Tag Archives: swim

Swim Parent 101………

If your child has ever been involved in anything competitive (including learning to tie his shoes), you have run into the “my child ties his shoes better than your child” parent. It is exhausting. Swim parents are no exception. So I humbly offer some guidelines for those parents who will be sitting with other parents waiting for hours for their children to swim one and a half minutes more beautifully than any other children has ever swum before.

  • When attending a swim meet at an indoor pool, forgo the perfume/cologne. It does not mix well with the chlorine laden air. In fact, let’s just make this a life rule – if you are going to be around other people and you will not be able to spread your arms out straight to create some space between bodies, perfume is a no go.
  • Do use deodorant. Always. Every time.
  • Don’t forget to pack snacks. Snacks make a swim meet better.
  • Either buy a meet sheet or figure it out on your own. They are usually just a couple of dollars. Don’t keep asking for “just a peek” at the parent’s sheet next to you.
  • Walk outside to talk on your phone. Turn down your ipod.
  • If you say to your child, “you must get a 37.06 in this race” and your child’s response is “I just don’t know what you mean by that,” reconsider swimming as the sport of choice for your kid. Or at least temporarily suspend your hopes of Olympic Gold. If your child is younger than 8 and you are quoting must-meet times, check yourself. You are already an out-of-control swim parent.
  • Do not talk to the parent next to you when her child is swimming. Especially with a running commentary on his technique/speed/cuteness of suit.
  • Do not offer that parent advice on how his kid could improve his technique/dives/turns after watching him swim. Even if you have the best idea ever. No wait… especially if you have the best idea ever. Just say, boy that was a nice swim. Period. Done.
  • You really cannot predict height or wing span – even if the doctor “guesses” what the height of your child might be. Just let your kid swim the race at the meet you are attending and worry about how great they are “going” to be when they are sixteen when they are actually sixteen. And if you are using the term wing span in reference to your own child’s fabulousness, settle down. Have a snack – it is better to use your mouth for nourishment purposes at this point.
  • When you stand up in the stands and wave your arms wildly in a kicking motion, you can be pretty sure that your child’s thought bubble is not saying, “oh yippee, look at my mom being so super supportive and giving me last minute pointers. Thank God she reminded me to kick. I might have forgotten that at a swim meet I am supposed to kick.” Your child is actually thinking, “oh dear heavens, please sit down.”
  • If you are extremely out of shape, you lose credibility in the athletic world – no matter how great you might have been once. It is not fair, but it is very true.
  • Once your child dives in with a swim cap on over his ears and begins to swim with his head mostly under water, he will not hear you screaming. No matter how loud you scream. Yes, this is also unfortunately true for backstroke. But you can cause hearing loss or at least headache damage for the poor parent sitting next to you.
  • Sending a piercing whistling sound through the air every time your child’s head pops out of the water during breaststroke should be deemed a crime punishable by death.
  • Parents are generally not allowed on deck. Get over it. Of course, if you really want to be on deck, grab a stopwatch and volunteer to time. Every parent has felt the pang of watching her child walk through those big glass doors alone. We give our kids a cell phone to keep with them so they can reach us if they need something. Walkie talkies work too. And before we had cell  phones, we used our kids DS game – if you have two, they can talk to each other. But seriously, just consider volunteering. You will probably even get free food and all the bathroom breaks you need.
  • No matter how many different ways you can think of to praise your child, the parent next to you is still going to think her kid is better. Even if scientific evidence and swim times point to the contrary.
  • If your kid has a bad swim, don’t make excuses. It’s hard to get your best time – really hard. And humans make mistakes. I have never seen a kid intentionally screw up a flip turn or a dive or swim his slowest in a race. Not ever. So, when they get out of the water just love them for getting in the water in the first place. Let the coaches correct their technique. That is why you pay them. Too many kids are brought to tears by their parents opinion of a race.
  • and the Golden Rule of Swim Parent 101 – don’t ever, under any circumstances, ever quote another child’s time to his/her parent. Just be busy with your own child’s time and leave other children’s times on the time sheet where they belong.

Of course, all of these are offered humbly because I have been the victim of my own wisdom more than once. 😉

Behaving Badly………..

That might sound like quite the mischievous title especially on Valentine’s Day but alas, this is a rant, not an expose. So brace yourself.

I recently volunteered at a swim meet where probably 300 kids (14 years old and younger) were trying to qualify for the Junior Olympics. They were crunched in crowded spaces and waiting for long periods of time in between their races in very hot spaces with a (big ole fat) hint of chlorine lingering in the room. They were being coached by coaches and being screamed at for by parents. It was (very) loud and (very) hot and (very) crowded. And that environment lasted for 6 full hours.

That sounds like a recipe for kids behaving badly doesn’t it? But, no. The kids were actually very well behaved – except for a little bit of running here and there, which is totally normal. The kids –  they were actually pretty marvelous. It was their flippin’ parents. Holy arse bad example batman.

I had the dubious honor of being a marshal. I raised my own hand to do it – can’t blame anyone but myself. However, say it with me – n.e.v.e.r. a.g.a.i.n.

Just in case you are not familiar with the high distinction of marshal duties at a Junior Olympic qualifying meet, let me give you a little peek into my day.

Have you ever seen the National Geographic special where a human being inadvertently comes in between a wild animal madre and her cub while holding an open can of corned beef hash? Well then, you are starting to get the idea of how my day played out. And, yes, I mean that special where the bear swats the head off said human, eats the nose, and gives the remaining parts to the cubs to play soccer with.

As marshal, you have get to stand by the only entrance to the pool donning a bright orange vest that does not at all match your earrings in a very hot room with a (big ole fat) hint of chlorine lingering and tell parents (who already know they are not allowed on deck) that they truly are not allowed on deck – not kidding. But for some reason they feel that they should be allowed on deck – even though no other parent is allowed on deck – just them. They want to “talk” to their children who are sure to be future Olympic champions – if only they can drop 850 seconds in their 50 free or put one of their 5 electronic devices down long enough to remember to warm-up for their races.

Just in case that wasn’t crystal clear – and yes, one parent asked me three times if he was being “crystal clear” (but don’t worry, I really don’t hold any residual bitterness 😉 ) – there is a lot of  pressure at these meets for children to be amazing – and that pressure comes from parents – not coaches. So parents are “needed” on deck – their children “require” their assistance. It is surprising how many swimmers were apparently incapable of determining on their own when they were in fact hungry and finding themselves a snack in their backpacks loaded up with enough food to sustain a not so small country for a week.

I bit a hole in my tongue more than once and showed great restraint in not asking a number of obvious questions like – why are you paying a coach when you yourself are so clearly overqualified or I’m sorry, when were you crowned king or really, 14-year-old Johnny cannot pack his own backpack and meet you over there – I mean, I know it’s a whole ten feet away, but, really?

Not letting parents on deck is the general practice at swim meets – it is what normally happens. It is printed on the meet announcements. Coaches remind their parents beforehand. It is not a surprise. You should not even need a marshal. Thank God we had two.

The irony in all of this is that parents are given ample opportunity to volunteer and be on deck in a number of capacities. The meet officials usually end up practically begging for additional volunteers at the beginning of every meet. You even get free food and drinks when you volunteer and you are right on deck, in the middle of it all.

But not these guys.

Parents lied (multiple times) about being coaches or timers. Parents told us to leave them alone. They followed behind us continuing conversations that were really already over.  They raised their voices – a lot. They ignored – a lot. Parents broke the rules and were extremely rude. They set horrible, horrible examples for their children. And they were being so super nasty to v.o.l.u.n.t.e.e.r.s. Those overpaid souls with way too many zeros in their paychecks – and unfortunately no other numerals.

I wished they would have stopped for just a minute and noticed the looks on the faces of their children as they were ranting and raving. Their kids really were not all that impressed. They unfortunately recognize bullying behavior when they see it. It probably was not their first glance of their parents acting like arses and sadly, it surely won’t be the last.

These jerks parents got up from their comfy seats, stopped to chat with friends (well, that is assuming they have some), stretched their legs, checked their smart phones, got a drink of water, perhaps went to the bathroom, and then dumped a ration of hatefulness on the people who were volunteering their time – not sitting down – not chatting with friends. And not even getting to see their own kids swim. Yep, I missed four of my own kids races because obnoxious parents were giving me what for. So instead of cheering for my kids I was being berated. Yeah, that was a whole lot of fun.

Someone even erased the word “no” on the “No parents allowed on pool deck” sign that the pool facility put up. Oh yea, and the “l” in pool. (I have to admit, that made me chuckle.)

No one was singled out. Everyone was held to the same expectation. Follow the rules. The rules that are in place at every single meet you attend and the rules that your coaches reminded you of before the meet and the rules that 75 % of the parents abide by without insulting anyone.

It was actually shameful behavior and quite honestly the worst offenders were 99% men. I hope they got the venom out of their systems so Valentine’s Day can be good for their significant others. I was so, so thankful that they were all going home with someone else. And I was thankful hubby was not there – but then again, if he had been there, he could have worn the vest. It would have looked so much better with his eyes.

So, when you approach a volunteer at an event. Be a kindler, gentler parent. Remember, if they aren’t doing what they are doing – someone else (read you) will have to step up.

And if you are reading this and are mad because you feel a connection with the offenders, shame on you! You are clearly at the wrong blog.

And teachers and coaches, there is no way on God’s green earth that you are getting paid enough. Thank you for what you do!

Beijing – Olympic Park and Panda Bears………

While we were in Beijing, we wanted to see Olympic Park. This was an interesting thing to accomplish.

I don’t know if all tours are run like this in China or if we just got some bad tour mojo….. but …. yikes. Our travel agent planned an itinerary for our day and a half in Beijing. We asked to go to the Great Wall – the section that you walk up and luge down. That did not happen. We went to the wall and walked up but we also had to walk down. That was a big bummer!

He also coordinated visits for us to see the Summer Palace and Ming’s Tomb. I ask you – why would we go to stuffy ole Ming’s tomb when we could see where Michael Phelps made history? Duh? And why would we go to the Summer Palace when we could see the Panda bears. I mean, really. Honestly, if we would have had more time, we would have so gone to Ming’s Tomb and the Summer Palace but time was short and we were traveling with three younguns who love to swim – so priorities, right?

When we got on the tour mobile, we asked to make some changes to our original schedule. OOOOOOOppppps. Apparently that is not acceptable – well, it can be acceptable if you are willing to pay more. Huh? We wanted to change two sites for two other sites. In America, we call that a “no-brainer” – in China it is apparently called an “increase in fees”. Got it.

We were also told that we were going to be charged more money because we were not going shopping. You read that right – n.o.t. going shopping. Huh? We did not ask to go shopping. And, shopping was not on our original schedule. But, now we were going to pay to not shop. Hmmmmmm.

Oh, and our tour guide was happy to take us by an ATM machine so we could pay in cash. Yeah, how do you think that worked out for her?

So, very long, very frustrating story short – we made the changes and only had to pay extra for the zoo fees. Now, that makes more sense.  And hubby had sense enough to suggest insist that our travel agent in Delhi be billed by our guide’s travel agency directly in Beijing – no cash transactions, thank you very much. So nice of you to offer though. tee hee. (Now you know I did not just marry hubby for his good looks.)

We quickly put it all behind us and walked in awe through Olympic Park. It is a pretty cool place. Most of the signage in China is in, well, Chinese – so it was fun to see this sign that we could actually read.

The bird’s nest was huge and fabulous…

And then, of course, the water cube. Unfortunately it was not open – but we used our imagination. 😉 I could easily imagine Bear, Flower, and Angel diving off the same block that Michael Phelps used. Can’t you?

And the fun mascots…

And how can you go to Olympic Park and not take a picture of the rings? You can’t, right?

There were some pretty awesome statues throughout the park. And if you stand at angle with the sun in your eyes and lean to the left and lift one foot up, this guy absolutely resembles Michael Phelps.

Her, not so much…

Not too sure what this symbolizes – but it looked cool enough…

Maybe he was trying to envision the swimming statue as Michael Phelps, too? What? He could be. Or, maybe, it’s just hard to hold a sailboat with no arms.

The sign wasn’t much help either…

Sure, it’s nice information to know, but it didn’t so much help on the interpretation side of things.

Travel in China is different than what we have experienced in the rest of Asia. Truly, not many of the people we encountered spoke English. This lady and her sister were so kind to help hubby negotiate with a vendor for a better price on the stuffed mascots. If you plan to visit China, learn from our mistakes, you’ll want to know this about shopping with vendors in Beijing (and perhaps all of China). It is wise to have money in smaller denominations. Otherwise the vendors are likely to give you counterfeit bills as change. Wanna know how we know that? Go ahead. Take a guess.

We tried to buy her sister a set of mascots too but the only thanks she wanted was a picture with our family.

Next, we headed over to the zoo. Fun Fun. We have seen a panda or two at the zoo in Washington, DC, but the Beijing zoo has at least a dozen of them. And here was another sign we could read.

And these guys were fabuloso!


The pandas also had this wonderful playground.

But this guy was just too tired to play. So cute!

Anybear, we did have a wonderful afternoon and hope to go back some time and see more of the historical stuff.

As I sit watching…..

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!