It’s nice to be home

Pulling up to the pool for Grace’s first meet with her new team, I was overcome with a wave of emotion. I felt a little out of place, I don’t know many of the parents in her group. I do know a handful of parents from other sites but many of them weren’t at this particular meet. NCAP pulls kids from all over Maryland and Virginia, I’m not sure I will ever know too many people. RMSC is a large team but all of the kids come from Montgomery County. Having three kids in the program for many years I know (or at the very least have seen) every one at the meets. These are the same people we swim against in the summer, go to school with, see at the gym or grocery store. I’m a very social person by nature and I was definitely outside my comfort zone. I opted to time during the first session to pass the time. I wasn’t sure how Grace would react to her first meet with the new team.

She was fine. I dropped her off at the door and got a quick wave goodbye.

I parked and drank my coffee. The meet was at a pool we swam at many years ago. Grace and Sarah were just getting started in swimming and swam for a very small club. I always park in the same place at this pool. It’s a lot that is on a slight hill just above a door that grants direct pool access. Being a meet day, the door was propped wide open. Just beyond the door was the area where her old team sat.

Grace always referred to her little group as the children under the stairwell. There were never more than 15 or so kids from this club at a meet session. They certainly didn’t get choice seating. I suspect a rat or two made its way through base camp. The team was so small that they rarely had enough kids to field a 4 man relay. After a year, Grace made the decision she needed something more social. That was what led us to RMSC. It’s also what led her away this year.

I couldn’t help but remember our humble beginnings with swim. I especially had no idea what we were doing. One thing that Grace always knew – she wanted bags tags, tie dyed championship t-shirts, zones jackets, to make finals and to swim in an A relay. And to have friends. She did all of that and more.

As I walked into the meet I remembered why Grace swims. Because she loves it. It wasn’t her best meet. It also wasn’t her worst. But she had fun. And she smiled. Her swim bag zippers are covered in bag tags. She has accomplished a lot and grown into a woman in all her years of swimming. But at this meet I saw her as my ten year old baby who swam at that pool all those years ago.

The funny thing is, I always hated that pool. And I found myself walking in with a smile. Maybe it is because I don’t know anyone. It was kind of fun to sit alone. In silence. And in thought. It felt like home. For Grace.

The Conundrum

USA Swimming just posted a fantastic article:

Mike Gustafson: Lighten Up, Swim Parents!

I would recommend reading the whole article but in short, the message is loud and clear:

The thing is: Critiquing is not a parent’s job — at least when it comes to swimming. Critiquing is the coach’s job. 

That’s why coaches exist. 

For some of us (me) this is easy.  My lack of knowledge about swimming is a plus, I have a very un-trained eye.  I’m also an optimist by nature.  Being an optimist is a good quality most of the time but we also tend to be missing a little of reality.  I’m fortunate to be married to Mr. Reality Check.  He keeps me on the straight and narrow.

It’s really hard for parents who know swimming not to critique (critique sounds so much nicer than criticize) their children’s performance.  I would almost say it is impossible.  It’s a challenge that many swim families are faced with.

Our family is a work in progress.  I’m trying to be more realistic about their swimming.  It’s not adorable when Sophie does butterfly kick during free sets at practice.   Being sweet does not excuse sitting out a set.  And cute gets you nothing.  Swim dad is going to chose his words carefully.  Delivery and execution of critique is going to be a huge factor at our house.  But it is impossible for him to UN-see the things he sees.  He knows what he is watching.  It’s unrealistic to just watch every race in awe.

Regardless, every message that we deliver matters.  The most important message is that we care.  The coaches need to coach and we need to care.

Grace’s meet starts tomorrow.  I’m going to time during her session.  And take her to Chipotle when it is over.  Smiling.  And I hope she is too.

Exhale, exhale, inhale

The first short course meets of the season are usually great. The kids haven’t swam short course since March. Huge time drops, especially for the younger children are almost guaranteed. The kids are always excited to see their friends from other sites. The parents are usually on their best behavior. Because the kids are happy!  Seriously, happy kids always means happy parents.  I have tried the reverse, being happy mom and it doesn’t always produce happy kids. But I digress..

Sarah and Sophie both swam last weekend.  They were no exception to the rule.  They both swam really well.  I had promised this season that I was going to focus less on times and more on quality swimming.  If I am being completely honest – it’s easier said than done.  The first weekend in November, RMSC hosts a National Age Group meet.  The three fastest swimmers for several area (MD, DC and DE) clubs compete against one another.  The October meet is the only time they can qualify.  It’s a challenge – you have to pick events wisely and swim them well.  Swimming well in this case means fast – not pretty.  They only do 100’s at this meet so it really is a crap shoot.

Sophie made this meet last year.  She was a shoe in for 100 fly this year.  She didn’t disappoint.  She had six great swims and easily qualified for that, a relay or two and perhaps one other event.  Sarah was a wild card, she was seeded well on 100 breast but has never made the meet.  She swam 50 breast the first day and won it.  The top 6 were all seeded with in .2 of each other and Sarah was seeded 6th.  That isn’t important.  She took off quite a bit of time and came so close to the quad A cut.  That also doesn’t matter.  It was a remarkable swim- almost perfect.  The second day of the meet she swam really well.  Her 100 breast was really nice and again she dropped a nice bit of time.  She came in 4th for her age at the NAG’s meet.  She missed it by .1

It’s really hard to focus on quality swimming when these kids are trying to qualify with times or places.  Sarah was disappointed which made me sad.  She swam 6 events this meet and it was truly the best I have ever seen her swim.  In her heart she knew she did well but it was still a disappointment for her.

The good news is she will swim the A 200 medley relay.  Rumor has it that there may be a scratch in 100 breast but even if there isn’t she get the shirt, she gets the bag tag.  And she gets to say “I swam well!”.

The highlight of the meet was absolutely seeing her 50 breast.  She ages up in late November and that event will go away for her.  She may give that quad A cut another shot in early November.  She may not.  Either way, she is ready to take her swimming to the next level.  The next best thing?  Watching Sophie swim 200 IM.  She proved to me that she has worked hard thus far.  Breast and back have always been tricky for her and she looked great in both.

I can take two big exhales, Sarah and Sophie delivered on their promises.  Well executed races.  I’m proud.

Grace swims this weekend.  I took a great big inhale this year with her.  And I have been holding my breath ever since.  I’m ready for that final exhale.

Not one of my better ideas

This has been a particularly crazy week. Grace is in high school this year and has fully embraced homecoming week. She spent all day Sunday helping decorate the freshman hallway for spirit week. She also decided to play powder puff football so had a few practices and a game last night. Sarah had a cross country meet Tuesday (she came in 3rd, not too shabby for a kid that is “only” a swimmer” and had a school event last night. We have also had a full schedule of swim practice for all three girls. First meet of the season is this weekend.

This weekend doesn’t get any better. Friday night is the homecoming game. Sarah and Sophie are also swimming 500 free. Saturday morning we have a bar mitzvah service to attend, two sessions of a swim meet and an early morning practice for Grace. The evening will be just as busy – we will be attending the bar mitzvah reception and Grace has her first homecoming dance. Sunday is easy. Only two sessions of a swim meet.

Recently my crazy swim schedule was featured in the October issue of Real Simple magazine, along side a great article about kids with talent. I couldn’t help but notice the irony of a magazine devoted to making life more simple was showcasing the life of a swim mom. The reality is, we need to simplify other aspects of our lives, being a swim family is complicated enough. It was also great to see two swim families high lighted in the article, swimming is often over looked as a sport, favor is often given to sports such as soccer and football – they are more familiar to a broad base.

I decided to do a little simplifying tonight. I kept Sarah and Sophie home from swim practice. I felt that a nice family dinner and some quality rest would make this crazy weekend a little more tolerable. Grace and I are settling in, we go to bed early on Thursday night knowing we have a 4 am wake up call for practice. My other two monkeys are climbing the walls. I’m about to send them out for a run. Swimmers need to swim. They can’t handle not being active. Keeping them out of the water tonight was a very bad idea. I know better.

Tomorrow starts a new season for us. Grace’s first meet is the following weekend. Best of luck to all this season. I hope for fast times and more importantly happy kids.

Make sure to pick up the October Issue of Real Simple to read the full article.