Monday, July 4, 2011

A Heartwarming Tale: How a Member of Team USA Saved a Swim Career: Happy July 4th!

My girls only began swim lessons last fall. They love it, they really do. I know this because I'm constantly asking them, "are you sure you don't want to play soccer...or softball....or kickball.....dominoes?" It probably comes out more like, "YOU LIKE IT! YOU REALLY LIKE IT! RIGHT? RIGHT? RIGHT?" Whether it's the truth of they're afraid I will stop feeding them and caring for them if they hate it (kidding! kidding!) they tell me the love it and I can tell they do. Awesome. Go big or go home, ladies.

We go to the pool at Lifetime Fitness and the rest of the kids are dicking around with their water guns and splishy-splashy and my girls are working on breaststroke timing. So one day I thought it would be a good idea for them to work on starts. Now, there's rules. The lap pool is for 12 and older ONLY. Don't think you can be some age grouper and practice on your own time. Sorry, kid. Take your passion, dedication and goggles....shut up and go down the water slide like you're supposed to. Okay, so I knew the rule but I thought since the lanes were empty and it was close to closing and I was standing right there it would be okay. One of my girls, Anna, wanted to work on starts.

All of the sudden a blast of whistles came roaring out of the sky. I almost peed myself-scared the hell out of me- I can only imagine what it sounded like to my daughter. "No one under the age of 12 in the lap pool" the lifeguard yelled. "I understand" I said in my calmest tone, "but she swims well and she's trying to make the swim team. She needs to practice starts."

"Forget it, Mom. It's okay. I don't want to do it. I don't think I want to swim anymore anyways. No jeah!" I shot the putzy kid a look, "SEE WHAT YOU DID?" He shrugged his pimply shoulders, muttered something about the rules, called me "ma'am" and walked off. Now, I know my kid can be a *little* dramatic and has a tendency to overreact (I have no idea WHERE she gets it from) so I talked to her, her dad talked to her, her sister talked to her. She was embarrassed and upset. She's a perfectionist. She's a little....intense. I wasn't making any progress and neither was anyone else.

So what does a super swim mom and swim fan do in these situations? It's easy, a no-brainer. They bring in a National Teamer. Through the wonders of social networking I was able to ask USA Swimming's 2009 and 2010 Male Swimmer of the Year, Ryan Lochte (who had shown tremendous kindness and thoughtfulness to my girls at meets before) for some help. I told him what happened, how she said "no jeah" and she never wants to swim again. Oh, and it was the day after her birthday. Can he help?" Of course, I never expected to hear anything back. Why should I? Why would he respond to some mom worried about her 8 year old kid? Like the dude has nothing else going on, right? With his keg tossing, tire flipping and 18,000 meter practices. Ten minutes later my Blackberry was flashing. "No jeah? hahahaha." After picking myself up from the floor I managed to type "just the fact that you responded is so nice. It happened on her birthday. Can you wish her a happy birthday? Seriously, she'd be so psyched she'd forget all about this other drama." The next day there was this.......

Seriously? Name ONE other sport where one of it's premiere athletes is going to take the time to do that? You think your kid misses a touchdown pass they're going to hear from Drew Brees? I don't think so. I see this all the time with swimmers on twitter. It takes a fraction of a second and it means so much to the fan. Name another sport where your kid can get a robo call from Olympic medalists. Here kids, great meet today! Matt Grevers has something to say to you. Do you know what that means to a kid?

So, yes, she got back in the pool. She has the tweet on her wall in her bedroom. Of course, I know my daughter will never win any Olympic medals or break any world records. The world would have continued on it's axis if she never got in a pool again...but to me she's important...and her feelings and frustration were important. The fact that she was important enough for the 22 seconds it took for Ryan Lochte to write that tweet is immeasurable and just one more reason why I love this sport and it's athletes.

Happy July 4th, America. Team USA, go kick some ass at Worlds. We're so proud of all of you.


  1. I have tried to explain this aspect of our sport to so many people. When I show our other coaches at school pictures of my swimmers with people like Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin I have to explain... "this wasn't an autograph session or a clinic. We were at the Grand Prix. She didn't drive all the way out there for a picture. She warmed up in the lanes and raced in the heats with these guys too." our high school football guys can't go to an NFL game and participate with the best in the world, and they sure as heck aren't gonna get an autograph at the game.
    I have had email conversations with some of the best in swimming and even once had Gary Hall Jr tell me "he enjoys reading my blogs."
    How freekin' cool is that?
    What a cool sport.

  2. I always wondered what it was like for other swimmers to warm up and race in a heats with the best in your sport. I don't think I could make it across the pool I'd be so overwhelmed.

  3. I love this story so much, and I'm glad she's returning to swim again. Lochte, Grevers and other great swimmers are amazing to watch with kids at Grand Prix meets - Kathleen Hersey comes to mind as always having a moment for them and being really sweet, and Weber-Gale, Soni, Berens, Meichtry, Shanteau, Josh Davis and this list could seriously go on all day. Even the intensely focused Phelps, arguably the swimmer with the most demands on his between-race time these days, has been gentle and friendly to my kids in person. Hearing Simon Burnett give kids swimming tips at dinner, finishing with a smile and, "But if your coach or mom or dad says different, now, you listen to them, okay?" just blew my mind. Yes, that's one of the great things about swimming - not that just one or two of our athletes are accessible and kind to their fans but that ALL of them are. Now that's how you grow a sport.

  4. Many, many people do not understand the make-up of USA Swimming and the progression of age group swimming to senior swimming to Olympic swimming (even people who swam as kids themselves).

    It's exhausting trying to explain that club swimming isn't just for little kids and yes it's ok to keep swimming even though the swimmer has graduated high school. Most clubs have senior send-offs and families believe that this is the natural stopping point for the athlete. I was constantly asked how my 17 year old high school graduate could still be swimming club.

    People believe that the next step is Masters swimming. There becomes a group of swimmers who feel too old for club swimming and too young for masters swimming.

    It's exhausting explaining that Olympians and twenty - thirty+ year olds swim at USA Swimming meets and not just kids.

  5. Who says she won't be a record setter!?

  6. Yes, Robin. The list is long! What a great sport to have our kids be involved with.

    Anon, I will support her and encourage her like she's the future Rebecca Soni. Thank you for your optimism.