Thursday, June 30, 2011

Another Swim Beginning: Viking is Now a Swim Dad

This is not my kid.  I would not let her wear one of those ridiculous caps.  I would trade the shark fin and googly eyes for horns.

My relationship with the sport of swimming has once again taken a new direction. I am officially a swim dad. My four year old daughter had her first swim practice last night. It was in-water lessons, but still it was during my practice and therefore her swim team career has officially begun.  It was hard to coach when I wanted to be on her end of the pool so badly to watch.

I have often wondered during arguments with swim parents if I would act crazy if it was my kid at the center of the discussion. I used to worry that when my kids started swimming I might instantly lose my ability to see things clearly and start thinking my 8 and under is on a critical path to Olympic glory.  I figured it was some kind of a hormone that is released at sign-up night that turns an otherwise normal person into a pushy excellence junkie who is blinded to the fact that their kid isn't really that talented and doesn't really work that hard, becomes hell bent on standing up for their child's right to win everything all the time, and helps their child to escape blame and responsibility for everything.

Not that I have anything against swim parents.  99.9% are awesome… but every coach out there has had a few doozies.  I mean, we've all had someone accuse us of trying to use our athletes to help sell crack to elementary school kids.  Right? Thank goodness she couldn’t prove it, eh?

My wife seems to think I won't be able to contain myself when it comes to my kids’ swimming.  She feels the need to constantly keep my enthusiasm in check.  I don’t think I’m gonna have a problem at all. So what if I was thrilled that both of my girls had gigantic hands and feet when they were born?  Who cares that I drool when my girls show me how well they can point their big floppy toes?  Why is it a problem if the only bouncy balls my girls have to play with are 25 pound medicine balls?  And why is it weird that my girls have an opinion on Phelps' performance at Santa Clara?  They have an opinion on Rainbow Brite too.  Plus, I know I am not the only parent out there who has scoured the internet looking for the LZR in a 3T.  Everybody does that, right? I am pretty sure I can keep it in perspective, even when I am in the bleachers at the trials and both of my kids make the Olympic team before they graduate high school.  I am so not gonna freak out about it and rub it in everyone's faces like all those other parents would.

I am glad my princess had fun with her first swim team experience.  As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’m going to be the problem.  I might have to actually hold her back a little.  When I was tucking my daughter into bed, the conversation went like this:

Daughter:  "Do I have swim practice tomorrow?"
Dad:  "Yes you do.  Do you want to swim tomorrow?"
Daughter:  "I like it. I want to swim every day."
Dad: “What was your favorite part?"
Daughter: "Kickboards."
Dad:   "High five!  Yeah!”
Daughter:  "Are you going to wake me up early in the morning to take me to your pool?"
Dad: "No. Why would you ask that?"
Daughter:  "That's when you wake up at 5 in the morning to go to practice."
Dad: "But your practice is at night."
Daughter: "But I want to go in the morning and at night every day."
Dad: "Oh. That is a big commitment and you just aren't ready for that yet.  You just learned how to get your face wet without crying last week."
Daughter: "But some kiddos do!"
Dad: "Yes, but they are bigger than you.  Sweetheart, you are not big enough to start double practices yet."
Daughter:  "Maybe when I am five years old?"
Mom: "Sure. Maybe. Just don't mention that to your mom, okay?  She might think it was my idea."

Oh, man... I am in for a wild ride.  I may need to get advice from some other swim parents.  That is gonna be weird.


  1. Congratulations! I know what you mean about the suits - getting my son a size 22 jammer (still too big) for his 4-year-old debut was hilarious. I don't harbor delusions of my kids' Olympic grandeur, but it is exciting to see them try new things willingly and get into healthy competition. For my big girl who has Asperger syndrome, a type of high-functioning autism, it's wonderful that we've found a sport that she loves and can do with her peers! For my strong-willed, competitive son, it's a great channel for his energy and encouragement to listen constructively to adults. (His coaches are often more patient than I am when he thinks he knows everything about everything.)

    It is a challenge to remember to smile, listen and encourage when your brain is telling you it would be SO HELPFUL to point out that if they had just done their arms like Coach said during backstroke, or pushed off a little harder on that turn... I have that talk with myself every meet day, reminding myself that if the coaches can get that info across and still be playful and smiling, then I can certainly be the cheerleader and share in my kids' joy instead of killing it through pointless (at this age) technical stuff. I've seen those parents too - hard on their kids, harder on the coaches - and don't want to be one. Trying to be in control of everything is arduous. Swim team has been a whole bundle of good lessons for the kids *and* for me.

    On a happy note, meets are always better with sunscreen, frozen grapes, and the water-resistant cushions from your patio chairs (great for letting tired kids lie down and rest between races, much nicer than hard suit-destroying concrete pool deck). Good luck to your princess and I hope she keeps that enthusiasm!

  2. And a swim cap with horns would be an excellent training aid, much like a drag suit - get her used to that resistance, then put her in a regular cap for the meet and watch her zoom! C'mon, SwimOutlet, get on that.

  3. I have to echo Robin's sentiment that it's hard not to be one of "those" parents and it's hard to watch the one's that are. Last week I saw our coach get chewed out for not moving this guy's kid up from level one to an invitation to try out for the swim club. She handled it so well, "he needs to put his face in the water without sobbing first." I would have been like, "sit down Steve Lochte."

    You've already set a great example by instilling her with a general love of all things swimming. I would be very interested what her opinion was of Phelps at the Santa Clara GP, by the way.

  4. Awe, this is so sweet! And so exciting. Watch out, I actually succeeded in convincing my dad to let me go to double practice by the time I was 8 - I was a little maniac!

    Coincidently, I just wrote a post about why I think swimming is the best sport for kid's personal development:

    Way to go swimmer dad!