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.

5 thoughts on “The Conundrum

  1. Here is what a swim parent can face. For the SCY season Fall’12-Winter’13 my swimmer learned how to swim. When I say learned how to swim I mean all the technique aspects and she improved. It was a wonderful season to be a swim parent. My swimmer nearly dropped time every time she got in the water for every event. She dropped like 85-90% of her swims that season. What a fun time to be a swim parent, go to a meet and your kid drops time in almost all events.

    Well, now all those easy time drops are gone. She is now 13. Last SCY season it was totally opposite. She didn’t drop until the end of the season. You can imagine how fun the meets were that season as a parent.

    My swimmer did give me the best complement a couple of years ago. She said you know dad you don’t pressure me to get cuts like other parents do to their children. That was on the way home from a meet. I know I am not perfect, but I think I am doing more right than wrong.

    I really like Gustafson’s writing and my daughter and I talk about his articles. I will say it is tough not to point out a mistake when you see it. With a big team sometimes I worry the coaches don’t catch everything. My daughter and I do talk about her races. We talk about the good and the bad. We discuss what the coaches tell her. Sometimes we laugh when she makes a big mistake. Like totally missing a turn. Hey if it can happen to Phelps it can happen to anyone.

    With a swimmer that is only really going to drop on the back half of the season we talk about staying the course and working hard in practice and the results will come. I feel if she can stay positive herself and be patient it will all work out in the end. And I don’t compare my swimmer’s times to others in front of her.

    It is so tough and I have said some things I have regret, but more good than bad.

  2. As parents, we all say things in the heat of the moment that we would like to be able to take back or “rephrase.” The pressure that comes along with an intensive sport like swimming just magnifies things for parents and swimmers. Just like we are told not to be too hard on our swimmers, we have to give ourselves a little room for error also.

  3. I loved that article as well, and pushed it through to both my Club Team parentage and to my own blog. It takes a LOT of restraint for me now to chime in on how my daughter just swam. I can say it is getting easier with her at 11 and one of the fastest in the area, because her skill is surpassing my ability to spot her errors, lol.

    I also have the benefit of having recruited a bunch of my neighborhood kids to our club team, so I get to watch and am really invested in about 20 kids at every meet which keeps me from micromanaging her swims. Plus, I cant take the eye rolls whenever I offer something up!

    • My kids skill surpassed my abilities to spot errors when they were five! That is exactly why they like me to go to their meets. I tell them they look cute. My husband was a collegiate swimmer and knows exactly what he is looking at. He is still trying to un-see a certain race.

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