As I sit watching……they swim….
Some people think that we are crazy for participating in year-round swimming. (No, we aren’t the get up at 4:30am and practice before school kind of crazy – but we swim year-round in addition to soccer, basketball, dance – and, oh yeah, this little thing called school.) I can see why they think we are insane – it’s one more thing that we add to a list of many other things to do. But it’s one more thing we love!
Swimming is fabulous for a million different reasons and we loved it before we ever heard of Michael Phelps. Yes, my friend, we were country when country wasn’t cool. (Although, I have to admit, Mr. Phelps does make us love it even more.)
I love swimming because just about anyone can do it! When we go to practice, we see all kinds of people swimming in the exercise (aka lap) lanes. There is a man that I swear weighs 600 pounds – at least – and he swims ( yep, “swims”, not floats) for a solid hour. He is not fast – but let me just say, he is faster than I would be – and a lot faster than the bench is that I sit on as I watch him swim. There are women that just might be older than 100 (not really, but close). There are little babies splashing around. It is a universal sport. And, yes, it is a sport. And, a sport, that if you learn how to do it, just might save your life one day – how can you argue with that?
I have no delusion that my kids will be going to college on swimming scholarships – frankly, that is not the point for us. I hope that they love swimming enough to continue doing it at some level for the rest of their lives.
I love the team aspect of swimming. Being on a team with kids of all ages is a wonderful experience. There are relays and practices with kids of all abilities and ages. You can cheer for your teammates and swim with them. But you also swim in races against them. This is a unique aspect of swimming – you are teammates and competitors. You can be happy for your opponent and inspired by them to do better. The team part of it is what keeps Bear most interested in swimming. He loves the relays. And if he earns himself a spot on a relay team – all is right with the world.
Swimming is also the only sport in which all three of my children can be on the same team and participate in the same meets and practices. Swimming is great like that. Their practices are at nearly the same time and are at the same place. It’s a 3-fer! Bonus.
Next, swimming is a black and white sport. The coach does not have to like you for you to swim or for you to qualify for a meet. No one has to pass you the ball in order for you to score. This is a beautiful thing. It is about you and the wall – and how fast you can get yourself to that wall. Even if you are the slowest, most awkward swimmer on the team, you can realize your own improvement in a measured way. If your time drops, you have gotten better – wah lah!!!!!!! Be proud, be very proud.
And it is about rules and procedures – a gentleman’s game if you will – you wait in the water until everyone is done swimming – no matter how long you have to wait – you wait. You shake hands at the end of your heat. You have to swim the strokes technically correct or your times don’t count – except freestyle – even I might be able to squeak that one out without disqualifying. But nothing is given – it is all earned. What a concept.
If you improve your time – excellent. If you keep your time consistent – very good for you (for that can be hard to do). If you add a lot of time – well, reality bites – you have to sort that one out for yourself. The how and the why of it and if it really matters to you at all. No hand holding here.
And if you want to get better – guess what YOU have to do – work harder. No one can do it for you – not even your mom – no matter how much she wants to. Awesome. (And a note to parents, myself included, the kids are submerged in water with a cap over their ears. They can’t hear us screaming at them cheering for them. And for those of you who whistle – stop it. No seriously, I mean it. Stop it.)
And, of course, it is great exercise. Swim for an hour – you are tired. Benadryl beware – you are about to be knocked out of contention as the number one sleep aid for tired parents who need their kids to sleep just a little.
Another fabulous thing is that swimming is a two-year sport. You are in it for the long haul. Swimmers swim in age groups – 8 and under, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, and then finally 15-18 (yes, that must become a real test of commitment). You get a year at the top of the age bracket – and then – humble pie – a year at the bottom. It is not sprint – but a marathon. Stick with it and you’ll be very, very glad you did.
Let’s not forget that it is also wonderful cross training for any other sport. And it is a low impact sport – not too many injuries. Bonus. Bonus.
So, call me crazy – but I am off to the pool – and yes, in the winter, it is an indoor pool. Outdoor anything in the winter is a deal breaker for this taxi driver/ cheerleader they call mom.
Note: If you live near Washington, D.C. and have any interest in trying year-round swimming, the Potomac Marlins are great. You can check them out at www.potomacmarlins.com. Tell them I sent you!