I was criticized more than once by parents of non-swimmers and teachers because of my kids’ year-round commitment to swimming. “Aren’t you worried that your kids lives are too narrow?” they asked.
No, actually, I was not. Did these parents think my children’s lives were restricted to a 2.5-meter lane between two lane lines? Yes, my kids did make sacrifices. But, I think that is true of anyone who has a passion. Life is full of choices. These parents and teachers didn’t understand the numerous benefits my kids gained—and how swimming made their world bigger. Whether or not my kids swam was their choice. How much commitment they put into it was directed by them.
Here are six things my kids gained by swimming and why swimming didn’t narrow their lives:
Coming from a small school, my kids developed friendships with swimmers from schools all over our valley—with kids ages six to the senior swimmers on their team. At club meets, they made friends from all over the state. They met swimmers from throughout the country at big meets. In college, there’s an opportunity to become friends with international swimmers.
Weekend meets meant exploring new towns and cities. My kids learned about cities by their pools, parks and local restaurants. My daughter’s swimming took her away from Southern California to Washington, Texas, North Carolina and Mexico.
Time Management and Goals
Hours in the pool, school, homework plus balancing volunteering and a social life meant my kids learned better time management skills than non-swimmers. They had to. They also learned about short-term and long-term goals from their coaches.
My kids learned that every practice and race would not go as planned. They were in a safe environment where they could fail, pick themselves up and dive right back in—often using a bad race to fuel success the next time around.
Whether it was ultimate frisbee for dry land, sharks and minnows after practice or endless games of speed under the pop-up tent at meets, the kids had a blast. Even early morning practices can be fun when it’s a shared experience with friends.
Activity for Life
I don’t think non-swimming parents realize that swimmers have a sport they can pursue for the rest of their lives. They can enjoy camaraderie similar to club and college teams when they join masters. Plus, they’ll stay fit and healthy for life because of this wonderful activity called swimming.
Do you find that swimming enriches children’s lives—or does it make it too narrow?
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.