What My Kids Learned While Staying Wet

Palm Springs Pool

This was one of my first blog posts. This is also one of the pieces that I wrote about how positive swimming has been for me, my husband and kids. I hope you enjoy it!

One of the most important things they learned is perseverance. That stick-with-it never give up attitude that is ingrained in their brains after years of trying for swim goals and just missing them. Then trying and trying again and again until they make them. The very nature of swimming 50 weeks a year, six days a week, makes kids tough.

I’ll never forget my daughter’s frustration of missing her junior national cut by fractions of a second for two years. She didn’t give up. She worked hard. She would still miss.

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“Are you kidding me!” She said looking at the scoreboard to see her missing the coveted junior national cut by mere tenths of a second after dropping three full seconds on an 800-meter freestyle race.

The next race, she said, “I’m so done with this!”  She dove in with more determination than ever, and yes, she made her cut, dropping seconds on her 200-meter free and coming in second place to one of the fastest girls in the country.

So, what does all this have to do with life?  Take her hardest class, AP Stats.  She knows that she can do it. She just has to put in the work and time. That may mean getting up and into the classroom at 6 a.m. for extra help, rather than staying warm tucked into her bed. But, she does it — all on her own — without me suggesting it. Her teacher told me, “I know that she will do whatever it takes to be successful, so I am not worried about where her grade is today.”

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My son also swam. He worked so hard for every goal, trying to qualify for meets through ten years of year-round swimming. I’ll never forget his determination as an 8th grader. I was a chaperone for his Washington DC trip with his class. He knew he’d be missing too much swimming, so he would run up and down through the Mall, up and down the steps to the Lincoln Memorial, while everyone else strolled. At night in the hotel, he ran the gray cement staircases, up and down the five flights.

When he returned to the pool, he did it! He made his first Junior Olympic time.

Now he’s in college and he knows how to persevere. He wanted to work at the campus radio station. He put in his application as a freshman and was declined. As a junior he has been assigned a time slot on the FM station, moving up from his prior show on the AM.

You can listen to his show on kcsb here Fridays at 4 a.m. PST.

He wanted to be in the College of Creative Studies, “a graduate school for undergraduates.” He applied and was devastated when he was declined. I told him to move on, it was okay, get a ‘normal’ degree. But, he didn’t give up. The next year he applied again and was accepted. Learn more about the UCSB CCS program here. Just click.

I’ve had friends ask why my kids spend so much time in the pool, aren’t they missing out?

I beg to differ.  Spending most of their lives in the water has served them well. Being mostly wet has given them skills for life.

Find a local swim club here on the USA Swimming website.

 

 

Photo credits: The Palm Springs, CA Pool — one of the most beautiful views while swimming ever. My daughter diving wearing the yellow cap. Yellow-capped swimmers sometime at some club meet. And a great meme for a distance swimmer.

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12 Reasons Why Masters Swimmers Are So Happy

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Butterfly. 

I was at our local U.S. Masters swim meet this weekend. Since I cannot swim with my torn ACL, I volunteered to time for a short bit with my friend visiting from Seattle. When I walked on deck I immediately saw two grown kids, who were former swimmers with my children on the club team. They were happy to see me, and I was excited to see them and sat with their parents. It was almost as if we were at an age group meet together again to watch our kids swim. I worked my way over to my Piranha teammates, who were warming up, talked with our coach and my other swim friends. I loved seeing all my friends on deck. I truly miss being a part of the team and swimming. Although meets make me so nervous when I’m competing, I was more than okay not to dive off the blocks. Then again, I’ve been nervous at every meet where I watched my kids swim, too, but more so when I’m the competitor.

 

While I was at the Masters meet, I noticed how different it was from age group meets. The main thing I noticed was that everyone is happy. Yes, there are a few nervous swimmers. I know I am fraught with anxiety at meets before I swim. But, generally, the atmosphere is very laid back and upbeat. A friend explained it like this: “It’s more of a party atmosphere of a community of swimmers rather than the nervous energy found on deck at age group meets.”

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Me diving off the blocks at my first meet.

Here are 12 ways Masters meets are different than age group meets:

 

ONE
Everyone at the meet, whether it’s swimmers, coaches, or family, really want to be there. Or, they wouldn’t be there.

TWO
There are no parents yelling at swimmers who miss an event or add time.

THREE
The only person who will argue with an official after a DQ is a swimmer.

FOUR
There doesn’t seem to be that hectic feeling trying to find heats and lanes.

FIVE
Everybody is friendly and although some swimmers may be a little nervous, mostly they’re chatting with other swimmers, laughing and joking.

SIX
Swimmers feel like they’ve won if they make it off the blocks and complete their event close to the time they swam the year before.

SEVEN
Getting out of the deep end without a ladder can feel like a major accomplishment in itself.

EIGHT
You will not see a single crazy parent—anywhere.

NINE
There’s no pressure for junior national cuts or college scholarships.

TEN
Nobody is getting nervous watching you swim.

ELEVEN
Every swimmer gets out of the water with a smile on their face. You won’t see any tears.

TWELVE
Masters swimmers are happy when they age up, because they feel it’s an advantage to be the youngest in their age group.

 

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My daughter at a meet where she got her first Jrs cut.

If you’re a swimmer or compete in another sport as an adult, how do you find it different from youth sports?

“I’m Getting Better Every Day, In Each and Every Way”

 

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What are we doing every day, to get better in every way?

I listened to a webinar this weekend by sports parenting expert David Benzel called “From Good to Great in Four Steps.” He has a link on the USA Swimming website to his webinars and website called “Growing Champions for Life.” I enjoy his material because it’s so well researched, he has real-life experiences to share, practical advice, plus several good resources of books to do further study.

Although the webinar focused on four ways we could help our kids achieve in sports and life, I listened to the talk through my own unique lens. Some of the areas Benzel hit on were Citius, Altius Fortius, the Olympic motto which means Faster, Higher, Stronger. Benzel pointed out that it doesn’t say, Fast, High, Strong—because we constantly want to get better.

It comes down to–what are we doing every single day to get better? That reminded me of a saying my mom and aunt often used: “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.” That is a famous positive affirmation by French psychologist and pharmacist Émile Coué, 1857-1926. His autosuggestion method has been met with positive acclaim as well as cynicism.

My own daughter has pointed out that I often have very negative self-talk. I’m sure her work as an athlete with the university team’s sports psychologists has educated her in the importance of positive self-talk. That’s something the entire team works on together. If we are continually doubting ourselves, or think we’re not good enough, then it should be no surprise that we’ll prove that negativity to be true.

I’m taking the four steps I learned about in the webinar to work on–not only my health and recovering from my injury–but in my daily writing, too. What are the four steps, you ask? Number one is to “dream big.” I won’t share my big dreams here today, but I do have them. Second, “aim accurately.” That is taking specific actions to reach goals that lead you on the path to the big dream. Goal setting is another way to look at it, but they need to be goals that lead you in the right direction. There can’t be too many of them either, or we can lose our focus. Third, use “visualization” as a tool to reach your dream. Many successful athletes and people generally in life spend years living in the movie inside their brain how it feels, smells, and sounds like when they finally reach their dream. Once it happens, it’s not foreign but feels familiar and right. The last of the four steps is “to believe” passionately in ourselves and our ability to make it to our big dream.

With those four steps in place, then every single day, we can improve in some small way to reach our dreams.

12745503_10209017757384931_7005852646538628157_nHow do you approach your goals and life dreams?

What I Would Do Differently

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My young Piranhas.

If I could go back in time, say 15 or so years, I’d do things differently as a parent and a swim mom. I’ve loved every minute of being a swim parent and truly believe that signing my kids up for our local club, the Piranha Swim Team, was the single best thing we’ve done for them. Sticking with the team through ups and downs was a plus, too. Not only did my kids become crazily physically fit and skilled swimmers, they learned to never give up through tough times—whether it was an illness, a plateau or learning what a new coach expects.

So what would I do differently? Here’s my list:

One
Not focus on performance.

Sometimes, I get way too caught up in big meets and best times. I wish I could kick back, relax and enjoy the little moments more.

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Medals at a meet.

Two
Not get involved in parent drama.

Like most sports today, where you find a bunch of enthusiastic and involved parents, there’s bound to be some drama. If I could do it over, I’d never take sides or get involved. At times, I didn’t have a choice because of being on the board. But, the drama and problems we lived through don’t amount to beans, anymore.

Three
Realize everybody is different.

Not every swimmer has the same drive or goals. Not every family is going to focus their lives around the pool. It’s okay for some kids to skip practice and have other interests besides school and swimming. I’d be less judgmental if I got a do over!

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Signing day.

Four
Not compare my kids to others.

When my kids were young and new to swimming, it was common for us to compare their progress to other swimmers. That led to upset feelings all around. Looking back on it, things that seemed so big at the moment, were only a fleeting moment in time.

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My son learning to dive with the swim team.

Five
Enjoy every moment of the process.

The years go by so quickly. The friends made with other parents, coaches and officials are ones to treasure. Enjoy it all.

What would you do differently as a swim parent?

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Back when my daughter liked her green fuzzy robe better than the team parka.

Why Swimming is the Best Community Ever

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My daughter in USA Swimming’s Open Water Nats.

One of the best things about the swim community is just that. It’s an amazing community! We’re close-knit with camaraderie between swimmers, swim parents, coaches and officials.

A prime example of community happened this weekend. My daughter flew to Florida for USA Swimming’s Open Water 5K swim.

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My daughter, coach and teammate in the Crippen Sunset Mile.

She swam with her coach and teammate in the Crippen Sunset Mile, a tribute to Fran Crippen, a distance swimmer and seven-time medalist. He died during a race in the UAE in 2006 at the age of 26. You can find out more about his life, foundation and impact he’s had at the Fran Crippen Elevation Foundation.

“Fran believed that sport has the power to transcend barriers, both those between people and those within oneself. No dream was too big for Fran, and he believed that there was no barrier that could not be overcome. That legacy continues with members of Team Fran all over the world.” –Fran Crippen Elevation Foundation. 

My husband and I stayed home and didn’t go. Why? I have no idea.The location for the Open Water Festival looked beyond gorgeous, and we love watching our daughter swim. The only upside? We cleaned our garage–which was way overdue.

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A view of the swim course at Miromar Lakes Beach & Golf Club.

Here’s where our swim community came into play. We didn’t hear much from our daughter, but we had Ref Paul to keep us up to date. Yes, an official from our very own SoCalSwimming and Eastern Committee was clear across the country in Florida officiating. Paul kept an eye and camera out for us. He made our weekend complete with photos, videos, and stroke-by-stroke updates. Our daughter loved having her teammate and coach with her–plus an official who’s been at her meets since early childhood.

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The officials at Open Water Festival 2016.

In this community of swimming, it’s truly a small world–a supportive, caring and fun world!

Photos from Paul Szuszkiewicz

2 Top Tips for Swim Parents

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My daughter has almost completed her age-group swim experience that began at age 5. She has a few weeks left with the team she’s been with for 13 years — and then she leaves for college.

If swim parents of USA Swimming age groupers were to ask me for advice I have two top tips.

ontheblocksNUMBER ONE.

Never lie to your coach. Reinforce to your child to never lie to their coach.

NUMBER TWO.
Respect the planning that goes into a year-long swim calendar and schedule your vacations accordingly.

diveThe lying sounds ridiculous and obvious, right? Your child never lies. You never lie. But, you’d be surprised. Even if you truly fall in the category of the family that never lies, others do lie. What happens if your child is asked by another swimmer to not tell why they missed practice? Or, what if your child knows that a teammate is at Disneyland and not sick in bed and the coach asks her point blank? It all comes out in the end — so avoid this embarrassment — and never, ever lie. When a coach finds out the truth, which inevitably will happen, your swimmer will lose credibility. How does he or she get that trust back?

blurryswimThe second tip is also a matter of respect. If your swimmer is a serious year-round swimmer, there will be a certain point in their career when you just can’t take off whenever you want. Time-wise, it’s usually around the age of 12 or 13 for girls. Perhaps a little older for boys. I bet you didn’t know that the coach has training cycles and plans out an entire year’s practice in advance — sometimes plans 2 to 3 years out or longer? I bet you didn’t realize that when you go visit Aunt Sally for a week at Christmas you may be missing a huge workout week that is setting up your swimmer for success for the rest of the season? Respect your coaches and their training cycles. They actually put in vacation weeks during their year’s plan. It’s so much better for your swimmer to have your family’s calendar and the team’s on the same track.

katdiveMy two cents worth. What advice do you have for successful swim parenting? If you have a tip, please post it below!swimblog5

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. 

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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. 

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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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