Team loyalty versus splintering teams

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I wrote this article several years ago and I still wonder about this today. In our LSC, Southern California Swimming, we’ve always had new teams splintering off from older teams. It’s a phenomenon that I see as unhelpful because it takes so much support to keep a team afloat. Also, there seems to be little team loyalty and parents are always jumping from one team to another. I say parents, because I’m not convinced that kids are driving the issue.

In the 16 years I’ve been involved in swimming, several new teams have cropped up. I wonder, did a child say, “Dad, I’m really unhappy with my coach, I don’t believe I’m getting the training I deserve, so why don’t you start a new team?”

No. I highly doubt it.

When a group of parents fracture off and start a new team, many unexpected things happen. First, they learn that it’s not as easy as they thought—most of the teams I’ve seen crumble in under five years (not all, but most). Second, friendships and relationships are divided, loyalties are developed—you’re either on one side or the other—and there’s a lot of unhappiness all around.

If a situation is bad, or you see fault with it, why not address it? If you have an issue with a coach, why not talk about it with the coach? If you’re unable to do that, or don’t feel comfortable, then why not talk to the board, or at least send an email?

dive

Is there something you can do to help the situation? Can you volunteer your expertise or time to make your team better? That’s what I’d do and what I’ve practiced through the years. New teams usually start, because of a private agenda or ego issue with an adult—and it’s not always with the best interest of the kids in mind.

When new teams begin, the resources of the community are spread too thin. Without a large population of families, communities cannot support a number of teams. There are only so many families willing to make the commitment to swimming. A well-known club, college and Olympic coach told me that you need a million families to have a national championship level team. You need a large pool of families for kids to come in and out of the program as they move onto college.

Plus, coaches are highly trained and there aren’t a lot of them around who have gotten kids to national levels. If you want the best for your kids, then it would seem you’d want a chance for your child to improve, learn new skills, build friendships and have the opportunity to swim in college and beyond. It makes sense that you’d want your child on a team with a proven track record of getting kids to those levels.

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My son learning to dive with the swim team.

Speaking of friendships, how does it help your child to be put on a new team away from the kids he or she has bonded with on a daily basis? Do you want to ensnare your child in the drama that’s sure to come when the kids come face to face at a meet? Do you want to be the parents dragging in their own food in coolers to a meet hosted by your former team—because you refuse to support their snack bar?

When I talked about this years ago with my son, he felt that teams splitting up and new teams starting were a good thing. His viewpoint was that competition is always good and will make the existing team even better and more committed to excellence. I agree with that concept, but sometimes the process is painful.

I think it all comes down to one thing, the swim team should be for the kids. How does creating turmoil and drama help your child? Maybe you can take a look at where you are and realize, hey, it’s not that bad! Or better yet, jump in and make it better.

10953972_10206245577882176_3209098484436781594_o

My daughter with her first swim instructor.

What are your thoughts about creating new teams? Do you think it’s a good thing, or not?

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Why Start a New Team When You Already Have One?

swimblog2

In the 16 years I’ve been involved in swimming, several new teams have cropped up. I wonder, did a child say, “Dad, I’m really unhappy with my coach, I don’t believe I’m getting the training I deserve, so why don’t you start a new team?”

No. I highly doubt it.

When a group of parents fracture off and start a new team, many unexpected things happen. First, they learn that it’s not as easy as they thought—most of the teams I’ve seen crumble in under five years (not all, but most). Second, friendships and relationships are divided, loyalties are developed—you’re either on one side or the other—and there’s a lot of unhappiness all around.

If a situation is bad, or you see fault with it, why not address it? If you have an issue with a coach, why not talk about it with the coach? If you’re unable to do that, or don’t feel comfortable, then why not talk to the board, or at least send an email?

dive

Is there something you can do to help the situation? Can you volunteer your expertise or time to make your team better? That’s what I’d do and what I’ve practiced through the years. New teams usually start, because of a private agenda or ego issue with an adult—and it’s not always with the best interest of the kids in mind.

When new teams begin, the resources of the community are spread too thin. Without a large population of families, communities cannot support a number of teams. There are only so many families willing to make the commitment to swimming. A well-known club, college and Olympic coach told me that you need a million families to have a national championship level team. You need a large pool of families for kids to come in and out of the program as they move onto college.

Plus, coaches are highly trained and there aren’t a lot of them around who have gotten kids to national levels. If you want the best for your kids, then it would seem you’d want a chance for your child to improve, learn new skills, build friendships and have the opportunity to swim in college and beyond. It makes sense that you’d want your child on a team with a proven track record of getting kids to those levels.

blogphoto

My son learning to dive with the swim team.

Speaking of friendships, how does it help your child to be put on a new team away from the kids he or she has bonded with on a daily basis? Do you want to ensnare your child in the drama that’s sure to come when the kids come face to face at a meet? Do you want to be the parents dragging in their own food in coolers to a meet hosted by your former team—because you refuse to support their snack bar?

When I talked about this years ago with my son, he felt that teams splitting up and new teams starting were a good thing. His viewpoint was that competition is always good and will make the existing team even better and more committed to excellence. I agree with that concept, but sometimes the process is painful.

I think it all comes down to one thing, the swim team should be for the kids. How does creating turmoil and drama help your child? Maybe you can take a look at where you are and realize, hey, it’s not that bad! Or better yet, jump in and make it better.

10953972_10206245577882176_3209098484436781594_o

My daughter with her first swim instructor.

Is Civility a Lost Art and My Story of Being Yelled at By a Total Stranger

imagesI think we are on the verge of losing an important piece of our society. The art of civility and decency. In my humble opinion, the virtual world has a lot to do with this. Look at the comment section of any news site or political page and what you’ll read will turn your face red. Name calling, cursing along with disgusting references to body parts. Their mothers and grandparents must be so proud!

It’s so easy to comment and be rude when you’re not face to face with another person and you’re hiding behind your keyboard. As a former board member of my kids’ swim team for a million years, I was often surprised when someone that I had enjoyed talking with on the pool deck sent me a scathing email. I guess it was easier for them to vent over the keyboard rather then express their opinion to me in person.

Olive in an uncivil mood.

Olive in an uncivil mood.

What happens when this “no-holds-barred” behavior moves from behind the screen to the real world? Think about that for a few minutes. If every person you encountered in a day had to let loose with a verbal attack. (What does that expression mean anyway? From Merriam-webster online: free of restrictions or hampering conventions <a no–holds–barred contest> This expression was first used in wrestling matches allowing all types of holds.)

I was sitting at our local Street Fair this week, volunteering five hours of my time to register voters. Most people were very friendly and polite. It wasn’t a busy night for our “register to vote booth” because there’s no big election coming up in the next few months. I smiled at people as they walked by. It’s fun to see them smile in return. I was enjoying that.

Then one woman stopped in the middle of the street and yelled at me.

“Why did you give us that look?”

I said, “Huh? Excuse me?” I had never seen this person in my life. I had not seen her walk by.

“You smiled at those people,” she pointed. “But you gave me a dirty look! What was that about?” she shouted at me.

“You’re mistaken, I wasn’t looking at anyone.” Indeed I was lost in my thoughts. I had a brief moment of missing my kids who are away at college.

“You’re very rude! Typical for someone in your party!” the woman yelled at me.

I was a little shaken. Wondering what gave her the right to yell at me — someone she’d never met before. I thought this was a prime example about our loss of civility.

We tell our kids to be kind to other people and we teach the Golden Rule. We punish them if they get in a fight and we are horrified if they are mean to anyone. But, seriously? They learn more from our actions then we care to believe. I have an idea. let’s try to be examples to our kids. Let’s try to be someone worthy of our kids adoration and someone we’d like them to respect. Be kind to one another. And if you can’t be kind, at least be decent.

My daughter and lifetime friends, enjoying life on their swim team.

My daughter and lifetime friends enjoying life on their swim team.

“Be civil to all, sociable to many, familiar with few, friend to one, enemy to none.”

– Benjamin Franklin

How swimming has helped my kids and what my family has learned from it.

pics for swim (1)Note: I’ve invited a writer to give a fresh perspective on what kids learn from swimming. Everything I’ve read of his brings me smiles and tears. I’m pleased to introduce my first guest writer, Juan de la Quinta.

johnphotoHow swimming has helped my kids and what my family has learned from it.

When I was asked to share my thoughts on the theme of this post, I immediately felt that this topic is perfect for my casual writing style and the fact that I love to share stories about my 3 daughters. I’m going to leave them nameless, but they really do exist…trust me.

Our eldest, now 24, deserves credit for bringing our family into the swimming world. She was 12 when she brought home a flyer from middle school announcing swim team tryouts at the local community college pool. Still relatively new to the neighborhood and without a sport since her Karate Sensei had moved away a few months earlier, my wife took her to the pool the next day and she passed the 25-yard swim test. We signed her up and the transformation began. 

Although this daughter had the courage to stick with swimming all the way through high school, despite her lukewarm interest, what she remembers most about swimming is that it taught her about long-term commitments. She grew up a natural athlete who had the privilege of playing a variety of different seasonal sports that allowed her to maximize her enjoyment for 3-4 months at a time. She excelled at basketball, softball, karate, flag football, soccer, and was a natural swimmer with solid form in all 4 strokes.  Before joining swimming, sports were second in priority to individual and family activities. Once she committed to swimming we expected her to juggle her schedule to keep swimming the first priority after schoolwork. What she learned from this experience, especially in high school, was that excessive homework (or the claim thereof) was the only reason we ever allowed her to miss swim practice. She has since adopted our philosophy of priorities and could not be a more reliable person when she makes a commitment. 

john3

Biological Offspring #2, on the other hand, has benefitted from the lessons mom and dad learned with #1 and she has never tried to get out of swim practice for any reason because she knows from 10 years of swimming that we can’t be fooled twice. Seven years junior to #1, this child has set the standards of excellence for herself and her 12-year old sister in both academics and athletics. Formation of her character and personality can be directly attributed to the experiences she’s had with her swimming coaches and teammates. During her earliest years she adapted to the many transient coaches that we endured because of the challenge to find and keep swim parents capable of managing the intricacies of a good team. We bounced our way from one end of our valley to the other before landing with our current team. #2 never let these team and pool changes affect her attitude or behavior. She has consistently trained with older girls who’ve inadvertently taught her many lessons of life. 

#2 has always come home from practices and meets to parents who’ve encouraged, expected and at times demanded that #2 and #3 be open, honest and candid with us about their lives. In these talks around the dinner table or driving home from a meet, we’d hear about the shenanigans that other kids were pulling with their coaches, other swimmers, other friends and other kid’s parents. We’d analyze these incidents and use each of them as teaching opportunities. 

john2

Being a supportive parent is much easier in the 3rd person than the first because emotions are less likely to influence our feedback and guidance. The key to this parental practice is to remain neutral as often as possible or the kids pick up on the one-sided opinions. If you are honest and admit when a situation is delicate, difficult and/or embarrassing, then your kids will realize that your opinions are fair and your guidance is not designed to just make a parent happy for the sake of happiness, but fair because it takes into the account the feelings and effects that will happen to all parties involved in a situation. In other words, try not to judge. It’s a good practice in general, but essential to good parenting. 

Now when it comes to #3, I have to admit that much of the influence she’s gotten from me was actually in her pre-swimming years, riding along as I drove #2 back and forth to practice and when we drove as a family to meets. I repeatedly shared my own passion for hard work and my competitive spirit through stories of my childhood and young adult life. These frequent infusions of positive values necessary in athletics and life were absorbed well by #3. As soon as our backyard pool was built, #3 was four years old and the perfect student for #2, who trained her little sister in the fine art of racing starts, turning at the wall and the fundamentals of all 4 strokes. This first summer of training was the advantage that #3 took with her onto the team when she started swimming a year later. It took about one season for me to realize that #3 was actually swimming faster than #2 did at the same age… and we always thought #2 was fast. 

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The greatest qualities of character that #3 learned from her teammate-sister was humility and kindness. #2 has always worked hard to reach the top levels of her age group, so when she started to win races and bring home medals, we repeatedly instilled the lesson that her hard work was the direct cause of her success, not other extrinsic factors. Recognizing the truth of this cause and effect relationship, #3 works as hard as anyone on her team to improve herself. The beauty of her humility and kindness comes not just from witnessing her sister’s humble success and good sportsmanship, but also from her own spiritual development. It’s easy to impart Christian values to a child who experiences so many incidents of recognition. As parents, we’ve repeatedly taught her that she’s been blessed with all the attributes of a champion. The lesson we teach repeatedly is that not only does she owe it to God to use her talents to the best of her ability as a way to say thank you, but to continue to open herself up to God’s will by raising up others around her. The value of knowing that the competition is not an enemy, but rather just another child of God swimming next to you is the key to her ability to befriend anyone willing to smile back at her. Don’t get me wrong, she doesn’t like to lose races but when that happens she has no problems congratulating the girls who beat her. It takes nothing away from who she is as a person and it does nothing but inspire her to work harder. 

I love being a swim dad, but this snapshot only highlights a few things our family has learned from over 10 years of participation. I could go on and on about the great families we’ve met over the years and the friends we’ve all made along the way or our joy of watching other swimmers on our team improve and mature. But most important of all, swimming has brought my family closer to each other as we’ve endured triumphs and disappointments with our kids. Our closeness and love is a direct result of being a committed swim family.

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