One of the things I love the most about quitting coaching is that I don’t have to worry about anything I say anymore.
I can have the pottiest of potty mouths if I want, and I don’t have to be politically correct.
I can say whatever I want without fear of being reprimanded or fired.
On a completely different note, a couple years ago I was coaching a meet, and Number 4 was swimming in it also, and when the meet was done I couldn’t find her because she was being extra Number 4ish, so I was up by the concession stand looking for her and it was a complete madhouse and people were crammed in the hallway like sardines and this random dad came up to me and he was like, “Are you Not Your Average Mom?”
And I was like, “Ummmmm… yes?”
And he was like, ” I love your blog.”
And I was like, Ummmmmmm. Who the fuck is this guy?
And then he told me how he was trying to get his wife to go to Not Your Average Weekend because he thought it sounded awesome and then we talked for another minute and he was really nice and I thanked him and that was it.
After that I’d see him and his wife at swim meets every now and then, and we’d talk — he’d make a joke about a blog post or something or we’d talk about our kids swimming or whatever — and then last winter he saw my parents at a meet because they were there watching the kids swim and somehow they ended up talking and so now he and my parents are buddies, too and I know this makes him sound kind of stalkerish but he’s really not and most of the time he starts talking to me I can see his wife saying internally, Oh My God, just leave the poor woman alone but he cracks me up and I really like the two of them.
So anyway, I was at a meet this past weekend as a mom and not a coach, and I saw the blog reading swim dad (BRSD) and his wife, and I sat with them and we talked for a little while and then went our separate ways.
And then toward the end of the meet, I was watching Number 5 and 7 swim their last events.
They are 6 and 8 years old, and the way this meet worked, kids who were 12 and under all swam together. And you swim against kids who have times that are similar to yours.
So Number 5 was swimming against girls who were 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 years old. And so was Number 7.
Seeing the two of them swimming against girls who were like a foot taller than them was kind of funny.
Number 5 and 7 are okay swimmers. Relative to girls their age they are pretty good, but they are so young, and they only go to practice twice a week, and who knows what they will do when they get older.
They are decent but they aren’t superstars or anything, and they were holding their own in their heats against these older girls.
So I’m watching Number 7 swim, and she’s swimming against these older girls and I think she may have been the only six year old at the whole meet, and it was a 50 meter pool so it’s a long way to swim, and this mother starts cheering for her kid like a fucking lunatic about halfway down the pool.
And when I say fucking lunatic, I mean fucking lunatic. She was screaming, and jumping and there were veins popping out of her neck and her eyeballs were bulging.
I swear to God I am not exaggerating. BRSD will vouch for me. The woman was screaming for this girl like the kids’ life literally depended on this race.
I couldn’t help but stare at her. I think she was having an out of body experience. And I will never forget her child’s name because she screamed it at the top of her lungs in my left ear approximately 147 times in 33 seconds.
The mom was so out-of-control that when her kid finished swimming she looked at me, wiped her brow, and said, “I’m dead.”
You are not supposed to be more out of breath than your kid is after she swims a race.
You’re just not.
So I know I was staring in disbelief at this woman because then BRSD shows up and says, “Well, there’s your next blog post.”
Out loud I said to BRSD, “What the fuck was that???”
Silently I thought, No. I’m not going to write about it. I’m not going to judge. I’m just gonna keep this to myself.
Obviously I’m writing about it.
Because it’s a week later, and I’m still thinking about it.
Back to that saying whatever (the fuck) I want thing…
This may put me in major asshole territory for saying it out loud, but the kid was nine or ten years old and almost getting her ass kicked by a six-year-old. And my point isn’t that Number 7 is better than a kid who is older than her.
My point is that this mom was acting like she was watching the finals at the Olympics or something.
In the big picture, this meet really was nothing. Nobody set any world records. Or state records. Or records of any kind, for that matter. But this mom wanted her kid to win SO BADLY.
I get it. I want my kids to experience success and do well and be happy.
And there is definitely a little bit of vicarious living going on for most of us.
And who doesn’t want to brag about their kids sometimes? We’ve all been guilty of the humble or notsohumble brag.
And here is why I am sharing this story.
Because not long after this mom screamed her daughter’s name in my ear repeatedly for half a minute,
another mom did the same exact thing.
But she did it for like two minutes up and down the side of the pool.
Completely out of control. There were psychos all over the place screaming at their swimmers like their spot on the Unites States Olympic team was at stake.
As a parent, I get it. I know how hard it can be to stay calm. I used to be that mom.
As a former coach who has dealt with my fair share of overzealous parents, I can tell you that losing your shit on the side of the pool doesn’t really help your kid.
First of all, your kid can’t even hear you in the pool.
But secondly, there is a very good chance this over-the-top behavior doesn’t end on the pool deck at a swim meet. Or on the sidelines of a soccer game. Or in the stands at a baseball game.
Acting as if your kid’s entire future is on the line at a swim meet or baseball game or soccer game or whatever sends the wrong message.
They aren’t participating in sports to win.
They are participating in sports to learn how to set goals and challenge themselves and be gracious winners and losers and be a team member and persevere and be uncomfortable and handle failure and become stronger and learn other important life lessons.
AND TO HAVE FUN.
I know we think this behavior plays out as support. But really it’s pressure.
Your kids don’t want your or need pressure.
That isn’t fun.
Our kids just want to know we are watching. They don’t really want us giving them advice or pointers or criticism, they don’t want us looking at our phones, and they don’t want us acting like psychopaths.
I learned my lesson at a baseball game a couple years ago when Number 3 let me know I was super irritating with my cheering for him. I honestly thought I was helping.
As recently as this past March, I was a little too, ummmm, enthusiastic at a swim meet while cheering for Number 3.
And you know what?
It’s not fun as a parent when you get that worked up at a game or a meet or a match or whatever it is your kid is participating in.
No matter what the outcome is, your kid is going to come out of a race or a game as a more experienced and wiser human being.
Unless they are the seven and eight year-old boys I watched at Number 6’s baseball game this morning.
Most of those kids were seriously out out lunch.
And you know what? It was so nice to watch them just having fun and being clueless and making the occasional really good play that took everyone by surprise and made the kids feel like superstars for a couple minutes.
It is much more enjoyable watching my kids from this vantage point.
The one where it’s literally just a game. And where your pulse stays in the double digits.
If you are not there yet, if you are more exhausted after a sporting even than your kid is, if your heart rate is higher than theirs is, then something is wrong.
And now that I’m not coaching anymore, I can be a little more blunt and tell you that if the first thing you say after your kid swims a race in a rinky dink meet is I’m dead, then, ummmm…..
you need to chill the f*ck out.