For years, we have scheduled our activities around the swim meet schedule and worked out conflicts when we can. I have known families who did not let their children swim in meets on Sundays so they would not miss church. This works for a while, but eventually the children reach a level where they have to compete in the meets.

There are also families who miss a week or so of training in the summer for family reunions or vacations or mission trips. Once the kids are sophomores or juniors in high school, they often tell their parents they cannot participate in these activities any more.

How did we get to the point where swimming governs our family life?

My son had his tonsils out as a senior in high school. We knew it would be a rough recovery even for someone used to putting his body through pain every day in the pool.

He had been getting sick increasingly often over the past few years with terrible bouts of tonsillitis that took multiple rounds of antibiotics to knock out so we had to do it. Also, we we were concerned about him living in a college dorm with germs all over, so we felt a sense of urgency.

As with anything else, swimming governed the schedule. Many kids would have surgery over Winter Break or in June when school let out. Not swimmers! They cannot miss Holiday Hell training or take time off in the already condensed long-course season.

As with any important family decision, we huddled up with the swim coach. By abbreviating his short-course season and having him swim in his taper meet and skip the last meet, he would have 2-1/2 weeks to recover before beginning long-course training

From a school standpoint, it would have been better to schedule it over Spring Break but that would have meant missing the first week of long-course training. He thought it would be harder to catch up from that than from missing a week of school right before midterms. This decision sounds crazy even as I write this. At least the coach had our priorities straight!

In other situations, it is difficult to determine whether to make swimming the priority over other events. Do you schedule the SAT or ACT during a swim meet weekend if it is the best weekend in terms of studying for it?  What about family reunions? Weddings?

My son actually missed his oldest brother’s college graduation because his long course taper meet was the same weekend. This was a very difficult family decision (one that we made without the coach!) but the rest of the family gathered and celebrated while my swimmer traveled to the meet with the team. We would not have made that same decision for a non-taper meet, however.

Sometimes these decisions depend on the goals of the swimmer – if she has the goal of swimming in college, it is important for her to train all the way through the summer and to compete in meets throughout the year. If she swims for exercise and socialization, it may not hurt for her to miss training and meets.

There is no right answer and it depends on the competing priorities like family and school. If your swimmer is not doing well in school, he may have to miss practice to meet with a tutor. No matter how fast he swims, he cannot get into college without graduating from high school!

Looking back, I think we’ll likely cringe at some of the decisions that were very logical at the time. All for the love of the sport and the swimmer.


Michelle Lombana is committed to helping parents like her whose children want to swim in college.  When she’s not juggling family priorities between swimming and other activities, she can be found at



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