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.

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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…)

Win, lose or draw

That is how I feel about swim meets. With three girls swimming we rarely win. A win for me means that all three girls do well. Lose? All three leave in tears. More often than not the meets are a draw. Between the three girls we can count on some great swims, a few good, mediocre and even a bad swim here and there. It happens.

I really like long course season. It’s a shorter season for us – 4 months long. The timing of the season is great too. After 8 months of short course the kids have usually squeezed the most out of their times. There are only 4 long course meets and the kids usually find success in each of them.

We went into the first long course meet with three different strategies. Grace’s coach opted to swim her off events. Sarah’s coach went with her best events. Sophie’s chose races that he thought she could see some improvement in. All three strategies were brilliant.

Grace has always been a backstroker. Lately it has been her nemesis. She didn’t swim it. She swam fly and free with a 200 breast thrown in to torture her. Given the fact she has never swam the 200 breast (and hoped she never would) it was a guaranteed best time. In the end, she didn’t drown and she had five great swims. She went into the meet pretty beat up and sore from the last few weeks practice and was able to squeeze out some good swims. I am confident that she will benefit from a summer of challenging practices and a good taper. She came into the season with three zones cuts. I’m optimistic she will get many morning and hopeful for a few sectional cuts.

Sarah, who up until three months ago, had never made Junior Olympics, decided to set her sights a little higher. She wanted a zones qualifying time this long course season. She did it the easy way, rather than spending the whole season wondering if she would get the time, she made her first cut at the first meet. She is certainly setting herself apart as a true competitor. My husband always said that if her talent were to ever catch up with her drive….watch out world. Her talent is shining through now.

Sophie just turned 10 so long course is still really new to her. I think the pool looks huge, I can’t imagine being 10. She isn’t the least bit intimidated by it. She did really well on all of her swims and came close to a few zones times. She didn’t swim 50 or 100 fly, two races she should get the qualifying time in. She will swim those in a few weeks. She did swim 200 fly. Yes, 200 fly long course. Less than a month after turning 10. And she rocked it. She also rocked a few kids world. She swam faster than a few 16 year olds. Most importantly, her very last stroke was as beautiful as the first! I was worried she would DQ it! Instead she made the 12 and under JO cut and is the 4th fastest 10 year old in the country according to USA Swimming. I recognize that not a lot of 10 year olds swim that race. But Sophie does. (She also admitted to liking it!).

In the end, it was a great meet. All three girls did really well! I was proud of them, their hard work is paying off.

April showers

Brings long course season. The girls are always happy for the change.

Speaking of change, both Grace and Sarah have changed groups. Sarah moved into what was once called “Grace’s group”. We now call it by its rightful name NDG’s. Grace made the decision to move into the National Training Group. This was not an easy decision for her, she has been debating where she wanted to swim (group, location and club) since September. I was prepared for her to ask to move and was somewhat surprised when she didn’t.

She had the option to “time share”. In other words, she didn’t have to jump into the new group with both feet, she could opt to practice with both groups. Grace had been with her coaches for three years and has developed a strong bond with both of them. I thought for certain that if she moved to the NTG’s she would also continue to practice with her former group.

I was wrong about that as well.

It isn’t easy for her to get to practice. It’s a high school group and she is in middle school. I pick her up from school and she heads straight to practice. She eats in the car and changes at the pool. She is accustomed to a few hours of down time between school and practice. She now has none.

She also jumped from 5 to 7 practices, all of which are more challenging. She has handled the transition with Grace and appears to be doing well. She is still unsure of the coach, he is very different from what she is used to – not necessarily a bad thing, change is good.  He may be exactly what Grace needs.

Sarah is struggling in her new group. The practices are also more challenging for her. She went from top dog to low man. Thanks to Grace though we have a great relationship with the coaches. They have both done a wonderful job keeping her motivated and encouraged. Her times at meets are amongst some of the fastest in the groups. The coaches are convinced that once she improves her conditioning she will really be amazing. It’s nice to see them believe in her.

Sophie is just thrilled to have her group all to herself! She has great friends and feels very comfortable in the group.

While it is a lot of work (driving) having the kids in three separate groups, it also is what makes the most sense. I have spent most of this year questioning if they are in the place they need to be. I’m finally confident that they are. I’m looking forward to what lies ahead.