A note from Badger Parent Advocate, Mike Conaton:
There once was a 6 year old who false started in lane one during a meet. He was so embarrassed he grabbed on to the bottom of a ladder and stayed under water as long as he could hold his breath. He finally surfaced to thunderous laughter.
Another 8 year old became so afraid of meets because his goggles kept falling off when he dove in. It became a real worry and caused much anxiety. He wasn’t sure if he ever wanted to race again.
Then there was the 7 year old boy who loved going to practice, but liked swimming at his own pace. He started to become aware of his friend in the next lane over who started to swim a little faster. He wasn’t sure how to interpret that…and he wasn’t entirely excited about racing in meets either. But he loved to swim, at his own pace.
Now the 9 year old, she was a little older and “wiser”, and she started noticing the activities of her non-swimming friends. She had always been a dedicated attendee of practices but her mom was starting to encounter some resistance.
The 10 year old boy loved to swim, but he also loved lacrosse, basketball and soccer. It took a fancy computer program to figure out his weekly practice schedules, and a new tank of gas in the car at least every 5 days…
And many other anecdotes….It’s all good…and normal! I’m just guessing, but parents of young swimmers may be trying to figure out these and other behaviors (all true stories by the way). You are not alone! These are growing kids with many interests and varying degrees of physical, social and mental maturity. Please don’t get too down on them…or yourselves for maybe feeling puzzled and maybe even frustrated. The kids will grow through it and it will all workout. Above all…DO NOT compare your kids to others. It’s meaningless…they are all different shapes and sizes and on different schedules and programs at this age!!
The toughest encounters we had were when the tears flowed and they just didn’t want to go to practice. Our hearts were wrenched by seeing our little kids in such supposed agony…was it really worth it? Was anything really worth that drama? Would it really be the end of the world if they missed one workout? But on the other hand, they and we made a commitment. Would we be horrible parents for making them go? If we gave in, what would we be teaching our kids about responsibility? How could we justify wasting the money we already spent? Money doesn’t grow on trees…
Looking back on it now…those days don’t seem so traumatic…we survived. And you and yours will too. There are no right or wrong answers to the dilemma above of course. I guess sometimes we gave in, sometimes we didn’t…depended on the day, the other kids’ schedules, the homework schedule, the baby sitters schedule, our work schedule, my travel schedule, the dog’s schedule, …and on and on. It’s not easy for sure.
Now, the coaches will want me to say, and I do agree, that dedicated and committed parents definitely put their kids in a better position to excel. But like their kids learning how it works, I believe it’s OK for parents to try to figure it all out too at this early stage, for themselves and their respective households. We all do our best. Now when the kids are older…we can talk about that later. It takes commitment.
I just wanted to offer this pep talk to the parents of the youngsters. It’s way too early to sweat a lot of this stuff. I think the Badger coaches would tell you just try to get them to the pool and they will do the rest. We all get through it and before you know it, they’re off to high school and college (with all kinds of new drama!) Happy New Year!