flylikeagirl

Crazy Swim mom

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.

As luck would have it

Grace hasn’t done well at zones. She swam yesterday and today, adding time in both races. Sarah did well yesterday – she dropped a tiny bit in her 50 breast. Sophie, added time in her 100 fly but her stroke looked good. And she is ten.

OUr LSC makes zones really fun for the kids. It’s like camp. With a side of swimming. The kids travel by bus, stay in a hotel, eat their meals together, cheer each other on when they aren’t swimming and they wear a team uniform everywhere they go. Those that make finals go back. And the lucky ones, those that don’t make finals, they go to various activities. It’s camp pure and simple. It is also Sophie’s first time away from home. She was definitely nervous. But also quite ready for the experience. It truly is the experience of a lifetime for these kids. They wear their zones jacket with pride for a month afterwards. Despite the fact that it is the dead of summer.

Chris and I drove separate cars to the meet. I’m taking the girls to Florida for our one and only summer vacation. Chris will head back to work. It was the first time all summer I have been alone. I drove in silence. Deep in thought. As we move into a new season, a lot of thoughts are rolling through my head. Decisions, have been made, indecision and regret soon follow. I have experienced guilt and gratitude over this decision. But when all is said and done, thoughts done being rolled around, I am still at piece with the decisions we have made. And then I change my mind again. I’m looking forward to our vacation but I’m also anxious for September. We can put the thoughts behind us and begin the real work.

Grace is going to make a move backwards. She is going to spend the better part of next year mastering the basics of swimming. We are absolutely convinced it going to be a game changer for her. Sarah and Sophie will benefit from this as well. We have learned from past mistakes and we are going to stop making those mistakes again.

As a swim family, we are going to take a year off from “times”. We are going to stop focusing on best times, adding time, dropping time, qualifying time and everything else related to a number. It’s easy to get caught up in that number but it really isn’t the best predictor of success. It’s been a tough lesson to learn but lots if people can swim fast. Very few can swim well. And those that do will find the success in the long term.

Our eye is on a new prize. We want our children to swim well this year. And with that, they shouldn’t need any luck at all.

Here’s to new beginnings.

The silver lining

The more my kids swim, the more I hate summer swim team. Nice huh? I am so jealous of the kids who swim “B” meets. They give out heat winner ribbons and the meets aren’t scored. I remember being at a B meet – Sophie was all of six years old and finally broke a minute on her 25 back. She is now doing it in 18 seconds. And pissed off that it is too slow.

I go into summer swim season pretty excited. And by week 3 I am completely over it. It can make you completely crazy.

Summer swim completely favors sprinters. The distances are usually shorter than what the kids are used to. Grave swims 50’s which is unheard of for 13-14 and poor Sophie swims 25’s at 9-10. Sarah, swimming as an 11-12 is In her glory.

Divisionals – the final meet of the season – was a mess for us. Sarah did great. Sophie did a decent job. And Grace spent most of the meet in tears, getting beat by kids who can’t take her in a 100 and certainly not In a 200. But in 50? Grace didn’t stand a chance. It was heartbreaking. Grace put her arms around me when the meet was over. Head on my shoulders. Tears flowing.  I was ready for summer swim to be over.  Grace really was at a breaking point, she was adamant that she was not going to continue swimming in the fall.  To be honest, I thought it was a good idea.

They say the “lucky” ones make All-Stars.  The top 16 in the county for each age and stroke compete against one another. This meet is held the weekend after divisionals.  Day 1 is All-Star relays.  Day 2, the individual strokes.  I’m not really sure the lucky ones go to all-stars, the week after divisionals we see a mass exodus of swimmers, everyone heads out on vacation.  Aside from those of us “lucky” enough to compete for one more week.

The girls were each in three relays, several competing together.  They did really well in all of them, getting a few seconds place finishes and all of the relays shaved off time.  They swam in a medley relay together and did really well.  It was fun to see them come together in competition.  I’m not used to that.

The following day was the individual competition.  Grace had two solid swims, swimming right at and just below her seed times in free and back.  Sarah took off over half a second, besting her team record and earning a plaque for her third place finish. Sophie shaved a little time off her fly and was beyond thrilled to never have to swim 25 fly again.  She may be the only kid in MCSL who would prefer a 50 and ideally would love to swim 100!  Everyone left smiling and happy.  More importantly, Grace left with a renewed interest in swimming in the fall.  She also was about to launch a one man crusade to change her path in swimming….

Vacation time?  Not so fast.  Monday morning, the girls had practice.  They leave for Zones on August 5th.   And then the new season starts September 1st.  Swimming feels like a perpetual season.  Although I am pretty sure we are about to embark on a season of change.

 

Goals, dreams, heartbreaks, challenges

It’s been a rough six months. I have sat here for ten minutes trying to come up with an opening line and everything I type is just sugar coating the truth. The truth is the last six months have been awful. And amazing.  And above all else, really challenging.

My younger two girls have had a great year.  They both have far surpassed any goals that they had set for themselves, both making zones and seeing a lot of success along the way.  There have been many exciting moments. They have made finals at some big meets, qualified for zones, and both qualified for Coaches Long Course – a county wide meet that only the top 8 swimmers in each age and stroke qualify for.  Having seen Grace qualify for these events over the years, they understand the significance of these things.  Sarah and Sophie have both had a fantastic season but it has not been without disappointment.  Most recently, the Coaches Long Course meet was rained out after the free style event and Sarah didn’t get an opportunity to swim breast, Sophie her fly.  Too add to their disappointment, Grace swam free style and was awarded a big, beautiful, shiny medal.  Neither of them did particularly well at the summer champs meet.  Sarah’s breast stroke was off, the coaches were tweaking it and she didn’t have good swims.  Sophie swam like the ten year old she is, she lost her goggles on her 100 fly and due to a sloppy starter, she was not on the block for her 400 free.  She jumped up and dove in but everyone had a good 15 second lead on her at that point.  She did swim a beautiful 200 fly, a 12 and under event.  She was the only 10 year old to swim it and needless to say, she impressed me on her willingness to swim it, let alone do it well.

Grace has had a really rough year.  In September she had dreams of making sectionals before turning 14.  Her birthday came and went, and that sectionals cut became more and more elusive.  Her times through the fall and early spring remained consistent.  Flat, yet consistent.  In April she made a bold move and moved into the National Training Group.  She took on a harder training schedule – more distance and more practice.  She was dedicated to the practice group and has worked hard.  We knew going in that we should not expect time drops for quite a while, that her body needed to adapt.  What we didn’t expect was that she would be swimming slower than she was a year ago.  I keep hearing that this is normal but it is heart breaking.  For her.  And for me.  She has a had a few shining moments but they are far and few between and not enough to help hold hope.  She is discouraged and frustrated.

We have pushed her pretty hard to ensure she wants to stay in the sport.  We gave her permission to quit.  She lost her mind.  We needed to see that.  The fight in her is still there.  We gave her permission to change groups.  What we didn’t prepare for was her asking to change sites, groups and clubs.

She wants to move to a new team.   One that is significantly more expensive.  Much further away.  And logistically a nightmare for us (me).  I really want to give her this opportunity.  I want to say yes.  But for now I have to say no.

One of Grace’s issues is that she has some technical problems.  She tends to swim sloppy.  Everyone that has ever coached Grace adores her.  They also cringe when she swims.  There comes a point when you have to accept responsibility as a swimmer for these issues.  We can’t blame the coaches, they have all gone above and beyond the call of duty to help her out.  Grace at some point needs to square up with the fact that she needs to change the way she swims.   Oh.  And that point is now.

We turned down her request to move.  We made a pact with her.  We are meeting with her coach to develop an action plan.  We are going to hire an independent coach to work with her one on one.  She has to stay on course until her birthday, November 5th.  She will leave the world of age group swimming and if she does proves to us through her swimming that she wants this, we will move her anywhere she wants to go (I’m up for California but I think the territory will be limited to Maryland).

My life will be a living hell if she makes the changes she needs to in order for this move to happen.  And I am totally fine with that.  She told us last night that she hates us and that we are the worst parents that ever walked the face of the earth.  I think she meant it.  She is a resilient little shit though, today she wanted to go to the mall.  Oh and wanted to know when she could start the private coaching.  My money is on Grace.  She can do this.  For her own sanity, she has to.  I love her to the ends of the earth.

AMeetVsDarnestownGAM182-vi

 

 

Whose birthday is it?

Only the die hard swim at 5:30 AM.  Only the dedicated swim on a holiday.  And the crazy?  They swim at 5:30 AM on the 4th of July in a steady, cold rain.  My kids were none too happy that today wasn’t the day we “accidentally” missed our alarm.

Photo: You might be a badass if you swim in the rain on the 4th.

It is a tradition in our club that birthdays are celebrated with Donuts.  I saw it fitting that today after practice the kids had donuts.  Many of them were confused, knowing it wasn’t Sarah or Sophie’s birthday.  A few understood right away, some as they were leaving.

 

Kelly Hoffman Elliott's photo.

And some?

Photo: It's a Swim, Eat, Sleep kind of dayIt was going to take a long nap.

Happy Birthday to our Independence.  Hope you all have a happy 4th of July!

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The crack of dawn

Last Friday morning I was awakened by the most glorious sunlight streaming in my bedroom window.  I could hear birds chirping.  For half a second I thought I was dreaming.  And they panic hit.  My heart rate soared and I grabbed my phone.  I had ten missed texts.

“where are you”
“are you up”
“we are outside”
“are you alive”
“hello”
“hello?”…”hello?”…”hello?”…”hello?”…”hello?”…

Because the girls swim at different pools we have an elaborate carpool system set up.  Not ONE but TWO people had come to our house at 5AM to get my girls (remind me to fire Teddie as a watchdog) – we not only slept through our alarm but also people beating on our door and ringing our bell.

After the panic subsided I was hit with another wave of it.  I was responsible for bringing three kids home from the practice Sarah and Sophie attend.  I knew that it was game over for Sophie, she needs a solid 15 minutes to get up and doesn’t do well with any variation of the schedule.  Grace’s practice was too far away for me to get her to it.  So I drug Sarah, half asleep to the car.  She put her suit on in the car, all the while crying because she was hungry, had to pee, had not brushed her teeth and was going to be embarrassed for being 30 minutes late.  Me?  I hadn’t had a drop of coffee, the car needed to use autopilot, I was in uncharted territory driving without caffeine.   I did a rolling stop in front of the pool and told Sarah to use the restroom and then race downstairs.  I would park and come apologize to the coaches.

By the time I had parked, Sarah was back at the door.  Tears streaming down her face.

“Mom, you are at the WRONG pool”….

At this point, I couldn’t torture her anymore.  I took her back home, told her to go back to bed and made a pot of coffee.  I filled my 20 OZ Hello Kitty Tervis Tumbler with coffee and raced to the correct pool to bring my carpool kids home.  When I walked in I saw panic on the coaches faces as they scanned the pool wondering where my kids were.  By 8AM I was in full blown “worse day ever” mode.

An intense workout at the gym helped soften the blow and I then took the girls to lunch and shopping for birthday presents for dad.  We had a quiet dinner at home and by 8PM all peace was restored.  (A glass of wine also helped).

At the swim meet the next day my girls were on fire.  They all swam really well.  I was asked in front of the coach what they did differently to which I laughed and said “they skipped practice yesterday”.  The coached joked that I shouldn’t tell people that.  I was then asked what they had for breakfast.

Yeah, they had donuts.

We all have our moments.  And everything is always fine in the end…Glad to have worst day ever over.  (#136 worst day ever)

I feel the need for speed.

Or to slow down.  Maryland State Champs was a few weeks ago.  It is a long course meet that is close to home and held out and outdoor pool.  I enjoy being outside for meets, all of our summer meets are held at our door pools but most PVS meets are not only indoors but most of the facilities are terrible.

Grace already has three zones cuts and Sarah had one.  Sophie had not swam her best events (50 and 100 fly) in a long course meet.  I was optimistic she would make both of them at this meet.

Grace’s expectations were low for this meet.  Her coach does not taper them for this meet.  As a matter of fact, they had an early morning practice the day the meet started.  This is uncharted territory for us, I’m having a hard time going to a meet with the expectation that she won’t do well.  I need to get used to it, this seems to be the norm amongst high school swimmers swimming in the National Training Group with our club.  She did hammer out an impressive 50 free, which made me hopeful for her first tapered meet.  I’m anxious for that meet, I miss the glory days of dropping time and I know Grace does too!

Sarah and Sophie both had a great meet, dropping time in all of their swims.  Sophie got her 100 fly zone cut and missed the 50 by a few tenths of a second.  She swam both races in the slowest heat and pulled out a second and a fifth place finish.  I can’t wait to see her race these with some competition.  Sarah was a top contender in several events over the weekend.

I was doing the meet solo, Chris was out of town helping his mother out.  I thought it was going to be a painful weekend but it turned out great.  I spent some time with friends and got a great tan.  It was a fun weekend.

My fun was short lived, a week after the meet I got three speeding tickets in the mail – violations captured by a speed camera.  I thought the speed limit was 35.  It is not.  It is 25.  The weekend was costly, we now have three girls going to zones and I have three tickets to pay.  I’m taking a cab next time I go to that pool.

This is a fun photo from the weekend, Sophie’s coach is the goofball in the lower right corner and Sophie is the big mouth next to them.  She is an amazing coach that never lets these girls forget that swimming is FUN!  We love her.

It’s game time…

Memorial Day Weekend is something I always look forward to. Summer is my favorite time of the year, I love the hot weather and having the kids home from school.

We decided to kick off our summer with a two night camping trip to the Shenandoah Mountains – away from the hustle and bustle, no showers no phone service. Aside from the natural beauty that was surrounding us, one of the very first things we discovered was that there really are bears in the mountains. I won’t lie, I was a little nervous, seeing a bear immediately upon entering the park. Luckily, that was our one and only visit from a bear. Our best friends came, this was our third camping trip with them. Chris’ brother’s family also joined us and they were a great addition to our trip.

We made it back early on Sunday. Monday we made our annual pilgrimage to the “pool opening”.  I’m thrilled that despite all of the time we spend at the pool, my kids still love going.

Summer marks a crazy time for us, the girls club swim and swim with their summer team.  We have weekly summer league meets, along with several club long course meets.

Despite the madness I love it.  As we finish out our school year I definitely feel like I am in “Ready, Set, Go” mode.  Let the fun begin.

The competition is good?

As much as I like Long Course season, it also comes at a time when parents and kids are running out of steam.  After a long winter, the weather is finally nice.  The kids would prefer to be outside with their friends over swimming laps at an indoor pool.  Parents are getting tired of the countless trips to the pool and quite honestly, I wouldn’t mind sitting on a deck sipping a margarita on a nice evening.  End of the year activities are ramping up at school, as are exams.  Summer can’t get here soon enough.

Many kids who can normally handle the competitive aspect of swimming are now cracking under the pressure of it.  Kids who have just aged up are upset because they aren’t making the qualifying meets they went to in their younger age groups.  I have seen many swimmers post best times and get out of the pool in tears because they were beat by friends.  Having been through the ups and downs of swimming, I’m very grateful that my girls are all top of their age group through summer season and have the qualifying times they need.  Everything they add on top is a bonus.  Grace is soon to leave the world of age group swimming, becoming a “senior” swimmer.  I had to explain to Sophie that it didn’t mean Grace would be swimming against her dad, an old dude in her book.

Sophie and I had a conversation recently about one of her friends who is really struggling with her friends posting better times than she does, despite the fact that she consistently gets best times based on her own swims.  Sophie said it better than I ever could.  She said “swimming is a competitive sport.  It’s what you sign up for.  You have to expect the competition and keep working harder”.

Having just swam 200 fly Long Course as a 10 year old and crushing it, Sophie was in fact beat by another 10 year old.  By nearly ten seconds.  Sophie said “you know what?  I’m glad that “T” beat me.  Had she not, I would have probably thought I was the best.  I’m not.  I also know I can do better because she did”.

Isn’t that just the most amazing way to view competition?  As a testament to what is possible?  I sit and watch “T” swim in awe.  She is so fast.   I think to myself “when does she age up?  what does she eat for breakfast?  how often does she train?”  And Soph is thinking, “yep, I can do that too, I just need to work harder”.  My 10 year old is smarter than I am.  (Of note, Sophie has been recognized by several coaches and a few friends for working harder in practice the last few weeks).

We just had a child leave our club because the parents were unhappy.   They wanted their child to be the best in the group and get extra attention and it wasn’t happening.  I don’t understand that mentality.  There shouldn’t be a “star” in swimming, especially at a young age.

The strong survive the competition of this sport.  Strong heart, strong head, strong body.  (And mom needs a margarita from time to time…)

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