Ask Swim Mom: Should Kids Miss School For Meets?

Ask Swim Mom: Should kids miss school for meets?
by Elizabeth Wickham

Dear Swim Mom,
Do you know why USA swimming, swim leagues, teams, coaches and parents all feel it’s ok to schedule swim meets on school days, with the expectation the kids should skip school and show up? Really appreciate your thoughts on this.
Unexcused Absence Mom

Dear Unexcused Absence Mom,
Meets that take place during school days are usually higher level meets with qualifying time standards. I believe these meets are scheduled during school days due to the number of events and swimmers—and they may last three to five days. Another way to look at your question is should we take our kids out of school for a swim meet?

That’s a personal question that families make based on the understanding and agreement with schools, teachers and coaches. Communication with your children’s teachers and coaches is key. Some teachers are very supportive of extracurricular activities during school days and others are against it. You may get push back from a coach for not attending meets during school days, but you’re the parent. It’s a decision each family needs to make for themselves. I think the students should also have input. In my family, our son’s goal was to be valedictorian and he took a ton of AP classes. Although he swam for more than 10 years, he never missed school for a meet. He met his academic goals but wasn’t accepted to any of his top schools in spite of his achievements. Our daughter’s passion was swimming and she did miss school for meets with the approval of her teachers. She learned to communicate with her teachers, work ahead and was recruited to college for swimming. In college, midterms were scheduled at the same time as the conference meet. Her experience from missing school earlier helped her balance college studies with being on the travel team. So, in our own family we had two kids with different priorities and choices. I don’t think either one made a wrong choice, but missing school for meets didn’t hurt in the long run.

Years ago, we had a family on our club team who would not allow their kids to swim on Sundays because of their religious beliefs. Their kids were some of the fastest on the team and we sure missed them on relays — but again, it was their decision to make. Many extracurricular activities take kids out of the classroom — whether it’s sports, music, theater, etc. Hopefully, you have a school that is supportive if you choose to take your kids out of school for swim meets. What are your thoughts for Unexcused Absence Mom on swim meets scheduled during school

Please email Elizabeth Wickham at [email protected] if you have a question for “Ask SwimMom.”

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.

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Claudia H
2 years ago

I remember how hard it was to get away from high school for the short course nationals held in April each year. I had to re-take an entire semester of biology the following year due to missed labs (for only a week?!) And I was a national long course champion, and made the Olympic team the summer prior to my senior year of HS. I was a 3.80 gpa student. And still my school made it difficult to go to these meets once a year. This was back in the early ‘70’s.

April Gilbert
2 years ago

Our Daughter misses a lot of school to attend meets. We feel it helps her more with organizing her homework test, communication skills with having to talk with teachers and make a plan. When they get to college they need to know how to do this.

2 years ago

How many kids not going to Arena Pro series meets every 6-8 weeks, training trips, US Open, Sen/Jun Nats, etc, are missing more than 5-10 days of school a year?

Balance, people. If they are really only missing 5-10 days out of a 180 school day year (mostly sectional level kids) that’s less than 5%…assuming the class meets everyday, which most do not (at the hs level).

If I had an entire team with 95% or better attendance annually I’d be ecstatic.

Go to class. Do your work. Study. Stay on point. It doesn’t seem like if a kid misses less than 5% of a school year that it’s impossible to do that.

2 years ago

Never a question when a school-sponsored swim team is traveling for a meet; it’s a no brainer. Just plan ahead.

Club meet comes up as a question for some. In 5th grade, I missed school for a day and a half for a championship meet. I worked my tail off to qualify for it. The best I placed that whole weekend was 42nd. Worth it. That experience made me hungry for more and led to years of more 3-4 day championship club meets with qualifying times I had to work for, and guess what, more days of missed school. I say unless there are major red flags for the kid or for how the school will treat the kid,… Read more »

2 years ago

A few years ago when our swimmer was in high school there were had state, zone, and other club travel meets that required missing school. At the time, the school policy was that students had to attend a mandatory study hall for each day missed – the intention being that the time would be used to catch up on missed work. Unfortunately, the same mandatory study halls were dealt out as punishment for other attendance and discipline infractions, so they were not usually very orderly or quiet! Fortunately, as an already disciplined swimmer, our child planned in advance, asked for assignments in advance and completed everything on time on her own, making the required study halls a complete waste of… Read more »

2 years ago

I always thought that teachers not working with student athletes when they had to miss days were ridiculous. If teachers aren’t working with kids then the school shouldn’t even have sports.

For example, we have always had conflicts with AP testing during our high school conference meets. Some teachers won’t allow students to reschedule an AP test. It’s a school sport how can you not work with a student that is participating in a school promoted activity. And it’s not like this is a random in season meet, it’s conference champs.

I think all teachers in a school should be on the same page with things like this. Either all teachers in a school works with the student athletes and… Read more »

Reply to  Sccoach
2 years ago

In the teachers’ defense, sometimes they have no control over AP test dates; I believe some of the specifics are designated by the district?

I think most, but certainly not all, teachers try to be accommodating. And they have a lot on their plates, including (but not always successfully) teaching things like subject-verb agreement and punctuation.

Reply to  Betty
2 years ago

Very clever jab, Betty!
I believe most districts or larger high schools DO have alternative dates for AP testing; our conference championships have always conflicted with one of testing and the students and coaches had to schedule in advance. Prom was also always on the night of championship finals, so student athlete swimmers often changed into formalwear at the pool and drove an hour or more to the venue after swimming. Yeah, they probably reeked of chlorine, were tired, and the girls didn’t get to have their hair and nails done, but they had great memories of competing and some even qualified for State, and they got to experience another HS rite of passage with their classmates and teammates.… Read more »

Reply to  Sccoach
2 years ago

My son’s school allows seven excused absences per quarter and nine per semester. Excused means anything – sick, funeral, state meet, recruiting visit. If you exceed these numbers, the teachers can give the student a zero for the day(s) missed, including tests. A nationally-ranked swimmer was forced to cancel a recruiting visit because of this policy and transferred out the following year. It’s ridiculous.

2 years ago

Of course it’s up to the parents but it makes me wonder, why are they scheduled on school days? Are other sports scheduled on school days as well? I know High School sports require kids to leave early on some days but rarely miss a full day. Our team has 4 or 5 travel meets that require missing a day (or 2 for Champs). Like others said, missing a single day is not big deal but missing 4/5 or 6 seems like a lot. Why don’t they just do them on Sat/Sun and have fewer events? Would save parents a bunch of money on hotels too!

Reply to  Kswim
2 years ago

Yes, other sports are scheduled on school days. Almost all of them, in fact.

At the last school I coached at, swimming was strongly encouraged to not have any meets on school days. Other teams would routinely miss Fridays, sometimes Thursdays and Fridays. Theatre kids missed a whole week of school before their annual musical.

Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

For young kids? I should’ve made the distinction about age in my post. I feel like everything about swimming can change in High School (more practices, morning practices and missing school for meets), I’m just not sure it’s necessary to have young kids miss school for a meet

Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

Curious to know what sports you refer to and whether we’re talking during the day or at night.

Reply to  Kswim
2 years ago

My son’s middle school (6-8th grade) will have in-school basketball games and all the kids get out of class and go watch the game, usually 2-3/season. I believe he will only miss one day of school for a swim meet.

The Importer AND Exporter
2 years ago

Ultimately it’s a matter if understanding your swimmer’s goals in and out of the pool, being realistic about potential outcomes (i.e. there is a point in time when it’s pretty obvious your kid isn’t going to swim for Texas or that swimming doesnt come with full rides for everyone), and finding the appropriate balance of school and other activities.

Also 100% agree with other commenters who stress that YOU NEED TO BE THE PARENT. Trust but verify with your coaches and work to understand their motives, and be willing to say no on behalf of your swimmer. Our current coach is a swimming above all else type who couldn’t care less about academics (scheduling morning practice over school time… Read more »

About Coleman Hodges

Coleman Hodges

Coleman started his journey in the water at age 1, and although he actually has no memory of that, something must have stuck. A Missouri native, he joined the Columbia Swim Club at age 9, where he is still remembered for his stylish dragon swim trunks. After giving up on …

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