Jumping in. Feet first.

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.

The perfect gift for the perfect child

Grace will be 13 soon and we have been looking for the perfect gift to get her.  I think we have finally found it.

I could use some help.  Anyone have a spare $25,000?  You are welcome to join us at our table. While the price tag seems high, the proceeds from this event will support the USA Swimming Foundation’s mission to save lives and build champions-in the pool and in life.

Make sure you cast your vote for the awards.  Our hometown girl Katie Ledecky has 60% of the vote for breakout performance of the year!!!!

 

You know what, if you want to get us a table we can call this birthday and Christmas.  Much love.

Do not get sucked in

Do not get sucked in

Do not get sucked in

I am repeating this over and over in my head.  I have tried really hard to stay in my “happy place” with my kids and their sports.  I don’t want to let those little voices in my head tell me that I am not doing enough, or doing it right or making the right decisions.

This year at the pool I am seeing a whole new level of parent intensity.  Parents are pushing their children and the coaches for more, more, more.  I swear the Olympics are to blame.  Suddenly every child is a future Olympian.

Our club turned away several hundred swimmers this year.  Lanes are a little crowded, especially in the lower level programs and everyone is trying to move their kids up a level.  Even me.

Sarah is actually straddling two groups and was offered the chance to practice with both groups.  This seemed to both of us to be a win-win.  She would have the opportunity to challenge herself being at the bottom of a more advanced group and to also practice as one of the top swimmers in the other group.  It also opened up MORE not less practice options.  What isn’t there to be happy about in this situation?  Nothing.  And I need to keep telling myself this.  Yet I find myself worrying about how to get her into the advanced group full time.  I watch practice and count kids in lanes.  This isn’t me.

Conversation on deck used to be about Nordstrom sales, PTA meetings and 50 Shades of Grey.  Now it has shifted to private coaching, changing swim sites and driving to Baltimore with Phelps swim coach.  Oh my…

Seriously, the notion of taking my slightly above average 10 year old to Baltimore 5 days a week (about an hour drive each way) is just crazy.  Private coaching?  And for a year I have been saying we have the BEST coaches in Montgomery County.  Who is going to coach them that is better?  Video taping my kid?  I find it more entertaining to video their races and set them to LMFAO tunes.  Is everyone losing their mind?  Am I?

I thought I could tune all of this out but what did I find myself doing this morning?  Looking up the top 15 clubs in the country and trying to find a place near one of these clubs we could move.  Because my kid deserves the best and surely the parents there aren’t crazy right?  I just went off the deep end.

Turns out our club is number 16.  And I love it.  I decided to change my perspective.  My kids are just so awesome that they can bring our club into the top 15.  I mean there are three of them…

I saw a friend the other day at the pool with his headphones on.  When he got up to leave I realized they weren’t even plugged in to his phone and he was listening to the most awesome sound of all – silence.  I am channeling my inner Phelps and grabbing some Beats headphones and losing myself in the music.  It isn’t worth it.  I tell myself “do not get sucked in” now I need to make myself do just that.

USA Swimming always says it best

I stumpled upon this article by accident this evening but it really says so much.  This is something really important for all of to remember  – this year in particular, being an Olympic year and all.

Kids need to keep their eye on the prize.  The key to success is not in how good you are at 8 but how hard you work.  A great life lesson

RATIONALE FOR STARTING AGE RECOGNITION AT AGE 11

INRODUCTION

The National Times and Recognition Committee presented the Top 10 single age recognition program at the September 2007 Age Group Development Business Meeting. During this meeting, which involved LSC Age Group Chairs and committee members, the Age Development Committee recommended that the 10 & U age group be dropped as part of the recognized age groups in this program. There was widespread approval and minimal discussion of this proposal. The National Times and Recognition Committee then presented the Top 10 single age recognition program with the amendment of eliminating the 10 & U age group at the USAS Convention. Again, there was little opposition and discussion.

By and large, the decision to recognize 10, and not 16swimmers per event, and the decision to use single-year age groups as opposed to dual-year groups, have caused minimum controversy.

 

However, there has been discussion regarding USA Swimming’s decision to no longer recognize 10 & Under performances in its current event ranking system. This brief paper contains the rationale of the Age Group Development Committee for this decision.

The rationale is based on three pillars:

Recognize the long-term development of the athlete;

Support USA Swimming and ASCA Foundation of Coaching development process of age group swimming;

Utilize current programs that balance recognition and development, both national initiatives as well as local traditions;

 

Pillar I: Foundation of Long-Term Development of the Athlete

 

 

The focus of the National Age Group Development Committee is to find and promote opportunities for age group swimmers to build a healthy foundation for making swimming a life-long sport. The Committee feels that a key part of building that base as an age group athlete is accomplished by a long-term developmental progression. Programs that enhance this focus are supported by the Age Group Development Committee.

 

The Committee is continually reviewing the scientific literature on athlete development, to ensure that our proposals and programs are in line with the best available information. A current leader in the theory of long-term training and athlete growth and development is Istvan Balyi. In an article he wrote with Ann Hamilton, “Long-Term Athlete Development: Trainability in Childhood and Adolescence,” Balyi argues,

 

“Scientific research has concluded that it takes eight-to-12 years of training for a talented player/athlete to reach elite levels… Unfortunately, parents and coaches in many sports still approach training with an attitude best characterized as “peaking by Friday,” where a short-term approach is taken to training and performance with an over-emphasis on immediate results. We now know that a long-term commitment to practice and training is required to produce elite players/athletes in all sports.”

 

“A specific and well-planned practice, training, competition and recovery regime will ensure optimum development throughout an athlete’s career. Ultimately, sustained success comes from training and performing well over the long-term rather than winning in the short term. There is no short-cut to success in athletic preparation. Overemphasizing competition in the early phases of training will always cause shortcomings in athletic abilities later in an athlete’s career.”

Concurring with this opinion, the Age Group Development Committee believes that recognizing the 10 & Under swimmer nationally puts undue emphasis on short-term accomplishments and it conveys a sense of these young swimmers’ having reached the highest levels of the sport, instead of a rung in a long developmental ladder. In lieu of national recognition of the fastest times in individual events, USA Swimming provides other opportunities that encourages and motivates young swimmers, and that align with its goal of building the healthy base.

Pillar II: Support of the USA Swimming and ASCA Foundation of Coaching development process of age group swimming

 

 

USA Swimming has a long-established age group development philosophy regarding the proper emphases in the training of our youngest swimmers:

 

Working all four strokes and individual medley
Working to improve technique in all four strokes
Developing a proto-aerobic base as the foundation for later training and success in racing for all distances.

 

This developmental progression is outlined in detail in several USA Swimming publications, most notably the Foundations of Coaching collaboration between USA Swimming and ASCA. There is a progression of programs for both coach and athlete development based upon that philosophy.

The Age Group Development Committee believes that formally recognizing 10 & Under achievement in specific events does not align with its philosophy of long-term development grounded in working all strokes and building a strong base. Instead, it is more appropriate to reinforce with age group swimmers, coaches, and parents the idea that there are more important considerations than simply being fast – for young swimmers, “how you get fast matters most” for their long-term development in swimming.

 

Pillar III-A: Utilize current programs that balance recognition and development:

National Initiative

USA Swimming’s Individual Medley Xtreme Challenge (or “IMX”) is a national program that encourages all around athlete development. This program requires that 12 & Unders swim five events: 1. 200 Freestyle 2. 100 Backstroke 3. 100 Breaststroke 4. 100 Butterfly 5. 200 IM

 

Each time a swimmer swims an event the time is converted to a point score. Upon completing the five events each season (short course yards or long course meters) the swimmer will automatically receive an IMX score on his/her My USA Swimming page. Throughout the season, this score is updated with each best time in these events.

 

It is important to note that the IMX program “works with” common biological pitfalls/challenges, helping both early- and late-maturing swimmers. Age group coaches face the obvious and common problems resulting from swimmers’ uneven and unequal biological maturation every day at practice. They face the challenge of keeping the small and slow-growing swimmer in the sport when most extrinsic motivators (i.e., awards, victories, publicity) are absent. Simultaneously, they face the challenge of getting the big and strong early maturers to train according to their long-term best interests and ignore short-lived motivators (awards, victories, publicity) that encourage them simply to “do what works,” – that is, rely on size and strength rather than train well and develop good technique. It is often challenging to keep the first group in the sport while they await their growth spurts, and it is difficult to keep the second group in the sport as they are “caught” by their later maturing peers during the high school years.

 

The IMX program gives early maturers the motivation to be well-rounded and not focus on an event or events where their biological advantage may allow them to overcome poor habits. And by rewarding across a spectrum and especially for longer events that respond more to stroke technique work and aerobic training, the IMX program helps retain late maturers.

 

In review, IMX performance focuses on success and improvement across a broad array of strokes, in particular events more technically and aerobically oriented – and not single-event performance for 10 & Under swimmers. By utilizing IMX as a training, goal setting, and recognition tool, swimmers are rewarded for behaviors consistent with USA Swimming’s development philosophy. The Age Group Development committee feels that emphasizing participation in and formally recognizing high achievement in the IMX program accomplishes these goals more effectively for the 10 and under age group than did the previous National Top 16 program.

 

Pillar III-B: Utilize current programs that balance recognition and development –

Local Traditions for Swimmer Recognition

 

It is important to note what will stay the same. We are obviously not doing away with single-event racing. Age Group athletes will still race the 50 fly or the 50 back at meets, and they will still be given times and awards based on their times for individual events. Swimmers will still be excited and motivated by improving their best times in the 50 free and 100 IM. Finally, every team will continue their recognition traditions through team banquets, most improved trophies, best technique honors, spirit awards, etc.

 

The Motivational Times Standards list will still help swimmers find motivation to get faster. In fact, the technology advances have made it easy for any swimmer to obtain his/her national ranking for his/her age group for any event and distance. That capability is available to everyone to monitor an athlete’s progress at any point in time for either short course or long course events. With the advances made in the SWIMS database software, there does not have to be a single point in time for that tool to be used in measuring performance goals set by the athlete and coach. It constantly gives the athlete and coach the opportunity to modify those goals as the age group swimmer continues to improve.

Further, it is important to make clear the committee’s intentions. We do not mean to diminish 10 and under athlete’s accomplishments – but we do want to steer that accomplishment into one stream rather than another, and to ensure that the foundations of that accomplishment are strong, secure, and long-lasting.

Nor do we mean to discourage fast swimming – but we do want that speed to be broadly-based and founded on good technique.

Nor do we mean to discourage competition – but we do want that competition to include the full range of strokes and events.

 

In summary, the landscape of age group teams and competitive swimming remains much the same. The Age Group Development Committee believes that the best motivation and encouragement for 10 & Under swimmers come not from formal national rankings but rather from sources closer to home – their teams, their coaches, and their families. These powerful sources remain.

CONCLUSION

The Age Group Development Committee supports the Time and Recognition Committee’s decision to eliminate the 10 & Under category in the National Recognition program. Every reward system is based on values and philosophy; in our recognition program, we want to measure, and we want to reward, those things we consider most important. We want to reinforce those behaviors we consider most beneficial to the swimmers involved. This means we want to encourage well-rounded swimming development across the four strokes, technical development, and aerobic base development among our youngest competitive swimmers. We believe that emphasizing existing USA Swimming and local programs for 10 & Unders best serves the long-term growth of these age group swimmers.

Time to rewrite the goals

Last September I said these words to Grace:

GET A GOAL.

She did.  She said she wanted to go to Zones.

I knew instantly why.  Grace wanted the sweat suit, t-shirts, cap, suit and swim bag.  She likes crap that screams “I did something great”!  Go ahead and judge me.  I am fine with that.  I was willing to write the check if she figured out how to get herself to zones.  And that she did.

Grace worked her ass off.  She never missed practice.  She didn’t talk during practice.  She tried.  Really hard.

Fast forward to today.  I put her on a bus.  Heading to Zones.  I don’t care how.  I don’t care why.  All I know is she did what she wanted.  She went to zones.

It isn’t likely that she will make finals.  I don’t really care.  In the end, it doesn’t really matter.  For the first time ever, Grace decided “hey, I want this” and she went after it…..She got it.

She is with a great group of kids, having the time of her life.  I tried not to be emotional as I dropped her off but the truth is I cried all the way home.  I am proud of all of my kids, all the time but this is a moment in time I won’t ever forget.

She will be 13 next year.  Being bottom of her age group won’t be easy.  But I don’t suspect that will stop her. We just need to find meets that give away good crap.

 

Medal and Ribbons and Trophies – oh my

I actually hate ribbons and trophies, especially when they are based solely on participation.  They become meaningless and tend to take up a lot of space.

This weekend my girls earned lots of ribbons, trophies and medals.  Some hard-fought victories and yes a few meaningless ones along the way.  There are a few I am quite proud of the girls for earning.

Grace won two medals in relays at Junior Olympics.  One second and one third place.  I am proud of her because her team enters three relays in the meets and she made the A relay for backstroke twice!

Grace also got a first place medal at Divisionals, breaking a pool record in 50 back.  Way to go Grace.

Our summer team decided to give participation trophies to all of the kids this year.  This was the first time since we joined the team four years ago.  They also gave specials awards.

Grace was the female high point winner for our team.  She learned the morning of our banquet that an award was not being given for high point.  She was disappointed.

We got to the banquet and there was a table full of trophies.  And then…a table full of big trophies.  All of the kids noticed the big ones.  It was going to be a big night.

The Junior Coaches on our team give out paper plate awards.  Sophie was presented with the Paper Plate Smiles award.  Remember, Sophie is the one who cried her entire first year of swim team!  Such a proud moment.

Later in the evening, the large trophies were handed out.  The trophies were handed out to amazing children.  A pair of friends who raised several thousand dollars for a boy on our team with leukemia.  An awesome little boy who cheers for every kid, on our team or not.

The last trophy was most improved.  I really wouldn’t expect any of my girls to receive this.  We are year round swimmers and as such, there is very little improvement in a 6 week time span.  Most club swimmers get tired and start getting slower at the end of the season.

I was wrong.  Grace was awarded the trophy for the most improved.  I was shocked.  She has always been a top swimmer on our team.

She was awarded the trophy for maturity both in and out of the water.  One week Grace offered to swim breast stroke instead of fly even though she would have gotten first in fly and ended up with second in breast.  Our top breaststroke swimmer was on vacation and without Grace we would have placed 4th at best.  She came ever day and coached preteam at 6 PM despite getting up every day at 5 AM for her own practices.  She came to every B meet and cheered on all the little kids, especially her favorite 5-year-old.  She swam with a level of confidence and maturity that she hadn’t in the past.  She was serious, dedicated and focused in the water and had fun outside the water.  In all honesty, she was a lot faster than she was last year.

I credit the coach for awarding this to her.  It comes a year after we left her club team.  She didn’t have to give the most improved swimmer to the kid who left her program and went on to swim at another.  But she did because she earned it.

Grace did earn it.  She didn’t improve this year because we changed teams.  She improved because she wanted it.  She wanted it so bad.  She worked hard and never gave up.  She is a remarkable young lady and I am proud to be her mom.

Sarah didn’t win an award but if there was one for the kid who ate the most nachos she was a sure bet.  She has her eye on that most improved trophy for next year.  This from a kid who wanted to quit swimming eight weeks ago.  Sarah can do anything she puts her mind to.

And Sophie – I just love her smile.

We don’t care about times

I have heard this several times this year.  Dude really?  I wasn’t born yesterday.

One was the parent of a top (and I do mean top) swimmer in his age group.  I am talking nationally ranked top swimmer.  Being humble is one thing but thinking people are stupid is another.  The person talking to them was paying them a compliment.  I think if your kids is doing awesome and someone points out this awesomeness the most appropriate response is “thank you”.  If you feel the need to be humble throw in a “he has had a good year thanks to hard work and great coaching”.  But don’t act like you don’t know your kid is the shit-diggity.  Anyone who hates you for it is an asshole.

Swimming is a sport that is all about the times. No one gets better by having pretty strokes or a cute suit or because their mom volunteers a lot.  The sport is based solely on times.  After a race the kids are never thrown compliments by the timers.  They get one and only one piece of information.

Our summer league has two meets.  One that the three fastest swimmers in each age and stroke participate in and one that anyone can swim in.  I am fairly unapologetic when my kids swim in the A meets, it generally happens when they are top of their age group and I am not upset when they don’t.  I really don’t feel guilty when mid-season my kids bump another kid out and beg my kids not to react if they get bumped out.  It isn’t a sport up for interpretation…the rules are clear and not up for debate.  I want my kids to always do their best and not worry about what other kids are doing.  Of course I want them to have fun BUT I care about their times.  I won’t insult your intelligence and say I don’t.

I have been hammering in my kids heads for years that place doesn’t matter.

And then along come the Olympic Trials.  They were fast to point out to me that place does matter.  Ok fine, go the Olympics get first and I won’t ask you your time when you are done swimming.  I hope if they go they look cute though.

The trophy wife

I am 42. And 3/4. In other words, almost 43. Old. Not a trophy wife. My husband is actually younger. By almost a year.

But I am the wife that collects the trophies.

I think trophies are stupid. Rec soccer? Trophy. Three kids in it? Three identical trophies. None are actually earned for doing something magnificent, they are just given out – quite freely. I am a bitch. I think all of these trophies are stupid. And my kids know it.

Am I a bad mom? I have already claimed the worst mother in America title, I am totally fine with it. But I think trophies, ribbons and plaques are just down right stupid. Unless they are earned. For instance, soccer tournament won. Trophy earned. Lose every game in the tournament? You lost. Save the trophy for the winners.

We changed swim teams last year. The owner of the old team called my husband Steve. Not his name. He spelled our last name incorrectly. Half the time. And for some of my kids. At the very least, the girls, my husband and I are all related. And as such, all five of us spell our last name the same.

My girls are clearly as jaded and cynical as I am. At the end of the year banquet last year, Grace got her trophies and came and sat next to me and said “for mother’s day I think we should buy you an engraver”. Elliott, a quite simple last name, was spelled with one T. For all three.

We thought about spelling our name: Elliotttwotees. It has a nice ring to it.

If, and I do mean IF, you are going to hand out trophies, spell the kids freaking name right. If there is any doubt, refer to the $4K in checks we have written you in the past year. Our name happens to be spelled correctly on every freaking one of them.

I guess I am not really bitching about the stupid trophies that are handed out like candy but rather the inability for anyone to get our freaking names right. College educated people who collect money from us on a regular basis screw it up. Think I am kidding? Take a look at these two photos. Not only are my kids names totally screwed up but the crazy assed names of their peers? Totally right. If you see me at an awards ceremony with a bad attitude, trust me, I earned it.

Facebook brings out the worst in people

Including me.

I think there is a fine line between being proud of your children and bragging about them.  In reality, we are all very proud of our children and in the interest of being honest, bragging about them is pretty fun too.  Bragging though should be kept to a small circle of people.  Like two.  Maybe three.

I won’t bore you with the details but I have one facebook acquaintance who posts complete bull shit brags about her child.  Everyone who swims with them knows it is bullshit.  I have no idea why she does it.  Nor do I care.

I want to know why it bugs the shit out of me!  It drives me up the wall.  I know better.  I know I shouldn’t care but I do.  And that pisses me off.  I know what you are going to say, I should unfriend her or hide her if it bugs me that much.  Ok, I find it a little entertaining too.  Mostly annoying.  Make her stop…

The times don’t lie

Which my friend Sherry figured out!  She went straight to the source – USA Swimming.  I bet she peeks at presents too!

I applaud her methods.  I try to do the same. There are 3 ways for me to get an accurate time.

1.  I look at the electronic board.  If there isn’t one I
2.  Look over the rail and ask my friend Jenni, who coaches for another team but times my kids. or
3.  I try to get the kid or coaches attention.  I can read lips if you mouth it really big to me

My husband on the other hand prefers to use his Blackberry (everyone knows iphones are better).  I won’t give him too much shit, he reads this but he is the worst timer every.  He may as well use and hourglass.

She is swimming 50 back.  Shooting for a 35.59.  He gets a 35.90.  REALLY?

I only care that she gets the zone time because I know she wants it.  She has other opportunities and if that really is her time she can totally get it next time right?  But, again, this is blackberry time.  He may as well have said she got a 42.34 or a 23.45.

Thank goodness I am one of those horrible parents who buys their kid an iphone because I shortly thereafter got a three word text from her.  If you have a 12-year-old daughter you know this is chatty for this age.

I GOT IT.

Yeah!  I am back on vacation.  She got a 35.49.

Zones will cost me about $500!  That is about $14 a second.  We are going to have to get a few more now.  I will have to teach a lot of spim classes to pay for that, although I could stand the exercise after girls weekend!  I am very happy for her, she has worked really hard this year with that goal in mind.  I applaud her efforts.

Roadtrip baby!  Sherry you in?