Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham
What do our kids gain from swimming? The physical benefits include being active, healthy and strong. They learn life lessons such as self-discipline, grit, patience, loyalty and sacrifice. My kids learned how to be caring teammates and to take personal responsibility for their actions.
Coaches play a big part in helping swimmers learn these lessons. I remember my daughter’s coach asking her after a race where she added time to explain why and what she could do differently next time. She said she didn’t warm up as much as she should have. She understood that actions directly affect performance. A good coach uses opportunities such as a poor performance as a learning experience.
As a swim parent, I learned a few things myself through years of volunteering, car pooling and washing endless loads of towels. Here are some of the life lessons I learned:
Don’t be too focused on performance.
I had to learn that the process and journey were more important than one single race in any given moment in time.
Not to be judgmental.
When our kids went from swimming seasonally to year-round, I didn’t understand that other families had different priorities. None of us are better or worse for making decisions we choose are best for our family. Not everyone puts swimming above other activities.
I would careen on the rollercoaster of emotions at meets. I never got over nervousness when my kids raced, but I was able to outwardly project a calmer appearance.
Hosting meets puts lots of families together working long hours under pressure. I enjoy the way a meet can start off crazy and hectic. Eventually, the kinks get worked out and a successful meet experience flows. It amazed me to see so many hard working parents selflessly putting in endless hours for the betterment of our team.
To be a better listener.
Empathy was a lesson I learned as a swim mom. Watching our children’s successes, pain and disappointment taught me to listen carefully to my kids as well as to other swim families. Sometimes we can offer more support by listening and showing understanding rather than talking.
To be in the moment.
The moments will come to a close and you will cherish the memories. Take advantage of volunteering, the families, the friendships and being there enjoying the experience.
What life lessons have you gained from being a swim family?
Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.