimming. The ongoing conflicts her junior and senior year seemed unfair. She had to choose between CIF finals (California Interscholastic Federation) which was our closest thing to a state championship—or Senior Night at Disneyland.

She had to choose between NCL Senior Recognition Night or the Speedo Grand Challenge.

NCL Senior Recognition night.

NCL Senior Recognition night.

There were weekly challenges of Friday nights — the night before a big Saturday a.m. practice. “Do I stay home and get to bed early, or can I go out with friends?” was a question she had to answer for herself.

Her junior year there was a conflict between swimming and swimming!

A high school open invitational meet and a Speedo meet were on the same weekend. She was trying to get her first junior national cut and be recruited for college. The high school meet was fun with about 20 high schools coming to her home pool. Her high school team wanted her at the home meet. She knew college coaches were going to be at the Speedo meet and that she needed to work on her long course racing to get the cuts she was pursuing.

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

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

She chose the long course Speedo meet. Boy, did we get an earful! Either choice she made, somebody was going to be upset. It was truly a “no win” situation. Some of the high school parents told me she should either be “on the team” or “off the team,” and it was unfair to let her high school team down.

I explained that it was her choice and a hard one. IF it came down to choosing between high school swimming or club swimming exclusively, she’d choose club. By allowing her to do both, she could help the high school team in their League championships and at CIF, plus enjoy the joy and fun that high school swimming brings to the sport. It was a choice that she suffered through, but the high school meet she viewed as a  “fun” meet with no consequences. It wasn’t going to affect the team’s standing in any way.

We were fortunate to have club and high school coaches who worked well together. They both had the swimmer’s best interest at heart. I know some swimmers who have to make the choice between swimming club or high school, due to a coach that doesn’t allow both.

When life was easy.

When life was easy.

There’s no right answer, the way I see it. It’s all about learning to make choices and living with your decisions. A good life lesson in itself. Although both of my kids said repeatedly, “I don’t have a life!” Actually they did have a life. They had the life they chose.

What hard choices have your kids made trying to balance school, fun and sports?

Eight Thoughts About My First PAC-12 Champs Swim Meet

Olympic swimmers competing at the PAC 12s.

Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin competing at the PAC 12s.

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

2.  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.

3.  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.

4.  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.

5.  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.

6.  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!

7.  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?

8.  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)

Top 6 Things Parents Love About Swim Meets

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One of my favorite parts of being a year-round swim parent for the past 14 years has been swim meets. Not home meets, but traveling to meets. Don’t get me wrong, the home meets have their unique qualities that I’m sure I’ll miss — but, travel meets — I’ll definitely miss more.

kat at a meetThis past weekend, we were at a meet in So Cal Thursday through Sunday. Other swim parents posted photos and wrote on Facebook about how much they enjoyed the weekend and meet. My age group swim parenting days are numbered — 40 days and nights to be exact — but who’s counting? With my daughter leaving soon for college, I’m nostalgic about why I and other swim parents love meets. kat meet

My top six reasons why I love swim meets include:

  1. Spending time together.  When you are away for two to five days with your swimmer, you have a captive audience. There’s no distraction of 8 hours at school, followed by 3 hours of swim practice, and hanging out with their non-swim friends. Spending lots of time together, unfettered with household, work, and daily school responsibilities is refreshing. Enjoy your little bubble of time, treat it like a mini-vacation. Play cards, sing songs, go to the beach, have fun! You’ll look back on these days as precious memories.kat girls
  2. Nap time. When your swimmer is older, and in age groups that have prelims and finals, you’ll find yourself in your hotel — with your swimmer — for three to four hours in the middle of the day. Your swimmer needs to be off their feet and resting, so going to the beach isn’t a good choice. Nor is shopping. Bring in lunch, relax, and enjoy some of the best naps you’ll ever have!50Free
  3. Walking. Being at a meet for days on end, without cooking, cleaning, working, etc. allows plenty of time to walk. I walk during warm-ups and warm-downs. I walk with my husband, with friends, and by myself. I look forward to checking out the areas by the pools on foot. Walking gets rid of my nervous energy and walking for hours and miles has to be good for me!kat shelby
  4. Friendships. You’ll spend lots of hours with team parents under the pop-up tent. Mostly, swim parents are generous, encouraging and have the common interest of your team and kids’ successes at heart. I’ve made great friends with parents from other teams and I look forward to seeing them at the away meets. I had a great conversation this past weekend with a parent of another graduating senior. Our daughters are in separate towns, on separate teams, yet they are both swimming in college next year — and going through the same excitements and anxieties. I’ll look forward to seeing these parents in the future, during our college phase of swim meets.kat medals
  5. Watching your swimmer race. What is it about watching your child race that is so rewarding and exciting? I’m not sure, but if you have the answer, please let me know. It’s so exciting when they do well. I love that feeling when I see their hard work pay off and watch their growth as a person and an athlete.kat relays
  6. Sushi. We eat lots of sushi at swim meets. I consider myself a sushi connoisseur and I’ve scouted for the best sushi restaurants near pools throughout Southern California.  My daughter likes to eat sushi at meets, too. It’s healthy, light, provides her with the right fuel to race. My top three favorite Sushi restaurants include: bake-lobster-roll_resize

O Fine Japanese Cuisine, Laguna Beach and Irvine, CAojc_00100_resize

Zen Sushi, Lake Forest, CA, and Orange Roll and Sushi, Fullerton, CA.sunset-laguna-roll_resizeAre you a swim parent, or a sports parent? What are your favorite things about going to away meets?

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