Crazy Swim mom

The Conundrum

USA Swimming just posted a fantastic article:

Mike Gustafson: Lighten Up, Swim Parents!

I would recommend reading the whole article but in short, the message is loud and clear:

The thing is: Critiquing is not a parent’s job — at least when it comes to swimming. Critiquing is the coach’s job. 

That’s why coaches exist. 

For some of us (me) this is easy.  My lack of knowledge about swimming is a plus, I have a very un-trained eye.  I’m also an optimist by nature.  Being an optimist is a good quality most of the time but we also tend to be missing a little of reality.  I’m fortunate to be married to Mr. Reality Check.  He keeps me on the straight and narrow.

It’s really hard for parents who know swimming not to critique (critique sounds so much nicer than criticize) their children’s performance.  I would almost say it is impossible.  It’s a challenge that many swim families are faced with.

Our family is a work in progress.  I’m trying to be more realistic about their swimming.  It’s not adorable when Sophie does butterfly kick during free sets at practice.   Being sweet does not excuse sitting out a set.  And cute gets you nothing.  Swim dad is going to chose his words carefully.  Delivery and execution of critique is going to be a huge factor at our house.  But it is impossible for him to UN-see the things he sees.  He knows what he is watching.  It’s unrealistic to just watch every race in awe.

Regardless, every message that we deliver matters.  The most important message is that we care.  The coaches need to coach and we need to care.

Grace’s meet starts tomorrow.  I’m going to time during her session.  And take her to Chipotle when it is over.  Smiling.  And I hope she is too.

Exhale, exhale, inhale

The first short course meets of the season are usually great. The kids haven’t swam short course since March. Huge time drops, especially for the younger children are almost guaranteed. The kids are always excited to see their friends from other sites. The parents are usually on their best behavior. Because the kids are happy!  Seriously, happy kids always means happy parents.  I have tried the reverse, being happy mom and it doesn’t always produce happy kids. But I digress..

Sarah and Sophie both swam last weekend.  They were no exception to the rule.  They both swam really well.  I had promised this season that I was going to focus less on times and more on quality swimming.  If I am being completely honest – it’s easier said than done.  The first weekend in November, RMSC hosts a National Age Group meet.  The three fastest swimmers for several area (MD, DC and DE) clubs compete against one another.  The October meet is the only time they can qualify.  It’s a challenge – you have to pick events wisely and swim them well.  Swimming well in this case means fast – not pretty.  They only do 100’s at this meet so it really is a crap shoot.

Sophie made this meet last year.  She was a shoe in for 100 fly this year.  She didn’t disappoint.  She had six great swims and easily qualified for that, a relay or two and perhaps one other event.  Sarah was a wild card, she was seeded well on 100 breast but has never made the meet.  She swam 50 breast the first day and won it.  The top 6 were all seeded with in .2 of each other and Sarah was seeded 6th.  That isn’t important.  She took off quite a bit of time and came so close to the quad A cut.  That also doesn’t matter.  It was a remarkable swim- almost perfect.  The second day of the meet she swam really well.  Her 100 breast was really nice and again she dropped a nice bit of time.  She came in 4th for her age at the NAG’s meet.  She missed it by .1

It’s really hard to focus on quality swimming when these kids are trying to qualify with times or places.  Sarah was disappointed which made me sad.  She swam 6 events this meet and it was truly the best I have ever seen her swim.  In her heart she knew she did well but it was still a disappointment for her.

The good news is she will swim the A 200 medley relay.  Rumor has it that there may be a scratch in 100 breast but even if there isn’t she get the shirt, she gets the bag tag.  And she gets to say “I swam well!”.

The highlight of the meet was absolutely seeing her 50 breast.  She ages up in late November and that event will go away for her.  She may give that quad A cut another shot in early November.  She may not.  Either way, she is ready to take her swimming to the next level.  The next best thing?  Watching Sophie swim 200 IM.  She proved to me that she has worked hard thus far.  Breast and back have always been tricky for her and she looked great in both.

I can take two big exhales, Sarah and Sophie delivered on their promises.  Well executed races.  I’m proud.

Grace swims this weekend.  I took a great big inhale this year with her.  And I have been holding my breath ever since.  I’m ready for that final exhale.

Not one of my better ideas

This has been a particularly crazy week. Grace is in high school this year and has fully embraced homecoming week. She spent all day Sunday helping decorate the freshman hallway for spirit week. She also decided to play powder puff football so had a few practices and a game last night. Sarah had a cross country meet Tuesday (she came in 3rd, not too shabby for a kid that is “only” a swimmer” and had a school event last night. We have also had a full schedule of swim practice for all three girls. First meet of the season is this weekend.

This weekend doesn’t get any better. Friday night is the homecoming game. Sarah and Sophie are also swimming 500 free. Saturday morning we have a bar mitzvah service to attend, two sessions of a swim meet and an early morning practice for Grace. The evening will be just as busy – we will be attending the bar mitzvah reception and Grace has her first homecoming dance. Sunday is easy. Only two sessions of a swim meet.

Recently my crazy swim schedule was featured in the October issue of Real Simple magazine, along side a great article about kids with talent. I couldn’t help but notice the irony of a magazine devoted to making life more simple was showcasing the life of a swim mom. The reality is, we need to simplify other aspects of our lives, being a swim family is complicated enough. It was also great to see two swim families high lighted in the article, swimming is often over looked as a sport, favor is often given to sports such as soccer and football – they are more familiar to a broad base.

I decided to do a little simplifying tonight. I kept Sarah and Sophie home from swim practice. I felt that a nice family dinner and some quality rest would make this crazy weekend a little more tolerable. Grace and I are settling in, we go to bed early on Thursday night knowing we have a 4 am wake up call for practice. My other two monkeys are climbing the walls. I’m about to send them out for a run. Swimmers need to swim. They can’t handle not being active. Keeping them out of the water tonight was a very bad idea. I know better.

Tomorrow starts a new season for us. Grace’s first meet is the following weekend. Best of luck to all this season. I hope for fast times and more importantly happy kids.

Make sure to pick up the October Issue of Real Simple to read the full article.


You said it. Now what are you going to do?

It’s a little ironic, my last post was about how tight lipped everyone is about their swim teams, sites and groups.  I suggested it would be a lot more liberating if we were able to have open and honest conversations with one another.  And now I want someone to shut up.

The other day an email was sent to the director of the site where Sophie and Sarah swim.  Subject line:  Gossip.  Body of the email:  Word on the street is, Sarah and Sophie are being pulled immediately from RMSC and being moved to NCAP.  The worst part is, the email was sent by someone I have known for years, someone I considered a personal friend.  And someone I haven’t seen in several months.  Actually, that isn’t even the worst part.  The worst part is that it is completely false.

My biggest fear when I moved Grace was that Sarah and Sophie would be treated differently.  That the coaches would view them as “it’s just a matter of time”.  And I didn’t want that for them.  As I have said many times, I didn’t move Grace because I was unhappy.  I moved her because she was unhappy and needed to make a change.  For her.  The other two girls were never a consideration.    The other two girls have never stepped foot on the other teams pool deck, let alone attended a practice.  I won’t lie, before I paid for this session I asked them a simple questions.  “Are you happy where you are”?  Without hesitation they both said yes.  It only confirmed what I already knew.  I always ask my kids this though, before registering them for anything.  I got burned once, I registered Sophie for soccer and when she found out she asked why – turns out she hated soccer.  You only make that mistake once.

What really irritates me is that there have been no issues from any of the coaches.  Grace has been to the pool with me many times to visit everyone and is always smiling and happy there.  She misses her friend.  And she is also happier than I have seen her in a long time.  Sarah and Sophie have a huge group of friends and love their coaches.  My kids are really happy.  Grace commented the other day that I have seemed very happily lately too.  I don’t think I realize how hard it was on me seeing my daughter sad and also being in a period of indecisions.  I am happy.  Everything truly worked out better than I had ever hoped.

And then this email was sent.  I was so mad.  I went to far as to text the person who sent it and she denied it.  It was confirmed that she absolutely sent the email and then lied to me about it.  I fumed for a bit and then I went to bed.

I woke up the next morning happy.  I don’t have to do anything to prove her wrong.  Sarah and Sophie went to practice that next day.  Because they want to be there.  I still don’t know what her motivation was for sending it.  I also don’t care.

I have had a few parents try and antagonize me, in the hopes of my saying something negative.  They have failed.  Miserably.

I time at swim meets.  It’s nice, you don’t have to talk to people.  I’ll continue that practice.  I’m happy to have a pleasant conversation with you.  But please don’t create drama where there is none.  Dual alliances? – maybe.  Family rivalry? – No way.


rmsc ncap

Just say it…

“I hear you have a secret”

I was picking Sarah and Sophie up from practice the other day and a parent approached me with an odd grin on her face and said this to me. I hadn’t seen her since the season started and I knew exactly what she meant – but I decided to play her game. I responded “no I don’t”. She hemmed and hawed and finally got to the point. Grace left RMSC. Not a secret. This type of behavior annoys me. And I see a lot of it. Or more so, the behavior that causes people to ask questions in a less than direct way.

People don’t hesitate to brag about their children’s accomplishments in school, sports or in general. But as my kids get older I find it increasingly more difficult to get a straight answer out of people about where their kid swims.

I spent the better part of the spring and summer attempting to talk to people about their kids swim club and/or groups. I was asking simple questions. How many kids are in the group, when do they practice, what is the dry land like, do you like it, does your kid like it? I was surprised by how ambivalent people are about their programs. I don’t for one second believe that they are truly ambivalent, it is more of a perceived ambivalence. I sensed Grace was going to make a move and with time on our hand I wanted to mKe an informed decision.

I don’t really understand it. I think people feel like they are giving away trade secrets if the say too much about their program. I have always been an open book. I’ll tell you everything you want to know. Is it really a secret how many practices your kid goes to a week?

A major deciding factor in choosing the group and club we did was based on conversations we had with other parents. Everyone we talked to spoke highly of the coach, the group of kids and the other parents. I made this decision with confidence. After chatting with a mom who had kids swimming for both RMSC and NCAP, we were sold. She convinced us that our master plan would work.

Once we made the decision I was really surprised how many people expressed disappointment that we didn’t move to “their” site or club. I gently reminded them of conversations we had over the summer, conversations that led to no where.

Maybe I under complicate things. It’s just swimming. I’ll tell you anything you want to know about the groups my kids are in or have been in. I have this mentality that we are all in it together. We shouldn’t be afraid to talk about successes, failures, fears and accomplishments. I like having people I can talk to, run ideas by and brains I can pick. It’s hard to find that. It shouldn’t be.

I don’t fault that mom for asking me about Grace’s change in club affiliation in such an odd manner. We have taught ourselves that we can’t simply ask the question.

I’m not a rule follower. Ask me a question. I’ll answer it. We are all just parents trying to do the best for our children. Opening up to each other, being honest about fears and concerns and being open and honest with each other can be very liberating.

So no, it isn’t a secret. Grace moved. But I will let you in on a secret. She loves it. She is happy. And smiling again. That makes me happy,

Fitter and Faster Swim Tour

Fitter and Faster is offering clinics throughout the US.  These are geared towards the higher level competitor.

This one is being held locally this coming weekend.  I’m not sure we can attend this one but I would love to get my girls to one. I spent some time chatting with their local representative at zones and was really impressed!

High Performance Racing and Mindset

This clinic focuses on the High Performance Racing and Mental techniques, skills, turns, drills, and starts of Olympian Lacey Nymeyer and USA National Team members Tim Phillips and Katie Meili.  The clinic is sponosred by Potomac Valley Swimming and is exclusively for PVS swimmers ages 12 and over.  There will be a special “Raising an Olympian” parent education seminar, led by Olympic parent Stacey Nymeyer (mother of Lacey).


  • PERFECT STREAMLINING AND BODY POSITION: Understanding and practicing how a more streamlined body position can affect your efficiency in through the water is a crucial skill.  Using drills the teach balance and body awareness, Nymeyer and Phillips will show how the slightest changes in core tension will cause your body to rise or sink in the water.
  • EXPLOSIVE AND EFFICIENT STARTS: During the start, energy can easily be wasted when swimmers focus too much on “jumping up,” instead of “driving out and forward.” Learn from Nymeyer, Phillips and Meili on how to use your arms, legs and full body strength for an explosive and efficient start.
  • HIGH SPEED AND “TIGHT” TURNS: Learn how to maintain full speed momentum in and out of each wall and what specific skills to focus on, to achieve a tight, fast turn.
  • PERFECTLY TIMED BREAKOUTS: The breakout stroke is a crucial part of every event, especially in short course racing.  Phillips, Nymeyer and Meili will teach how to achieve a perfect body position and stay “in plane” during the breakout.  This will allow for the most efficient transition from underwater to the surface.


  • Get inside the minds of three of the best swimmers in the world.  Nymeyer, Phillips, and Meili will discuss their approach to goal setting, building an effective relationship with your coach and balancing life as a student-athlete.


  • POWERFUL AND CONSISTENT KICKING:  Nymeyer and Meili will demonstrate the most efficient way for to maximize the freestyle kick and generate power from the legs.  By focusing on maintaining loose and “whip-like” ankles directly under the surface of the water, participants will be able to maintain a more balanced and constant kick throughout their entire race.
  • MAXIMIZE THE “CATCH”: Having a great “pull” is all about maximizing the amount of water you can hold or “catch” during your stroke.  Nymeyer will focus on helping participants maximize the surface area of their hand and forearm, by initiating the catch phase early and getting rid of any unnecessary movements during the pull.
  • HEAD POSITION AND BREATHING: While swimming butterfly the entire body should be moving forward and it begins by leading with the head.  Phillips and Meili will teach to not pick up the head to breathe and minimize the up and down movement during the breath phase.
  • FAST AND EFFICIENT RECOVERY: At the end of the stroke, you snap your arms and hands out of the “back end” of your stroke.  This allows you to use all of the power and momentum from your catch to your advantage and is the best way to keep a powerful and efficient recovery. WATCH THE CLINICIANS: Observe  Nymeyer, Phillips, and Meili swim at full speed and demonstrate a progression of perfectly executed drills to achieve powerful, efficient and fast freestyle and butterfly





Last night as I was preparing for today I was thinking to myself how awesome I was.  I have spent the last two weeks feeling like one of those awesome moms you see on Pinterest.

Two weeks into juggling three schools and along with swimming (three different groups, two different teams and pools 30 minutes apart) things were going much better than I had expected.  The house was tidy.  Dinners were homemade.  Lunches were packed.  I had even filled out every form that the girls brought home from school – that day!  The kids made it to every practice on time and I was feeling good.

Back to last night.  I had the coffeemaker set, lunches prepared, clothes laid out, alarms set and bags packed.  I woke up at 3:45 AM, let the dog out (he was not thrilled) and went to wake up Grace.  I went to pour the coffee into the thermos.  I had forgotten to pour water into the coffee maker, this should have been my first indication that things weren’t going to go well today. Fortunately, I had the time to fill it with water and get my coffee.  Which I don’t drink right away.  I drove Grace to her 4:45 AM practice and settled into my usual routine.  I take a nap in the car.  People think I am crazy.  I’m not.  This is genius. I take a pillow and a blanket and sleep.  I set my phone alarm for 10 minutes before practice is over.  And then I drink my coffee.

Grace came out of the pool pretty quickly.  We are in a hurry to get out of there, we barely get her to school on time.  Unfortunately, Grace had forgotten a key item of clothing and as such I had to take her back home.  This meant she would be late for school and I would have to check her in.

We were close to the house and Sarah called.  She had misunderstood my directions for her to ride the bus, she thought I was taking her.  She had missed the bus and needed me to take her to school as well.  At this point, I needed to get Sophie up and ready for school  Sarah was also going to be late and I would also have to check her in.

Sophie woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  She was cranky and was mad I woke her up ten minutes late, she had math homework she needed to finish up and rather than just do it, she opted to cry for about 20 minutes.  The good news was she was going to get to school on time, albeit in quite a bad mood.

Rather than allow all this to dampen my spirits, I decided to take Teddie for a walk.  One of the downside of being a white and very fluffy dog is that when he picks a hill to poo on sometimes that poo lands all over his white fluffy coat.  None of the girls jumped for joy when I gave them the opportunity to bathe Mr. Teddie.  I feel like I have paid my dues in diaper changing but I got to scrub the fluffy butt clean.

After bathing Teddie and dropping Sophie off at school I decided to give Sarah and Grace a lecture on organization -that they needed to pay attention to the details.  I might have gone on a little long because Grace said “mom stop beating the horse”.  I explained to her that it is a “dead horse”.  She decided I was stupid, that it would be pointless to beat a dead horse.

I won’t lie I was thrilled to get them out of my car today.  Here I was, top of my game in organization and they were completely messing with it.  I could not wait to get to the gym.  I had to make a quick pit stop at home though, I had forgotten to change out of my flip flops.  I probably won’t tell the girls that.  We are ordering pizza tonight.  Next week I’m totally nailing it.  No slip ups.

New beginnings…

I always joke that New Year’s Day for moms is actually September 1st.  Kids are back in school, we are back to the routine.  Everyone vows to be more organized, cook healthier dinners, be more patient with their children and spend more time in the gym.  I’m lucky – I work in the fitness industry so that last one is easy for me.  Thus far I have filled out all the forms, my house is clean, kids are well fed.  I even had dinner prepped and ready to go by noon today.  I’m off to a good start.

Grace is off to high school this year.  I still have mixed emotions about it, those seniors look like grown adults.  Grace is like a baby next to them.  She will always and forever be my oldest baby.  Sarah is enjoying her one and only year in school without a sibling.  She can have her own identity for her middle year in middle school.  Sophie is in her final year in elementary.  I really am sick of elementary school, it has been 9 years straight.  I’m ready to close the door on that chapter.  I can also guarantee that I will be crying about it this time next year.  Where does time go?  They really do grow up too fast.

The new swim season is also upon us – after a two week break they are back in the pool.  I respect and admire the dedication it takes to be a swimmer.  Sarah and Sophie were more than ready to get back in.  Grace seemed to enjoy the break more than she has in years past.  She needed the time out of the water.

Sarah and Sophie will continue in their groups with RMSC.  Sarah is in the National Training Group, Sophie Advanced Juniors.  They love their coaches and all of their friends.

Grace will definitely have a year of new beginnings, she is moving to NCAP.  And there you have it.  My girls will be swimming for competing swim clubs and at pools that are 30 minutes apart.  I’m totally at peace with the decision and feel that her departure from RMSC was done in the best possible way.  There are no words to describe how good it feels to leave on good terms.  I have watched too many people burn bridges.  Some have even taken a stick of dynamite to the bridge.  I couldn’t do that.  I’m really optimistic this is going to work.

It’s interesting that people have a hard time accepting this decision wasn’t made out of anger or frustration and that it was simply made because it was the best decision for Grace.  No, for all of our kids.  Yes, it is going to cost more (we already spend a small fortune, its a marginal difference).  Yes, I will be driving more (I drive all the time anyways).  Yes, meet weekends will be hectic if they are at different meets (because meet weekends aren’t already insane?).  Trust, me I spent enough sleepless nights considering all of this.  And we are still happy we made this decision.

It will be an interesting year, I can’t wait to compare and contrast the different coaching styles.  How my kids respond to these styles.  It will be fun to go to some new meets.  It will be exciting to support two teams.  And make some new friends.  In the end, it really is just swimming.  It’s an individual sport.  How often we forget that.

I can’t wait for the madness to begin.   Good thing that is happening in 32 minutes.

Breaking up is hard to do.

We met with Grace’s coach today and told him.  I had rehearsed the speech many times in my head.  I had a bunch of things planned to say.  They all came out at once.  I was petrified he would be mad.

He wasn’t.  He was so kind. He was sad to see her go but also felt that we made a really solid decision for her.  He completely understood and most importantly told her the door was always open should she want to come back.  The discussion was frank and honest.  I should be so relieved.  I came home and cried instead.

In the end, I am grateful that it was that painful.  My kids are so fortunate to have such amazing coaches.  It’s a good problem to have.

Snap back to reality

After zones we headed out on our annual Florida road trip.  We all needed some down town and we didn’t take as many pit stops on the way down as we have in past years.  The girls were so tired that they slept all the way there.  It was a peaceful ride.   The girls really enjoyed the beach and even more so, took advantage of the break and got some much needed sleep.  I don’t think they were up before noon once.  We spent a lot of time at the beach, shopped, ate way too much and played some fun board games with the grandparents.  Notice I didn’t make mention of a pool?

There is no doubt in my mind that we would be very happy living at the beach.  I often dream about living in Florida or California during the drive home.  This year was no exception.  Moving is a really good option at this point.  It beats dealing with reality.

The truth is, Grace is making some big changes this year, she will be switching to a new team.

This is not a decision that was made lightly.  Or in haste.  Or at least in her mind.  She has been asking us to consider this since early spring.  We are perfectly happy with where she is.  It’s a reasonably priced program, great facility, convenient and the coaches are all great people.  We met with her coach late in the summer season and left satisfied that he is running a great program.  It’s hard to justify leaving.  I have always been an advocate for the club she swims for and I expect that when word gets out some will be scratching their heads.  Some may even say we are crazy.  I’m really nervous about meeting with the coach.  Moving to California would be so much easier.  Really.

I have talked about this a lot but Grace has been very isolated the last two years, swimming with boys or girls much older than she is.  There just aren’t a lot of girls her age at our site, the few that we do have all go to school together, and have since they were 5 – Grace is definitely an outsider.

Grace spent the last few weeks of summer in tears.  Begging and pleading with us to let her move.  I exchanged emails with the coaches of a group she was interested in joining for several weeks. I was always pleased with their responses and responsiveness.  I chatted with parents who have kids in the group at meets and they were all so pleased with the group dynamic and coaching.  Grace finally wore us down and we allowed her to try a practice before zones.  And it was a game changer for her.  Fairly certain this was a done deal, I asked that she really get to know some of the girls in the group.  She did.  She loved them.  It would seem that making a decision of this magnitude would be a relief once finally made.  That was not the case.  Because we had a vacation planned and I had to tell her current coach -as well as her two previous coaches – face to face.  Vacation just stalled the inevitable.

I’m still not really sure how I am going to find the words to explain this decision.  We are leaving a group and club we can find no fault with.  It just isn’t the right fit for Grace.  Sarah and Sophie aren’t leaving and in all likelihood, they won’t.  There isn’t anything they could have done differently or better.  She just needs something different.

Grace is taking a step back, moving into less time in the water and can only stay in this group until next summer.  She is on the older end of the group.  They will focus more on her technique.  She will focus more on her own technique.  We will be watching her like a hawk.  She has to get this right.  Her coach is a female which she found really appealing and there are lots of girls her age in the group, one in particular is a very good friend of hers.  I am confident she will fit in, make friends and above all be HAPPY.

In the end, I am paying more and driving more.  It’s a small price to pay for her happiness.  We believe in her and need her to find the will within herself to find her place.

I’m petrified to tell her coach.  I wish I didn’t like him. I wish he ran a bad program.  I wish the kids and parents in the group were all awful people.  It would be so much easier.  But none of this is the case. We meet on Saturday it will truly be a relief once we have had the meeting.  I toss and turn at night trying to find the words.  I have never been in this situation and this is not going to be easy for us.  But I am convinced it is the right decision.

I’m going to do a better job of sharing my thoughts and emotions in the coming year.  As well as sharing the progress of the girls.  It is going to be interesting – kids on competing teams, pools 30 minutes apart, meets in different locations.  We are also shifting our mindset to that of quality swimming rather than getting caught up in the girls times.  I hope you will share my blog with a friend or two, I love the comments and connecting with parents and coaches who “get it”.

Good luck to all as a new season starts.

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