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Any swim parent on deck?

Discussion in 'Coaches Corner' started by Shelterdog, Oct 17, 2017.

  1. Shelterdog

    Shelterdog Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    I've got a 7 year old girl who just joined a competitive swim team in the NYC area and I'm curious if people have thoughts/tips/advice on how to be a supportive parent (and how to get through the apparently interminable meets).
  2. zoolight.space

    zoolight.space Guest

    Read lots of books.
    Volunteer to do stuff.

    My six year old son swam meets this Summer for the first time and is now taking lessons in the offseason to gear up for next year because he's really into it. The meets were so goddamn boring. He swims for like 35 seconds every hour and does it four times and then it's over. So I volunteered as a timer (unofficial just for the improvement of the players, not the competitive timers) for as many meets as I could. It beats just sitting there and there's some folks to talk to and you can kind of try to get into the "excitement" of the thing. On nights I did not do the timer thing I just brought a book and paid attention when he swam and otherwise read.
  3. Beomoose

    Beomoose Member SoSH Member

    Not a parent but I was on teams as a kid and I do some coaching:
    • Best advice for surviving a meet is a book and/or smartphone. You'll also get to know fellow parents pretty well, for better or worse.
    • Volunteer to help with timing, getting snacks, chaperone trips, etc.
    • Don't let her skip practice unless it's something really obvious (medical, family issue, etc). There's going to be no end of preteen and teen angst and you really just gotta power through it.
    • I don't know what system her team has, but something that really mattered to me growing up as a swimmer was tracking my times. I still have most of my times from my events from every meet recorded, and it was huge for me to see I was getting better.
    • Don't listen to those "if everyone celebrates, there are no winners" psychos. Celebrate improving a time even if she doesn't place well, celebrate trying a new event even if it's tough, celebrate getting in the water and doing her best.
    • Encourage her to get on relay teams. I was convinced I was absolute shit, even with the timing records saying otherwise, until I started getting on relays. Fantastic for self esteem to be part of a team with swimmers I saw as being better than me and having them cheer me on, give me tips, and celebrate when we did well together.
    • Look for swim camps or other off-season events to keep them in the water. My parents used to send me to Brown University-run swim camp which both terrified and amazed me, and I learned a lot.
    • Listen to complaints about coaches carefully. Often it's a simple "they make me do too much," sometimes it's not.
    #3 Beomoose, Oct 17, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2017
  4. BroodsSexton

    BroodsSexton Member SoSH Member

    The meets are tough, particularly when they are young (it becomes a bit more entertaining later on, at least from my perspective as a spectator). The practices, as they get a little older (not much older than your daughter) are constant, and consistency really matters. Within a couple years, though, she will literally be swimming laps around you. I got in a lap pool with my daughter for the first time in a while recently, and she absolutely smoked me. Literally swam circles around me, two laps for every one I was doing. She's 10. It was impressive and intimidating.

    Two pieces of advice, from what I've seen: Have your daughter pick a stroke and take ownership of it as her "favorite," (probably her best stroke), and encourage her to swim with the older/better kids when she has the opportunity.

    It's a tough sport. I couldn't do what she does. Those practices are grueling.
  5. santadevil

    santadevil Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

    Lots of good advice in here. My daughter turned 9 this summer and joined the competitive swimming as well.
    My wife handled most of the day to day stuff, but it was really cool to see my daughter be excited for so many different things and realize that the was really good with her backstroke

    She really focused on that and then slowly the light clicked on for the other strokes as well

    Really good confidence booster for her and the had a blast a pretty much every meet she went to

    And ya, books or a smartphone are a must
    I also spent a lot of time walking around with our littlest guy just to kill time
  6. ehaz

    ehaz Member SoSH Member

    Carpool with other parents for those early 6am practices and do fun things (like go out to breakfast with her teammates, etc.) so she doesn't grow up dreading them.

    Ditto on swim camps.

    Also re skipping practices - don't let her do it, but if she wants to try out another sport for a season when she's older, be supportive. Even 10 and under can be ridiculously competitive in USA swimming. As someone who swam from age 7 through the NCAA, it's a sport with a ton of burnout - there are few sports that can be a bigger time commitment. If my parents didn't listen when I wanted to try out for baseball/crew/ski team/etc. at various points when I was in school, I may have grown to hate swimming. Everyone needs a break. People who grow up swimming both LCY/SCM seasons every single year lose their childhood.
  7. Just a bit outside

    Just a bit outside Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

    Gymnastics dad but the meets sound similar to swimming. 4 hours of time for a few minutes of watching your kid. A few suggestions that help me get through the gym meets. First, pack snacks and food you like. Concession stands tend to serve garbage that will just make you feel worse. Second, bring headphones and listen to podcasts or music or to reduce sound while you read. At gym meets the same music being played over and over again for the floor routines are awful. I imagine swim meets are pretty loud and headphones will help. And finally, go for a walk outside between times when your daughter is swimming. Sitting for the entire meet drives me crazy so my wife and I take walks outside to get fresh air and escape the gym for about 15 minutes a few times every meet. Good luck.
  8. Shelterdog

    Shelterdog Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    Thanks so much everyone. She's only been on the team for a month and but she absolutely loves it so far (even the early saturday morning practice) and we couldn't be happier.
  9. Jim Ed Rice in HOF

    Jim Ed Rice in HOF Red-headed Skrub child SoSH Member

    My son swam from age 8 through HS, my daughter also started at 8 and is a HS senior so I'll be wrapping up my role as swim parent unless she goes to a D3 school.

    Some of your time during meets will probably be taken up by assigned jobs. I personally liked timing over most of the other options because you got to be on deck and the meet seems to fly by when you're doing it. If you end up timing, be prepared to get wet and wear appropriate footwear. You'd be amazed at the water displacement ability of a little 7 year old girl when they go off the blocks or an older kid when they do flip turns. Like someone said, find a carpool especially for meets when they have to be there for first warm up an hour + before the meet starts. If you only have to do one of those per weekend long meet it's a good thing.

    It was mentioned above but a lot of swimmer satisfaction is based on beating your last times. At the early ages it tends to happen frequently and they'll drop like 10 seconds on a 50 yd swim. It gets tough when the start to plateau but that's a few years out. Whatever the case, every time they come up to see you in the stands after their race tell them "good swim" and hand them something to eat as they drip on your shoes and clothing. The coach will tell them what they're doing right or wrong, give them their splits, etc. The usual "don't be that parent" advice applies as it does with every other sport.

    There are various apps that help track things during a meet (Meetmobile if the clubs in your area do that) or track a swimmer's times overall (USA swimming Deck Pass plus).

    Since you just started the season I assume your daughter will be swimming through the winter. Dress in layers with shorts/t shirt if you are warm under normal circumstances because the temperature in the stands of a typical swim meet is roughly equal to the surface of the sun. You will learn there is a different fashion sense for swim meets.

    Bring a book or whatever to keep occupied but also be aware of what event is going on and where your daughter will swim in said event. Most meets will have heat sheets so bring a highlighter and find her name. You'll be able to judge how much time is between her events and you can take a walk, get a snack, etc. I've got a pretty good track record of not missing events but it can suck if you sat there for 4 hours and miss one of their 30 second swims.
  10. Doug Beerabelli

    Doug Beerabelli Killer Threads Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    Thread title should change "board" to "deck."

    Daughter did it a couple years 7-9 years old, but also danced. Had to make a choice between 2 due to time commitment and conflicts. She chose dance - and continues to this day as a HS junior.

    Competitions/recitals are similar to meets, but are better due to a) darkness hides you sleeping in cushioned auditorium chairs, and b) Low humidity and non chlorine smelling environment. Down side is the barrage of Tori Amosesque covers of all kinds of songs that were just fine in their original form. Plus you hear "Locomotion" every...single...time.
  11. Omar's Wacky Neighbor

    Omar's Wacky Neighbor Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    I am SO grateful that neither of my sons wanted to winter swim. (also a bit of a bittersweet regret of what might have been, as they were both rather competitive during the summer seasons against year round swimmers)
  12. B H Kim

    B H Kim Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    Around here at least (Montgomery County, Maryland), there's a huge difference between winter and summer swimming. Summer swimming is a lot of fun for the kids, the practices are in the neighborhood and the meets are much quicker. Winter swimming, on the other hand, is a much bigger hassle. The meets alone are crazy (my younger daughter had to be at a meet at 6:00 am last Saturday and Sunday and was there each day for 4 or 5 hours). As others have said though, the meet organizers do a great job of publishing a timeline that allows me to leave/hang out elsewhere in the building or outside/etc. and come in just to watch her events. My wife times at most of these meets, but I generally prefer to hang out and come in for her events. My kids both swam winter and summer from ages 7 or 8 through their freshman years of high school. My older daughter swam on the high school JV team as a freshman and then, thankfully, decided to drop swimming for running* (which she's better at and enjoys a lot more). My younger daughter is a freshman now and still swims four nights a week all winter. She's probably good enough to swim varsity and she doesn't have any alternative sports, so I expect that she'll keep that up for the next few years.

    *Running/track is a lot cheaper than swimming, too. But, track meets are actually worse than swim meets. They aren't as rigidly scheduled and can run 10 or more hours.
  13. Bosoxen

    Bosoxen Bounced back Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    This is a really good bit of advice. I'd take it a step further, however, and if she decides freestyle is her favorite, it might help to encourage her to work on one of the others as her specialty. For two reasons:

    1) I don't know about other coaches, but my coach would always do sets where you were required to pick a non-freestyle stroke for the set. If she doesn't develop one of those strokes, she will be absolutely miserable until she masters one of those.

    2) If she develops a non-freestyle stroke, it really opens up her ability to join the more competitive medley relay teams. I was always a middling swimmer (ages 8-16) and never really wanted to get out of my freestyle comfort zone. But I worked at it and by the time I got to high school, I was serviceable enough at butterfly that I was the butterfly leg on the A team medley relay in our district championship meet, as a sophomore.
    This is absolutely true and pretty closely matches my experience. I was happiest when I was able to play baseball in the summer in addition to swimming. Once I had to quit baseball, my drive and desire plummeted. Add in the two-a-days that came with high school and club team practices and I was out by my junior year.

    It can be a rewarding sport but the grind of the higher levels will eventually wear you down if you're not careful. You'll also want to be mindful of her school work. I was always a straight A student but the grueling practice schedule in high school made my grades slip to the point where I failed a class for the first time in my life.
  14. Shelterdog

    Shelterdog Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    Thanks for this-and thanks again to everyone for their thoughts.

    According to the coach their big goal for all the swimmers under age 12 is to get every kid to develop their form and technique in every stroke; they try and avoid any specialization in distances/strokes until kids are 12. Don't know if that's a normal approach but they seem to know what they're doing and it's logical enough for me.

    Next challenge for the pup: swim a 100 yards in a race! (She only did 25 yard races at her first meet).
    Next challenge for the dad: get from Brooklyn Heights to West Nyack by 7:30 am on a Saturday morning!
  15. Beomoose

    Beomoose Member SoSH Member

    Fairly close to my experience in teams, and over the years I changed specialties/favorites more than once thanks to having that base of skill. So her coach's philosophy has got my endorsement, for what it's worth.

    Good luck on the 100!
  16. Shelterdog

    Shelterdog Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    The update: she loves everything about swimming and swim team; she's getting much better (she just finished a 100 IM without getting DQed which-as a 7 year old--she's very proud of) she's slow as molasses. So overall a success from a parenting/holistic development of a child standpoint and perhaps less so from an athletic one but we're only 3 months into this adventure.

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