We have all experienced that feeling when our distraught child comes racing up to us in the stands with a look of panic on his face holding the strap to his goggles in two pieces. Of course, they are typically in the next event! We have to swallow the urge to say “I told you three times to bring a back-up pair of goggles” as we grab our wallet and race to the swim shop in the building.
At one meet, my 10-year-old son came up to tell me he needed a new suit as his friends said they could see through his when he was on the starting blocks. I have had the unpleasant experience of timing when swimmers in worn out suits are on the blocks and I would not wish this on my child or on the timers!
This particular suit was almost new as he only wore the team suit to meets and it was in the fall – it was not see through. However, there was no convincing him of this and he was so upset that he was not going to be able to concentrate on his races – in fact, he did not even want to swim the rest of the day. Off I went to the swim shop to buy another team suit. At this point, we did not even know what tech suits were so I guess I should be happy I only had to pay $48 for his peace of mind!
As they get older, the things that stress our swimmers become bigger:
- Will I qualify for the elite group?
- Will I get the cuts for the state championship meet?
- Will I be recruited to swim in college?
- Will I make the high school swim team?
Our job as swim parents is to help our swimmer stay calm and focused while learning to manage their time and to deal with stress. The demands on swimmers are greater than many other extracurricular activities as they have to juggle morning practice, attending school, practice after school, dryland training, homework, along with researching colleges, contacting coaches, and perhaps even a job and a social life.
We walk a fine line in supporting our swimmers, but not micro-managing them or doing too much for them. My swimmer was not required to do as much in terms of household chores as his brothers were because his schedule was more rigorous. Was that fair? Perhaps not, but everyone in the family understood that his schedule made it nearly impossible for him to contribute equally.
Our support will always be there, but responsibilities should begin to transition to your swimmer in high school with communication with coaches and exploring swimming in college. Encouraging our swimmers to take care of tasks such as researching colleges and contacting coaches during the summer or over winter break or spring break when school is not in session is a great idea. If they complete recruit questionnaires and send introductory emails then, it is not as difficult to respond to communication from coaches while in school. My son was the most productive the semester he took an Excel class at school as he was on the computer for 1-1/2 hours every morning so he used a few minutes to check his email and contact coaches. He also used time on Saturday afternoons to take care of these tasks when school was in session.
I admit to doing a lot of the research for the college search process – finding conference champs swim times, preparing spreadsheets, and looking up event times at particular colleges. For this reason, I started College Swimming Guide to take care of the legwork for you by providing members with spreadsheets of conference championship times and the top 5 times for each event at every college and university with a swim program. The computer program that gathered the conference championship times took over 60 hours alone to run (that’s time saved that can be focused on communicating with coaches, studying, sleeping, etc.). If I had not gathered this information for him, we would not have had good information to target colleges.
As their responsibilities change, our support evolves as well and often the best thing we can do for our teen swimmers is just to listen. After they finish venting, they frequently feel better and have figured out a solution to their issue. One of my sons gets stressed about being overloaded but by the time he talks through it with me, he realizes that many of the tasks can be accomplished quickly and then he can handle the rest. I don’t even need to say a word – I am just there as a sounding board. The best part is when he hugs me and thanks me for my help!
Michelle Lombana is committed to helping parents like her whose children want to swim in college. When she’s not supporting her swimmer, she can be found at www.collegeswimmingguide.com.