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Too Involved

Must preface this with the following – I have the best swim parents. I truly do, plain and simple. Not only do they support the coaching staff, but they work tirelessly making sure their kids and all the other kids on the team have fun.

With that said, I was taken aback today when one parent was worried she was enjoying her son’s swimming too much. That I might think she was “too involved.” How is that possible? She likes to see her son do well. Rewards him with high-fives and smiles on a job well-done or dishes out equal amounts of hugs and pats-on-the-head when things do not go as planned.

She has her lawn chair at the ready and situates herself at the pool’s edge to get the best view of the competition area. A cooler filled with drinks and snacks is ever present so her son is ready to go. She volunteers to be on deck at our big meets. All the 8 & Unders know her. She mothers them as if they were her own.

Is she too involved with her son’s swimming? Absolutely not. She is a coach’s dream parent. The one who makes sure he attends practice on a regular basis. The one who asks is there anything I can do to help. The one who sits in the stands cheering for her child and his teammates.

There are some swim parents I have never seen. I can say that. They must lead very busy lives that require much of them to justify missing out on this aspect of their son’s or daughter’s childhood. I wish they knew the joy my “too involved” parents’ experience. They would see how fulfilling it can be to watch significant life lessons be learned by the water’s edge.

I have parents who were once swimmers. When these parents see their child discover a love for swimming; well it is just fun to witness. Often watching their children in the pool inspires said parents to don a suit and get back in the water again. And more.

We have a meet every summer where all events are relays of some sort – all freestyle or all backstroke; mixed boy and girl events, mixed age’s events, and the like. But the one event everyone cranes their necks to see are the parent relays.

Every year I am surprised to learn about the athletic talent hidden away by my swim parents. I find out one was a star at butterfly in high school. Another still holds a pool record at his prep school in Maine. Still others have been secretly preparing for a Masters meet or a triathlon. And then there are those parents who just plain love to swim and want to be part of the fun too.

I can not tell you how excited the swimmers are to see their parents compete; to see them get in and try. The kids line the edge of the pool cheering for their moms and dads. Grandparents make a point of attending to see their adult children swim again. The kids marvel at dad’s awesome start or that mom can do a flip turn; and oh my goodness… they’re fast. It leaves an impression with these swimmers that can never be taken away.

Is this being too involved? Supporting your child? Participating with your child? Enjoying the whole journey sports can afford a parent and child? Nope. I think the parents get as much out of swimming in that parent relay as their kids do seeing it unfold.

I call it loving your child unconditionally (putting a suit on after so many years is a pure act of love for some parents); doing anything for them (including being willing to succeed or fail in such a public arena) and enjoying the after-glow that comes from taking on a challenge (and watching the admiration in their child’s eyes) is what it’s all about.

These moments – from volunteering to getting in the water – if realized, snatched up and valued are what’s most important. It’s why I coach. To get to be, in some small way, a part of all this.

So, I say …forget the pressures of work or family issues, at least for a little while. Be that “too involved” parent. Don’t miss this. In the long run, being there is what will matter the most to your children – and more importantly; to you. As your child’s coach, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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