Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Swim parents

Swimmer boy is a college senior; my years as a swim parent are coming to an end. Since oldest son was also a relatively serious swimmer through high school, and the middle two sons swam some, I've spent many, many hours on pool decks outdoors, slathered in sunscreen, or indoors, inhaling chlorine-laden air.

Being the parent of a kid in sports is a delicate balance. If you've ever attended a kid sporting event, you've probably seen parents behaving badly. I've signed Parents Codes of Ethics for rec soccer leagues and cringed when other parents berated the referees at basketball games. As a board member of the local summer swim league, I've spoken to--and had to make rulings on the behavior of--a number of wacko parents. One parent even adopted a cloak and dagger method, contacting me through an anonymous email site and adopting a pseudonym to tell me about a possible league rule violation--yes, she was involved because some new swimmer was displacing her daughter in the meet lineup.

It's easy to make fun of crazy sports parents, but at the same time, I, at least, can sympathize. There were times over the years when I was the parent in charge of our summer swim team that I did things that, in retrospect, I would have done differently if I had them to do over again. I may have lost perspective once or twice, and may have occasionally become a bit too ego-involved in my own kids' performances.

The thing is sports take lots and lots of parental time. Weekends are eaten up with matches or games or meets; week day mornings or evenings or both are busy with practices and constant carpooling. And different kids deal with competition differently--and so provoke a different emotional response from the parental unit.

And sometimes the parent is living or reliving their past sporting success--or failure--through their children.

But there are lots of good things about being a sports parents. I've made lots of friends and met a lot of great people, both parents and kids. Hopefully, everyone learns some good lessons about hard work, success and failure, and good sportsmanship.

And not to take sports too seriously.

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