Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham
Dear Swim Mom,
My son has been club swimming for eight years. Even writing that seems daunting. He is a great high school swimmer, he holds his own as an age-grouper, and wants to swim at the private liberal arts college (SCIAC/NCAA DIII) down the street from our home. He had an unofficial visit last year as a sophomore.
As a junior, he’s burnt out! He is somewhat excited about his high school season, enjoys the opportunity to lead the younger swimmers, and would like to be captain (that might be a long shot as a junior). When it comes to club, however, he complains about the monotony and the exhausting sets.
We are so close to the finish line. And I know his future self would regret quitting club swimming. The $10,000 question is, how important is club swim to college recruiters?
Since it is now March of his junior year, I was going to have my son call the college coach for his preferences regarding the kind of preparation our son would need to make the college team. As a mom, I was hoping to get a pointer or two with how to navigate our son’s growing dislike for club. He turns 18 in December. Should we encourage him to push through? Will it do more harm than good to quit club?
Thanks for any advice.
Mom of Burnt Out Swimmer
Dear Mom of Burnt Out Swimmer,
Fortunately (or unfortunately) your son will most likely be getting a break from the pool for a month or two due to the Coronavirus. I do agree that it’s a good idea for your son to talk to the college coach. He will have firsthand knowledge of what is expected to make the team.
I asked my son for his advice, since he went through a similar experience of getting burnt out on swimming. He decided not to swim in college and quit competing and going to most club practices during his junior year of high school. Here’s what he had to say:
“If he’s burnt out by swimming club, he may not like swimming in college. The sets only get longer; the time commitment (in and out of the water) only increases.
“Personally, I have mixed feelings about quitting swimming my senior year of high school. It felt good to assert my independence, since I didn’t feel like the decision to swim was my own anymore. It really helped my mental health to feel that my life and decisions about my time were mine and made for my own reasons. Then again, college admissions is a game, and you have to play every card you’ve got if you want to win. I regret not leveraging swimming to get into the best school I could have possibly gotten into. But then—would I have been fast enough that swimming could have made a difference? With my chronic health issues of allergies and asthma and without trying, it’s impossible to know.
“Here’s the question: How likely is he to get into his dream school as a non-athlete? If he can, is he looking for some help from the school with tuition?
“If he knows he can get in without swimming and cost isn’t an issue, I imagine a DIII school would let him red-shirt after skipping a year of club. If swimming has the potential to tip him over the edge from a maybe to a yes, it would be foolish to quit club. Swimming is a year-round sport. Period.”
I also want to add that my son believes that college coaches might question taking on a swimmer if that swimmer didn’t want to swim club. After reading my son’s perspective, I realize that he was swimming in high school to please us. They need to swim because they love it, not for our approval. Looking back, I wish we were more supportive of his other interests and showed as much enthusiasm to those activities as we did to swimming.
I hope you find my son’s comments helpful and that your son regains his passion for swimming.
What advice do you have for Mom of Burnt Out Swimmer?
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.