Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham
Watching my child add a ton of time in a race, which has happened more than once, I’ve wondered, “Why are we here? Why did we come to this meet?” Maybe other parents have asked similar questions like why are we putting in so much effort, time and money if our kids are going to swim slow? That’s when we need to remember that swimming will have ups and downs, just like everything else in life.
Jeff Julian, head coach of Rose Bowl Aquatics and assistant coach at the University of Southern California, offered advice that I personally find extremely helpful:
“Parents, remember the most important thing your swimmers will get out of the sport are the life lessons. When your swimmers are in college or done swimming completely, they’ll remember the experiences and important life lessons. Most people I talk with don’t remember a race or a time, they remember what the sport gave them.”
Coach Julian said his love for swimming came from his mom and he learned from her about how to be a swim parent. “I consider my mom an ideal swim mom, although she maybe talked to me more about swimming than she should. She knew times and was fully involved with the team, but she wouldn’t get involved with my swimming. She loved the sport overall and supported everyone, but she stayed away from the gossip.” His advice for parents is simple: “Support your swimmer, the team and coaches.”
His words of wisdom made me think about all the great memories and experiences we’ve had as a swim family—through great meets and some disappointing ones. Here are five life lessons children learn through swimming at meets:
Life will be full of disappointments and it’s how we react that matters. If our swimmer misses their goal, do they give up? Or, do they fight back and try harder? Our own behavior matters at meets, too. We’re role modeling for our children on how to act.
A single race is just one moment of your swimmer’s day-to-day work in the pool. At a meet, they may be rewarded for their hard work, improvement on specific skills and mental toughness. Or, it may not all come together on a specific day, but happen at a later time. Swimming teaches our kids to work and have patience to reap rewards.
Our attitude is under our control and can be the most influential aspect of success or failure. Learning to get rid of negative self-talk will help our kids throughout their lives. A positive attitude can help a swimmer shake off a bad race and move on to a better one. Being positive is infectious and can spread throughout the team.
Through swim practice and going to meets, children will learn that their actions have outcomes. A swimmer who has missed a lot of practice, whether it’s due to other priorities or an injury, will have realistic expectations. They won’t expect a best time if they know their training hasn’t been consistent. If they’ve been working hard and doing all they can to improve, they know they have earned their reward through their own effort.
Enjoy the moments.
The time being a swim parent will end. Sharing car rides, hotel stays, meals and laughs are memories you’re creating. You’ll look back and remember these little things more than any particular race. Embrace your moments as a swim family and make the most out of your time together.
What life lessons have swim meets taught your family?
Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.