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.




10 thoughts on “Goals, dreams, heartbreaks, challenges

  1. Been there. More than once. My advice is to do what is best for your family. We made the switch to a bigger team thinking there would be advantages. It was a tremendous sacrifice of time and money. We watched with horror as his times stalled with no improvement over a two year period. So we moved him back to the smaller team which is right down the street. He is beginning to see improvement but it is gradual and we have to live with the fact that making a sacrifice did not pay off and actually did more damage. You were right to say no because of the disruption it would cause your whole family. When she wants it bad enough she will fight for it in practice.

    • Thank you for your comment. Swimming is a rough sport, it is so in your face when you aren’t doing well. These kids are learning to fight, it is a hard but valuable life lesson.

      • So true. What we have learned (the hard way) is that every swimmer goes through peaks and valleys. You would think that they would consistently drop time if they are doing all the “right” things but that isn’t always the case. There are so many variables (especially during puberty) that cannot be controlled. Hang in there. It is still the best sport ever! BTW, my site on Blogger and is public at http://www.swimteamlifestyle.com. Please try again!

  2. So hard to watch your kids struggle but as we all know swimming is peaks and valleys and everyone experiences it – at every level. I also firmly believe that you have to make decisions for your family, not for one individual child, that’s how families work, and kids have to adapt and work with what you give them. If swimming were easy, I can guarantee there would be a lot more swimmers out there! Sounds like you are raising some great, passionate kids!

  3. One thing to consider is that as she makes these changes she may realize that she is in the right place after all. It is easy to consider moving to another team when you are struggling where you are, particularly when you have had such success previously. That whole the grass is greener on the other side. Plateau’s suck sadly they hit everyone at some point. As you pointed out the move to the National Training Group makes a big difference, her body will take a while to get used to the more intense training, stay the course! I love that you are willing to involve her coaches in devising an action plan. Many times you hear of people jumping teams without ever talking to the coaches and trying to come up with a plan.

    Now I will go the other route. Sometimes a different team, different set of coaches is just what someone needs. Does it work all the time no, does it work sometimes yes. I always consider the following when talking to a swimmer/family about moving sites/teams. Why do you want to make the change? What changes are YOU willing to make on a new team? What will be different? At times I have gotten real answers, at other times not. It is hard as a coach to let a swimmer go (particularly one you have invested a lot of time in) but sometimes you have to because at that moment in time it is the right thing to do for both the swimmer and the coach.

    Great example is I had a family that swam with my from learn to swim till mid age group swimming. At that point I realized that our program would not end up being the right place for them at that point in time. Once they came to me voicing the same concerns that I had thought to myself we as a group(parents, swimmer and myself) we worked on finding them the right team for them for that time. 3 years later they are back on my team but what that swimmer needed at that time was in fact somewhere else(different coaches/different kids).

    I wish you all luck as you travel down this path. As the other posters and yourself have said this is a tough sport. There are very high high’s and ver low low’s. Good luck to all three girls at Zone’s. Hope they have great swims but also have fun!

    • I absolutely agree with everything you have said. I actually feel a tremendous amount of loyalty to our club and coaches. The best case scenario, Grace applies herself and knocks out a few sectional cuts at one meet. Of course we have told her she can move if she applies herself and makes the changes she needs to make. And then what? We move? It won’t be easy that is for sure. Grace’s biggest problem is that there are literally no girls in her group at her level, and none of them swim backstroke. The social piece has been and continues to he a huge problem for her. The coach may not love us if we leave but we will bring him on board well before it happens. We don’t have problems with him or his group. It just may (or may not) be the right fit for Grace. I hope he is as understanding and willing to work with us as you are your swimmers! You are a great coach!

      We met with the coach and assistant coach the other day and I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted from my emotional shoulders. I need to put my thoughts down about the meeting.

      As far as zones go, I have never cared how they swim there! I want them to have a blast. It is a well earned trip for them. It’s all about the swag!

      • Well then in that case fun first and get all the cool zones gear! I know our kids are excited to pick up their zones gear before they fly out next weekend for our zone meet in Federal Way. It should be a lot of fun. Next year the Western Zone meet is Hawaii, here is to hoping I end up on staff for that one!

        The social aspect of this is huge for sure. It is very hard to stick with it without a great group of friends/competitors. Does your team only have one NTG or are there ones just at different sites?

  4. Your Grace is 15 months older than my daughter. I haven’t read you blog in a long time, but you framed something for me today that totally makes sense. My daughter ‘C’ is the one who will go to any practice any where any time. During the fall/winter season of 2012/13 a few girls in her crew got moved up to the next level. She did not. She made it her mission that season to prove herself. She did. She killed that season. I had high hopes for many more drops in the Summer that followed. Well, in the Summer she got moved to the next group up. But I think she rested a bit too much in the offseason. That and going from 1.5 hour practice to 2 hour practice really messed her up. She plateaued. Summer was ugly. She didn’t hit the same times as she did in the winter. Then came the next fall/winter season. It got even more ugly. Times were terrible. I was at my wits end. She did finally start to drop at the very last meet of the season. Well on the first day of the meet. She didn’t get to swim the second day of the meet because she spent the night in the bathroom. And she had just aged-up so she didn’t have a cut. Season over. You framed it well for me talking about moving up a level in practice and going backward in times. It was an adjustment for her for sure.

    I give the kid credit she never gave up. She did some offseason workouts in the pool. She worked hard in the Summer and this Summer she made those cuts she wanted.

    I will say I am lucky that C won’t change teams. There is a lot around that decision, but she wants to stay and wouldn’t think about leaving. Helps when your team is considered the best in the area. Now I have thought a lot about swimming with my C. She isn’t the best and never will be tall enough to be totally awesome. I have a couple of guidelines I go by as a swim parent. Never ever pressure a kid to get a cut or time. My job as a parent is to provide a good opportunity to my swimmer and provide the best information I can to her. What she does with it is her choice. That is really all I can do. The other thing I have tried to do is pass along the ownership of the whole process to her. She needs to want to go to practice for herself. She needs to want to eat right. She needs to want to sleep enough. I have seen parents fight with swimmers about practice. I won’t do it. My only rule is a min number of practices to stay on the more expensive team. If you want to back off we will go to the cheaper closer team. That is all.

    I have told her on numerous occasions if she is ready to quit then do it. I really don’t care. It has to be her decision to kill herself and eat up all her free time. She was asked 3 days before her big summer meet to go to a water park after practice. We said it is your decision. She talked to her coach and the two of them made the decision. She stayed home that day and rested. We even have a rule that she has to buy her own tech suit each year. She has to save up her money from stuff and make the purchase. I know one thing she is never going to lose that suit or leave it in the locker room.

    The only thing I really pay attention to with my C is her mindset. Does she want to go to practice. She has friends that pull the excuse of too much homework and miss practice. They even admit it to her. I see other kids complaining about going to practice as well. The most beautiful thing happen for Summer this season. Mainly the kids that went to the most practices had the biggest drops. Some didn’t drop. And one girl who missed a ton added a bunch of time. We had a long talk about that. She realizes at this level only the kids that work hard drop.

    The next step is to move to the philosophy of practicing how you want to race. Meaning in practice doing all the things you should in a race. Because if you don’t do it in practice you won’t do it in a race. That is a mindset you have to bring to practice everyday. She has the showing up for practice beaten. Now is the next step.

    Like I say though, either way I don’t care kid it is your life not mine. You have to live your life I can’t. And I know I can’t make a teenager do those things.

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