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A Fish Out of Water

Now that September has started, Anna is back in the pool four or five days a week. In the sometimes strange world of year-round swimming, most swimmers take August off to give their bodies a much needed rest. It seems odd to me that the one month kids want to swim, year-round swimmers…don't. They can ride bikes, go for a run, lounge by a pool, play in the ocean. But swimming laps--don't even THINK about it. So Anna channeled her inner runner and went several times a week for runs in our neighborhood. And my girl was a fish out of water because running is NOT her sport. She wore a tween sports bra from Dragonwing which definitely helped. The Keyhole seamless sports bra, made of moisture-wicking fabric, was soft and comfy in the August heat and fit really well across her broad shoulders. The Dragonwing sports bra made her runs more comfortable, so I am really happy we found it. Now Anna (my fish) is back in the water as I write on this rainy evening. The heat of August will soon be a distant memory as we settle into the routine of school, swim, and sleep. I am grateful for the structure it imposes on our life but a small part of me misses our less-regimented August lives. Late dinners on the porch, s'mores with friends and some time to catch our breath before school and swim start again. Now we're back in the daily routine and my fish is back in the water. All is right with the world.

A Swimmer's Body

I want to start by saying that most older teen female swimmers HAVE bodies. They have hips, thighs, butts, breasts, shoulders and some curves. They have confidence. Looking like a string bean is out. Looking and being strong and powerful is in.

This a big change for me as a former high school and college distance runner. I am short (good for a distance runner) but more solidly built than a toothpick. For most distance runners, it really is a case of “less is more.” For years my coaches bugged me about losing weight, so I would be faster.

Back to swimming. Swimmers who are training hard eat a LOT. Not junk. But high quality calories—carbs, fats, proteins. That tremendous caloric output during heavy training has to be matched by a healthy caloric intake. Anna eats dinner #1 around 5:00 pm for her 6:00 pm practice. She gets home around 8:30 pm, showers, and then has dinner #2 which is more like a heavy snack. It usually involves some fruit, peanut butter, or leftovers from dinner #1.

So yes, women swimmers have women’s bodies. They are expected to train, to eat well, and to swim their fastest. Swimmers have broad shoulders and strong bodies, and those are something to be admired because they represent dedication and hard work.

Sports Parent's Role: The Cheering Section

Dragonwing girlgear's mission is to "empower girls to play - and be - their best" with the highest quality sports apparel for tween and teen girls. I believe we can advance that mission when we encourage parents to support their athletic daughters at every level of competition. Over the past seven years, I have seen all sorts of behavior from parents at summer swim meets. In our city, summer swim is a rec league sport, or to put it bluntly, no college coach is going to scout a swimmer at summer meet. Summer swim is meant to be fun, build teamwork, develop sportsmanship, and teach leadership. We all love to win, but at the end of the night, the score is really not that important. I'm proud to say that our summer swim team is known throughout the league for good sportsmanship. The coaches receive numerous emails from opponents about how well our kids behave and that is a BIG point of pride for us. However, it's past time for many parents to step up and learn to be good sports parents. Parents need to learn that our children are not miniature versions of ourselves. They are their own unique individuals, with their own sets of skills, abilities, likes and dislikes. I nearly drowned as a child and have a very healthy fear of water. I have to be coaxed into a pool. My daughter lives to swim. Go figure. Our job as parents is to get our young athletes to practice or competition on time, with the right gear, fed and hydrated appropriately. It involves planning, logistics, lots of laundry, and teaching organization and time management to older kids. The coach's job is to coach. He or she generally knows more about the sport than any parent does. It is his or her job to take a group of kids with different abilities and personalities and teach them to work as a team. Even if you were a high school or college athlete, it's time now to stay on the sidelines and support your growing athlete. Cheer for her and cheer for her teammates. Offer support and encouragement. And enjoy!

June 26: Happy Belated Birthday, Babe Didrikson Zaharias!

babe didrikson

Happy belated birthday to Babe Didrikson Zaharias, named the 9th Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century by the Associated Press and the 10th Greatest North American Athlete of the 20th Century by ESPN. Didrikson Zaharias excelled at a variety of events, especially those within the areas of track and field, basketball, and golf. Inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1951, the Texan native won 41 LPGA tours, including 10 major championships. She has also won three Olympic medals- two gold medals, in the javelin throw and 80m hurdles, and a silver in the high jump. In terms of basketball, Didrikson Zaharias gained All-American status and played for the Amateur Athletic Union. She is considered a Renaissance woman due to her versatility and success across a wide range of athletic events.

How I Became a Swim Mom

I never planned on becoming a “swim mom” but my daughter had other plans. She played rec league soccer and was a good goalie but quit early on because she said, “Mom, I get too sweaty.” I thought that was the end of her sports participation because I couldn’t think of a sport where you DON’T get sweaty. And in addition, she wasn’t very coordinated. Anna was the kid that tripped over lint in the carpet. Literally.

But she always loved the water. When Anna turned seven she decided to join our summer rec swim team, mainly because her friends were doing it. And that was my initiation into the culture of swimming. Swim meets are different from other sports competitions in that it is not a “drop off” experience. Rec league meets require LOTS of parents volunteering—timers, starters, place judges, scorers --you name it, it’s done by a parent. And I was that parent. At the end of the season she won the “most improved” award for her age group. With hindsight I believe it was a testament to her hard work.

Fast forward to middle school. Anna was still swimming on our summer team but the stress of 6th grade was taking a toll on her. She had high expectations of herself and no way to release her anxiety. She was a walking ball of stress. She would do cartwheels and handsprings until 10 or 11 pm every night trying to burn off her anxiety. In desperation, I found a fall rec swim league through our city that her friends were also joining. The pool was close, the price was right ($60 for 8 weeks) and it was a good middle step between summer rec and a full year-round program. Her coach was a former college swimmer who had all kinds of creative workouts and worked the kids really hard. At the end of every practice my anxious, tense daughter would be tired, relaxed, and happy. Swimming was her “miracle drug.”

I couldn’t say no to something that made her so happy. And as an athlete myself I knew all the benefits of training and competition—camaraderie, friendships, challenging yourself, making a commitment and sticking with it, dealing with disappointment, taking care of your body and honoring its strength and power.

Thanks to Anna there are damp towels and swim suits all over my house and my car proudly sports the “swim mom” magnet. I wouldn’t change a thing.