This swimming opinion is anonymous, but comes from a DI head swimming coach.
I’ve been in the coaching world for the past 15 years of my life. I married shortly after graduation and my wife and I decided to start a family very soon after. Climbing the coaching ladder through those years, I’m now a head coach at a college.
Both of my children have been around a competitive pool their entire life. It was how they could spend time with dad during the crazy hours that go into coaching. Eventually that grew into them swimming for the local swim club. There have been so many times I’ve thought, Man, I should write a blog about this. Well, here is my first attempt.
It’s ironic that the few “free” weekends during the college season amazingly line up with my own children having their swim meets. So with a little self-talk, I whole heartedly make an attempt to go and watch my children and just be their dad. For those that have been in this situation, you realize that it’s impossible. It’s impossible from a public perspective because there are a lot of coaches that know who you are and want to talk to you about their up and coming swimmer. There are parents that will come up to you as well and ask what I think about their 13 year son. All of that comes with the territory of your position you hold, but it’s the other side of things that eats at you: The coaching instinct. You immediately start watching what other coaches are doing and, you watch what your child’s coach is doing, then you bite your lip and feel the tension build. More times than not, you make the right decision to bite your tongue.
I’ve read a number of parenting articles along the way and remember one where they suggest 3 simple statements prior to a competition and 3 questions after.
Prior to the meet
Do your best, have fun, and I love you.
After the meet
Did you do your best? Did you have fun? Followed by “I love you.”
I may or may not be off on the last one but with two daughters, it’s an important one for me to add in.
I’ve been pretty solid at letting things go as a dad/coach with my children. During their early years, my wife and I would let them decide at our Sunday family meetings what days they would go to practice. We held them accountable to that for the most part and it let them decide their commitment. I think that has been pivotal in where they are now. Yes, they are still very young (7 and 10) but they both make the decision to go to practice 5 days a week.
SIDENOTE: From an age group perspective both of my children have horrible birth days as they will age up prior to their seasonal championship every year (my oldest for long course season and my youngest for short course). Last summer I saw the phenomenon that has slowly been creeping into age group swimming again. I saw it with the full body suits back in 2007-2009, and now I see it again. I’m going to championship meets and seeing 8, 9, 10, 11 year olds in kneeskin suits. When I coached club my standard for the senior athletes I coached (and their parents) on when they should invest in a full body suit was after they made their sectional cut. To me, that was the mark. You’ve hit this higher level of competition, now let’s move on to a higher level of suit.
Now I’m not trying to bring down the swimsuit industry in any way, but I can’t grasp my mind around this. This is also coming from an individual that is so competitive that I do not believe in the whole “let your kid win” theory. That’s in anything, board games, card games, who can eat the most chicken wings, laps in the backyard pool. If there is going to be a winner and a second place finisher, I am going to do everything I can while I am physically and mentally able to win (from a counseling/psychological approach to things, I’m sure I have my older brother to thank for that character trait).
Why are parents spending 200, 300 or 400 dollars on a suit that with any normal growth in these developmental years is NOT going to fit when long course season rolls around? Is that blue ribbon valued so much? Is it the same as the cell phone craze? Suzy, Annie, Sally and Betty all have the suits/phone then my precious should have one too.
So there I was last night on a web-based swim shop. My oldest daughter has her short course state championship next week. She’s seeded well in her events — which always makes dad a little proud but also anxious. Again, she trains well. She’s committed to her workouts. Let’s let this play out. I’ve told her once she makes a zones team or sectionals we will get the kneeskin. Why change, right?
Then I start visualizing what I’m going to see. I’m going to see my first born daughter behind the blocks with 7 other girls in kneeskins. Is this any different than my stance on not letting her have a cell phone until she’s 12? This is competition, I like to win, and my oldest daughter has picked up that trait from me as well. BUT she isn’t on the same playing ground…is she? For those that have worn these suits, regardless of level, we all realize the more fabric you have on the better things will go. So I start looking at the suits more and justifying in my head. Well this kneeskin actually costs less than the other non-kneeskin technical suit. What’s the difference right? Everyone else is going to have it on? All her classmates have cell phones?
My inbox last night has the order confirmation for a new racing suit for my daughter…..