Grace has her first meet as a 13-year-old this weekend. She turned 13 about an hour ago. Monday to be precise. We still like her, proof that the teen years aren’t as bad as they say…
Her group elected to go to a travel meet for November, rather than our monthly club invitational meet. I was excited, I love all the parents in her group and knew we would have a blast. I didn’t even think about screaming “pick me pick me” when she chose which parent would go. I am at home typing this and dad is on a five-hour road trip with her. Didn’t see that coming.
Going to travel meets at this age is important. The kids know the name, rank and serial number of every kid in our area. Or more precisely, name, winter club, summer club and date of birth including year. I can almost handwrite the psych sheets for our meets. Swimming against different kids, in a different environment becomes an important experience for these kids.
I was petrified to look at the psych sheet. Not because Grace had aged up but because this is a 12 and up meet. At the age of 13 years, 5 days, 4 hrs… Grace would be swimming against 18 year olds. I know she can hold her own amongst 13-14 but how about against grown women? Grace while tall, still is built like a child. Her hips and shoulders are slender and her legs, well, toothpicks. Thirteen is still a baby.
I actually avoided looking at the psych sheet for a day or two. And then curiosity got the best of me. There are 144 swimmers swimming Grace’s best event (100 backstroke). I slowly opened one eye and looked for her name. Started at the bottom (because that is where you are the bottom of your age group right?). I scrolled up to her time and there she was. SEEDED 34th! I thought I had to be reading it wrong so I looked again. She indeed is seeded 34th.
I am pretty sure that Grace could never convince a soccer player that 34th was awesome but she was pretty excited about that.
I have never paid much attention to the age groups above where my kids swim but after looking at this particular psych sheet I learned two very important things.
First of all, when you swim in an area that is swimcentric (such as DC metro) it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you are only slightly above average thus becoming discouraged. Being top 1 or 2 in our local swim club is an almost impossible task, we need to not lose sight that top 10 in this area is a notable accomplishment.
More importantly it was eye-opening to see how tight the times are as we move up in age groups. When kids are under 13, dropping 3 or 4 seconds is realistic. By the time kids are 13, and their times are solid, dropping half a second becomes cause for celebration. Grace moved into 13 with fairly recent best times in her best events. The reality is, we will see small incremental movement in those times in the coming years. Understanding that will help her stay motivated.
Hopefully she will rise to the challenge in the “big girl world of swimming” this weekend. And me? I have to rise to the “big girl world of parenting” from afar. I suspect they are going to have a blast. I am off to a hayride and bonfire. It will be nice to explore the outside world of sports at the end of the season soccer party tonight.