By Jenni Halem / Contributor.
Your swimmer is gearing up for his or her big championship meet. Could be Mini Championships, Junior Olympics, Sectionals or Junior Nationals. It could be trying out for a more advanced group or even that summer swim meet against the rival team. When it works out great, we all know what to do and say. “I’m so proud of you”, “You did great”, “Your hard work really paid off”, followed by high fives and hugs and ice cream. Ok, so maybe the ice cream is just in my house but you get the idea. But what about when it doesn’t go quite the way we hoped? What do you say then? Truth be told there is no right answer to this question, and a lot of wrong ones. I know it’s hard to see your child upset, really hard. They’ve worked so hard and had so many dreams hinging on this one thing, and it’s devastating to a swimmer to face that fact that the dream is not going to become a reality – at this moment. As a parent, we want to save our children from the disappointment and we live to protect them, but we must remember another role we have in their lives. We are responsible for getting them ready for the big stage. Teaching them how to be independent, caring, kind, and generous in the hopes that they become responsible adults. Learning how to handle disappointment is as much a part of that process as knowing when to celebrate.
As a coach, I know one of the best things I can do is address the questions of why, how and what went wrong and more importantly, what needs to happen for it to go differently in the future. As a parent, these are the things you don’t want to address. Kids want parents to be parents. Kids NEED parents to be parents. They need to know that you are still proud, still love them unconditionally and still think they are the bees knees. The coaches will point out what went wrong, you don’t need to. The coaches will offer advice and direction for the future, you don’t need to. What you need to do, what I wish all parents would do is say the words “I love to watch you swim”. Think about it, kids typically want to impress others with what they know and what they can do. Swimmers spend a lot of time, effort and energy staring at the bottom of the pool. Even when the result isn’t the reflection of the dedication they have put in to the sport, they need to know that they have a safe emotional place to land at the end of the disappointment and that you will still think they rock.
Some days will be down and others will be up….that is just the nature of this sport. Your swimmer will thank you (eventually) for the shoulder to lean on and maybe someday will be able to bounce back from disappointment a little easier if we take the time now to remind them that no matter what, Mom and Dad still think you are awesome. Oh, and a little ice cream always makes things better.
Jenni Halem – Head Coach Clarksburg Village Summer Swim Team
USA Swimming level 2 Age Group Coach