Needs to be said. Just not outloud.

Last spring my kids were bugging me to try a bunch of new sports. Lacrosse, Poms, Basketball, Softball, whatever flyer came home in their backpack, they wanted to do it.

I decided to give it to them straight. They were told that dad and I were:

A. Out of money
B. Out of time

I came up with this brilliant idea that they could participate in anything that was FREE, I didn’t have to drive them to and that I didn’t have to go watch. It’s all about knowing your limitations, something adults understand and kids not so much. We don’t have time for anything else. And when we do I would rather go apple picking with my kids. Life is about apple picking sometimes.

Grace was able to find something that fit my criteria. Her middle school offered cross-country immediately following school and she was able to negotiate transportation home.

Grace swims 5 days a week and none of her practices are easy. In PE they run 1.5 miles twice a week. She is pretty fit and can run a pretty decent mile pace. You would think I would be jumping up and down about this. I have always loved running myself and I coached the girls in Girls on the Run. But I wasn’t happy. I didn’t let it show though. I think she has enough on her plate.

She had a few practices. As I suspected she was pretty decent and was top of the pack in speed. Imagine my surprise (glee) when she came home and told me she wanted to quit.

I know as a parent that I should encourage my children to finish what they start but at what cost? She was finding herself tired by the time she got to swim practice after running for an hour. She was getting her homework done but didn’t feel like she had any down time before going to bed. OH and she said she was starving all the time and didn’t feel like she could eat enough. And her leg hurt.

I let her quit. She tried. It didn’t work out. She didn’t let anyone down and she realized that even though she sometimes wished she could do other sports, when push came to shove, the grass is not greener. But ours is watered with chlorine. She is a swimmer.

I am sure we got talked about. That Grace. So antisocial, always swimming – and now cross-country drop out. Whateves. I can’t make three dinners a night. Two is my limit. I wouldn’t say it to anyone listening but I am glad she quit.

The goals of an eight year old…

Sophie is home sick from school today. She actually came home yesterday and put herself to bed. I didn’t realize it and went to let her know she needed to get ready for swim practice and found her sound asleep. She is my post meet napper but she is always happy to go to swim. When I woke her up she said she was cold and her whole body hurt. Not a good sign. She missed her first swim practice ever for a reason other than a family obligation. She clearly needed her beauty rest.

I kept her home from school today. She came to me an hour ago with her swimming goals written out in a notebook. She had time goals for each event on one page, the next page was filled with details on which groups she was going to swim in, all the way until she went to the Olympics. Wisely, she also chose a Plan B should the Olympics not pan out, she was going to become a swim coach to a future Olympian. Her goals from age 8 to 12 on page one and two were interesting, without actually saying it she very clearly expressed that she wants to follow in her big sisters footsteps. She may not always like her big sister but there is no doubt she respects and admires her.

Page three she ripped out of her journal and for that I am grateful because now I can keep it. She wrote out her own swimming pledge:

I hope I reach it even if I don’t. I hope I tried. I may not be the best but all that matters is that I have fun. Thanks to swim my life has chance. I have swim by my side.

I am not exactly sure what it says but it says absolutely everything.



The “tryhards”

I almost wrecked the car driving to practice last night, I was laughing too hard to pay proper attention to the road.  I was driving one of Grace’s friends, a 13 year old boy.  I don’t have boys and I find him and his take on life so spot on.  And quite hysterical.  I have learned a lot of X-Box speak from him.  I try to work it into my daily life but it doesn’t come out quite so cool from me.

The two were talking about a group of kids in their group and they called them the “tryhards”.  Neither asked the other for clarification as to what that meant or who was in the group and then the story continued.  It was clear this was a common word in their swim speak.  It was also quite obvious what they meant by the term.

After practice I asked Grace why she didn’t want to be a “tryhard” and she said quite simply “oh I don’t want to try, I want to DO”.  Upon further questioning I learned that the kids that were always trying hard were also always trying to beat each other and are very vocal about it.  Apparently, lots of smack talk.

Grace is looking to someday beat everybody.  Not the tryhards, the dohards or the doaslittleaspossibles.  And she hopes they don’t see it coming.  Sneaky.  I like stealth missions…

The little voices

Even though I tell myself not to get sucked in, I can’t get rid of the tiny little voices.  Every parent has them, they keep us up at night and occupy our mind when we should be doing more important things – like the laundry.  Truth be told, I guess I would rather listen to the tiny little voices than do laundry.  But it isn’t very productive.

As a parent we are always deciding, what is best for my child?  We try to find the right balance in making these decisions.  Too much or two little of what is best and everything turns to shit.  Or does it?  I don’t know.

Sarah has swim Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.  Soccer Wednesday, Friday and games Saturday.  Yes, all seven days are covered.  Yes, she has down time and homework is always a priority.  I have found the right balance for her.  It’s all good.  Until something tips the scale.

Sarah has a soccer game Friday night.  The coach decided to call a practice Thursday night since they had a game during their regularly schedule practice.

I worried about this all night last night.  Should I take her to soccer or swim?  The soccer coach has a policy that if you don’t practice you don’t play.  The swim team has no such policy but she has an opportunity on Thursday to swim with the group she is trying to move into.  Coach is looking for dedicated swimmers.

I got the answer I was looking for this morning.  The soccer coach sent an email reminding everyone that there was an OPTIONAL practice tonight and if the kids had any obligations outside of that she totally understood and not attending would not affect game play.  Problem solved.

Until I told Sarah.  She wants to go to soccer.

I think she needs to go to swim.  She thinks she needs to go to soccer.  I have logical reasons.  Hers are emotional.

She is 10.  It would be easy to say I know best.  Or, she is 10.  Who cares?  Let her have fun.  Damn those voices.

Jury is still out as to what we will do.  In the end, she could sit on the couch and watch Honey Boo Boo and her life would not be impacted one tiny bit from missing either practice.

Why can’t it just freaking rain?

Do not get sucked in

Do not get sucked in

Do not get sucked in

I am repeating this over and over in my head.  I have tried really hard to stay in my “happy place” with my kids and their sports.  I don’t want to let those little voices in my head tell me that I am not doing enough, or doing it right or making the right decisions.

This year at the pool I am seeing a whole new level of parent intensity.  Parents are pushing their children and the coaches for more, more, more.  I swear the Olympics are to blame.  Suddenly every child is a future Olympian.

Our club turned away several hundred swimmers this year.  Lanes are a little crowded, especially in the lower level programs and everyone is trying to move their kids up a level.  Even me.

Sarah is actually straddling two groups and was offered the chance to practice with both groups.  This seemed to both of us to be a win-win.  She would have the opportunity to challenge herself being at the bottom of a more advanced group and to also practice as one of the top swimmers in the other group.  It also opened up MORE not less practice options.  What isn’t there to be happy about in this situation?  Nothing.  And I need to keep telling myself this.  Yet I find myself worrying about how to get her into the advanced group full time.  I watch practice and count kids in lanes.  This isn’t me.

Conversation on deck used to be about Nordstrom sales, PTA meetings and 50 Shades of Grey.  Now it has shifted to private coaching, changing swim sites and driving to Baltimore with Phelps swim coach.  Oh my…

Seriously, the notion of taking my slightly above average 10 year old to Baltimore 5 days a week (about an hour drive each way) is just crazy.  Private coaching?  And for a year I have been saying we have the BEST coaches in Montgomery County.  Who is going to coach them that is better?  Video taping my kid?  I find it more entertaining to video their races and set them to LMFAO tunes.  Is everyone losing their mind?  Am I?

I thought I could tune all of this out but what did I find myself doing this morning?  Looking up the top 15 clubs in the country and trying to find a place near one of these clubs we could move.  Because my kid deserves the best and surely the parents there aren’t crazy right?  I just went off the deep end.

Turns out our club is number 16.  And I love it.  I decided to change my perspective.  My kids are just so awesome that they can bring our club into the top 15.  I mean there are three of them…

I saw a friend the other day at the pool with his headphones on.  When he got up to leave I realized they weren’t even plugged in to his phone and he was listening to the most awesome sound of all – silence.  I am channeling my inner Phelps and grabbing some Beats headphones and losing myself in the music.  It isn’t worth it.  I tell myself “do not get sucked in” now I need to make myself do just that.

USA Swimming always says it best

I stumpled upon this article by accident this evening but it really says so much.  This is something really important for all of to remember  – this year in particular, being an Olympic year and all.

Kids need to keep their eye on the prize.  The key to success is not in how good you are at 8 but how hard you work.  A great life lesson



The National Times and Recognition Committee presented the Top 10 single age recognition program at the September 2007 Age Group Development Business Meeting. During this meeting, which involved LSC Age Group Chairs and committee members, the Age Development Committee recommended that the 10 & U age group be dropped as part of the recognized age groups in this program. There was widespread approval and minimal discussion of this proposal. The National Times and Recognition Committee then presented the Top 10 single age recognition program with the amendment of eliminating the 10 & U age group at the USAS Convention. Again, there was little opposition and discussion.

By and large, the decision to recognize 10, and not 16swimmers per event, and the decision to use single-year age groups as opposed to dual-year groups, have caused minimum controversy.


However, there has been discussion regarding USA Swimming’s decision to no longer recognize 10 & Under performances in its current event ranking system. This brief paper contains the rationale of the Age Group Development Committee for this decision.

The rationale is based on three pillars:

Recognize the long-term development of the athlete;

Support USA Swimming and ASCA Foundation of Coaching development process of age group swimming;

Utilize current programs that balance recognition and development, both national initiatives as well as local traditions;


Pillar I: Foundation of Long-Term Development of the Athlete



The focus of the National Age Group Development Committee is to find and promote opportunities for age group swimmers to build a healthy foundation for making swimming a life-long sport. The Committee feels that a key part of building that base as an age group athlete is accomplished by a long-term developmental progression. Programs that enhance this focus are supported by the Age Group Development Committee.


The Committee is continually reviewing the scientific literature on athlete development, to ensure that our proposals and programs are in line with the best available information. A current leader in the theory of long-term training and athlete growth and development is Istvan Balyi. In an article he wrote with Ann Hamilton, “Long-Term Athlete Development: Trainability in Childhood and Adolescence,” Balyi argues,


“Scientific research has concluded that it takes eight-to-12 years of training for a talented player/athlete to reach elite levels… Unfortunately, parents and coaches in many sports still approach training with an attitude best characterized as “peaking by Friday,” where a short-term approach is taken to training and performance with an over-emphasis on immediate results. We now know that a long-term commitment to practice and training is required to produce elite players/athletes in all sports.”


“A specific and well-planned practice, training, competition and recovery regime will ensure optimum development throughout an athlete’s career. Ultimately, sustained success comes from training and performing well over the long-term rather than winning in the short term. There is no short-cut to success in athletic preparation. Overemphasizing competition in the early phases of training will always cause shortcomings in athletic abilities later in an athlete’s career.”

Concurring with this opinion, the Age Group Development Committee believes that recognizing the 10 & Under swimmer nationally puts undue emphasis on short-term accomplishments and it conveys a sense of these young swimmers’ having reached the highest levels of the sport, instead of a rung in a long developmental ladder. In lieu of national recognition of the fastest times in individual events, USA Swimming provides other opportunities that encourages and motivates young swimmers, and that align with its goal of building the healthy base.

Pillar II: Support of the USA Swimming and ASCA Foundation of Coaching development process of age group swimming



USA Swimming has a long-established age group development philosophy regarding the proper emphases in the training of our youngest swimmers:


Working all four strokes and individual medley
Working to improve technique in all four strokes
Developing a proto-aerobic base as the foundation for later training and success in racing for all distances.


This developmental progression is outlined in detail in several USA Swimming publications, most notably the Foundations of Coaching collaboration between USA Swimming and ASCA. There is a progression of programs for both coach and athlete development based upon that philosophy.

The Age Group Development Committee believes that formally recognizing 10 & Under achievement in specific events does not align with its philosophy of long-term development grounded in working all strokes and building a strong base. Instead, it is more appropriate to reinforce with age group swimmers, coaches, and parents the idea that there are more important considerations than simply being fast – for young swimmers, “how you get fast matters most” for their long-term development in swimming.


Pillar III-A: Utilize current programs that balance recognition and development:

National Initiative

USA Swimming’s Individual Medley Xtreme Challenge (or “IMX”) is a national program that encourages all around athlete development. This program requires that 12 & Unders swim five events: 1. 200 Freestyle 2. 100 Backstroke 3. 100 Breaststroke 4. 100 Butterfly 5. 200 IM


Each time a swimmer swims an event the time is converted to a point score. Upon completing the five events each season (short course yards or long course meters) the swimmer will automatically receive an IMX score on his/her My USA Swimming page. Throughout the season, this score is updated with each best time in these events.


It is important to note that the IMX program “works with” common biological pitfalls/challenges, helping both early- and late-maturing swimmers. Age group coaches face the obvious and common problems resulting from swimmers’ uneven and unequal biological maturation every day at practice. They face the challenge of keeping the small and slow-growing swimmer in the sport when most extrinsic motivators (i.e., awards, victories, publicity) are absent. Simultaneously, they face the challenge of getting the big and strong early maturers to train according to their long-term best interests and ignore short-lived motivators (awards, victories, publicity) that encourage them simply to “do what works,” – that is, rely on size and strength rather than train well and develop good technique. It is often challenging to keep the first group in the sport while they await their growth spurts, and it is difficult to keep the second group in the sport as they are “caught” by their later maturing peers during the high school years.


The IMX program gives early maturers the motivation to be well-rounded and not focus on an event or events where their biological advantage may allow them to overcome poor habits. And by rewarding across a spectrum and especially for longer events that respond more to stroke technique work and aerobic training, the IMX program helps retain late maturers.


In review, IMX performance focuses on success and improvement across a broad array of strokes, in particular events more technically and aerobically oriented – and not single-event performance for 10 & Under swimmers. By utilizing IMX as a training, goal setting, and recognition tool, swimmers are rewarded for behaviors consistent with USA Swimming’s development philosophy. The Age Group Development committee feels that emphasizing participation in and formally recognizing high achievement in the IMX program accomplishes these goals more effectively for the 10 and under age group than did the previous National Top 16 program.


Pillar III-B: Utilize current programs that balance recognition and development –

Local Traditions for Swimmer Recognition


It is important to note what will stay the same. We are obviously not doing away with single-event racing. Age Group athletes will still race the 50 fly or the 50 back at meets, and they will still be given times and awards based on their times for individual events. Swimmers will still be excited and motivated by improving their best times in the 50 free and 100 IM. Finally, every team will continue their recognition traditions through team banquets, most improved trophies, best technique honors, spirit awards, etc.


The Motivational Times Standards list will still help swimmers find motivation to get faster. In fact, the technology advances have made it easy for any swimmer to obtain his/her national ranking for his/her age group for any event and distance. That capability is available to everyone to monitor an athlete’s progress at any point in time for either short course or long course events. With the advances made in the SWIMS database software, there does not have to be a single point in time for that tool to be used in measuring performance goals set by the athlete and coach. It constantly gives the athlete and coach the opportunity to modify those goals as the age group swimmer continues to improve.

Further, it is important to make clear the committee’s intentions. We do not mean to diminish 10 and under athlete’s accomplishments – but we do want to steer that accomplishment into one stream rather than another, and to ensure that the foundations of that accomplishment are strong, secure, and long-lasting.

Nor do we mean to discourage fast swimming – but we do want that speed to be broadly-based and founded on good technique.

Nor do we mean to discourage competition – but we do want that competition to include the full range of strokes and events.


In summary, the landscape of age group teams and competitive swimming remains much the same. The Age Group Development Committee believes that the best motivation and encouragement for 10 & Under swimmers come not from formal national rankings but rather from sources closer to home – their teams, their coaches, and their families. These powerful sources remain.


The Age Group Development Committee supports the Time and Recognition Committee’s decision to eliminate the 10 & Under category in the National Recognition program. Every reward system is based on values and philosophy; in our recognition program, we want to measure, and we want to reward, those things we consider most important. We want to reinforce those behaviors we consider most beneficial to the swimmers involved. This means we want to encourage well-rounded swimming development across the four strokes, technical development, and aerobic base development among our youngest competitive swimmers. We believe that emphasizing existing USA Swimming and local programs for 10 & Unders best serves the long-term growth of these age group swimmers.

That is my table

I speak in hyperbole, sarcasm, gross over exagerration and self deprecation.  It’s my way of making light of the madness of my reality.

When I say that I live at the pool though I mean that – quite literally.  We are there 7 days a week, most evenings for 3 hours at a time.  My kids bathroom hasn’t been used in months, all their showers are taken at the pool.  It’s not like they would use it anyways, for some reason everyone likes to congregate in our bathroom.  I don’t get it.  But that isn’t the point either.

I consider myself the “Norm” of our pool.  I have a table.  It is mine.  My favorite table is the first one as you walk in the door.  I picked it because I am lazy.  This table is the first one I pass on my way in, I wouldn’t want to tax myself too much walking to table #2 and heaven forbid I walk the extra 20 feet to table #5.  No, I am happy with my front and center table.

I am not a table bully.  I happen to be a chronically early person.  This promptness as I like to call it is a OCD of sorts.  May be the only one I have but it is mine and I own it.  Many hours of my life have been waisted waiting for things to start.  I am good with that.  Being late is too stressful.  As a result of my “promptness” I am usually the first mom at the pool.  Claiming my table is easy, I simply plop my handbag and magazines down and I own myself a piece of prime real estate.  (Did I mention there is a power outlet right behind my table?)

Imagine my shock when I walked in the other day and there sat a man.  With two of his children.  Did he miss the memo?  I sat there 7 days a week for a year buddy.  Get up.

Any confrontation that I have with other people is in my head.  Yeah, I am a wimp. Even my imaginary confrontation makes we want to cry.  Not my thing.  Besides, it isn’t really my table and no, I don’t really “live” at the pool.  It just feels that way.

THIS is what I get for doing a drive by drop off and going to the store for one stupid loaf of bread.  The end result – I had to sit on a couch.  It wasn’t very comfy. My kids thought I was watching practice as the couches face the pool.  And there were no seats available for my friends.  It was torture.  I also realized that “the people of the couches” talk about swimming.  Torure.  No one had the new Nordstrom catalog.

I am heading over early today.  I am willing to arm wrestle him for it.  Or maybe one of his kids, he could probably take me in arm wrestling.

I may be a bit territorial about my table but if you see me at it, feel free to join me.  It isn’t an exclusive club, sitting with me that is…Anyone can join me, the more the merrier.  I like my friends to be comfy in my home.  (I wish we could figure out how to bring wine and get some yummy nachos delivered).

Kids hanging out at “home”

I blame you Ryan,

Michael, Katie and Missy for all that is wrong in my world right now – including the night of sleep I missed out on last night because I was really busy staring at the ceiling.

I should have seen it coming.  It was after all, an Olympic year.  And a glorious one at that.  OF COURSE millions of future gold medal wannabes are going to show up for swim team registration.  Well, a couple hundred at least. I was pleased to see it.  I have always one to encourage people to participate in the sport of swimming.  Especially my friends.  I like to sit with the cool kids at meets.  As long as my happy boat isn’t rocked, it is all good…

At the end of last years season Sarah was between two groups and was starting to practice some with the next higher group.  I thought it was a foregone conclusion that she would be in the  higher group this year.  As a formality, several of them that were in the same situation, had to come to the first evening of new swimmer evaluations to be officially placed in the group.  Or that is what we thought would happen.  What we didn’t know was that several hundred kids were going to show up on night one of two, in the hopes of also joining the group.  All would be well, IF there were several hundred spots open.  There were about 30.  A handful of kids were invited back to practice this week and continue the evaluation.  Most were sent away empty handed – heading back to the drawing board, looking for a team that has space available.  That in and of itself was heart breaking to watch.  Many of my friends were turned away, most with children who are very good swimmers.

Where does this leave Sarah?  Well…she will be in one of two groups.  The lower group has too many kids in it and she would be top of the group (from my previous post you already know I am not of a fan of that).  The higher group has more kids testing the waters this week (pun intended) than there are available spots.  She is one of them.  In other words, we don’t know.  I know that I don’t want her in the lower group.  I want her to be challenged, I like the coach, the practices are longer and more often.

She starts the evaluation tonight. I have given her specific instructions.  Work hard, be quiet, listen to the coach and puke if you have to in order to finish each set.  (In Grace’s group they get a milkshake if they puke from practicing too hard, don’t judge, it is a fable of sorts).  If this was a Toddlers and Tiaras episode I would give her a Red Bull and a Pixie Stix.  Sarah is hyper enough, I may play yoga music on the way to the pool to keep her calm.

The worst thing that could happen?  There isn’t one, she is guaranteed a spot as a returning swimmer.  I just have a desired outcome.  My heart goes out to all those families that didn’t get in.  It will work out.  It has to, I need my sleep!

I am really glad I didn’t listen to my kids and let them sign up for gymnastics.  I can only imagine….

Darn you Ryan.

It’s just like buying a house

Aside from the age old adage – location, location, location – it is also a truth in real estate that you never want to own the best house in the neighborhood.

I try instill this same principal in raising my children and in my own personal relationships.

I am a firm believer that we are better off if we surround ourselves with people better than we are. Those that are more educated, perhaps more athletically inclinded, even those that dress better than we do. Why? I like people who challenge me. Challenge me to be a better person or a better parent. Or even to take a shower in the morning.

As a parent, I want the same for my children. I want them to spend time with kids who care about academics. I encourage them to seek out friends who are over acheivers and want more out of life than a GED and a house on wheels. It isn’t about material wealth but the understanding that knowledge is power. That physical and mental strength can counquer antyhing.


In the course of parenting I come across many people who are looking for their kid to be the best. The smartest, fastest, highest acheiver amoung their peer group. But instead of acheiving this through effort, they create an artificial world in which their child is the “best”. I call this “dumb it down parenting”. These parents actively seek teams, clubs and cliques where their children shine.

I am starting to see this in swimming. Parents moving their children to summer teams where their child IS the fastest. Searching out clubs where they will be the best OR only in an age group. I don’t see any benefit to this.

An exact year ago, we moved the kids to a large swim club. None of our girls would be the “top” of anything within the club. They were challenge, motivated and pushed beyond a place they had ever gone. And they rose to the challenge. All three had remarkable years.