Lessons Learned Through Sports and Competition

My kiddos have been part of a swim team since 2011. When we first joined, our only objective was a physical activity for good health and fitness. Swimming has since become a major part of our lives.

Personally, I did not have a preference for what sport they chose. Over the years, we’ve tried BMX, dance, skiing, and Taekwondo. We also occasionally take part in trail runs. Yet swimming is the sport that we’ve stuck with the longest.

I haven’t written extensively about our swim team experiences, but here’s a fun peak at her first swim meet.

High School Swim

This past winter, my daughter has been swimming on the high school swim team in addition to our year-round swim club. There is an increased level of intensity – she is required to attend 5 or more practices each week to compete in the swim meets. In club, though we aimed for 3-4 practices a week, there was no penalty if we missed or were unable to attend.

As such, she has had less free time and has thereby had to learn how to better manage her time. Yet, high school swimming has been a great experience for many reasons. My daughter says,

I like high school swim because it feels more like a family. We cheer for each other through the whole meet and we have lots of fun socials like Kozy Pie Night.

lessons learned through sports

Though hubby and I both grew up here and also began our professional careers here after college, we have only recently moved back. Her participation in high school swim has helped us to feel more connected to the community.

Lessons Learned Through Sports

Whether it is club sports or a high school team, taking part in sports has been very beneficial and we’ve recently reflected on what we’ve learned over the years.

Some days, at the end of our lessons and errands, my kids will say they are “too tired” to go to swim team but they go anyway.

There are those moments when they have been so tired they want to quit but don’t.

How to Avoid Child Burnout @EvaVarga.net

Young athletes are capable of getting burned out, too. Here’s a post exploring How to Avoid Child Burnout

They learn to be disciplined, focused and dedicated.

They learn to take care of their body. To get enough rest and to fuel their bodies with the right foods.

They learn to take care of their equipment.

They learn to manage their time and not procrastinate in completing their coursework and household chores.

They learn to work with others and to be good team mates, gracious in defeat and humble in success.

They learn to deal with disappointment when they don’t get that placing or time they’d hoped for, but still they go back week after week giving it their best shot.

They learn to make and accomplish goals. We meet with their coach periodically each season to discuss their goals and what areas they need to focus on.

They learn to respect, not only themselves, but other athletes, officials and coaches.

They learn that it takes hours and hours, years and years of hard work and practice to create a champion and that success does not happen overnight.

Sports Scholarship?

Did you know only 2% of high school athletes receive college scholarships? Chasing a Sports Scholarship may not be your best route to college.

They learn to be proud of small achievements and to work towards long term goals.

They develop life-long friendships and create lifelong memories.

Being active gets their heart pumping and their blood circulating which promotes good health and life-long habits.

They develop attributes that will serve them well throughout their lives and give them the opportunity to bless the lives of others.

I Am NOT a Soccer Mom (or How to Avoid Child Burnout)

Since we moved to California in August of 2011, my kids have participated in year-round swim team. It has been a wonderful experience. We’ve connected with other families and developed life-long friendships. We’ve also learned many life lessons along the way – but that is fodder for another post.

Today, I would like to focus on burnout. Most of us are familiar with feeling burned out. What you might not know is that young athletes are capable of getting burned out, too.

How to Avoid Child Burnout @EvaVarga.netMy daughter had always LOVED swimming! She eagerly attended practice and always worked hard. My son had been more of a roller coaster, initially complaining and dragging his feet, then going without protest, and then complaining once again.

We had a break over the winter holiday a few months ago and when we tried to resume our regular schedule in January, my son was vehemently opposed (more so than before). Much to our surprise, my daughter had also voiced her desire to stop swimming as well.

I was shocked. I had never considered myself a “soccer mom”. I had observed parents frantically running their child from one sports practice to another. I had witnessed parents screaming at their child, “Hurry up and get changed! You’ll have to eat dinner in the car. We have to get you across town for soccer!” I had heard them lament about the cost of hotels and fuel required to attend swim meets in Sacramento.

This was not us. We only did one sport. We took frequent breaks for family vacations aboard or weekend getaways to visit grandparents. We had never pushed them to compete.

We have had the opportunity to attend practice up to 6 days a week. However, we go to practice only 3x/week on the average. While competition is a part of our experience, we only occasionally compete in a swim meet (one in winter and two-three in summer) and only if the kids are interested.

How was I now dealing with child burnout?

Give it Up or Plow Forward?

We (their father and I) had always insisted the kids need to take part in a sport for exercise and general health / fitness. Yet they didn’t have an interest in another team sport. They both had expressed willingness to cycle / run with me as well as try parkour, resistance training, and/or aerobics, however.

We had invested so much time and energy into swimming. I felt compelled to continue. It had become a constant fight and major energy drain for me, however. When my daughter gave up Taekwondo years ago, I was really sad. Just as I was when she gave up dance for TKD (her brother was just a toddler then). Perhaps it was my hang up?

notsoccermom1Confer with Others

We had several family meetings discussing the issue trying to determine the root cause of the sudden disinterest. I even posted my frustration on Facebook and elicited help from my readers as well as friends and family. Here is a small snapshot of the responses I received:

  • I think it is important for the kid to want to participate and have fun doing so. If it is just a chore they are likely to only put in the very minimal amount of effort required. Not to mention that but it could just give them a general distaste for physical activity in general. I agree with requiring them to find an alternate form of physical activity. Perhaps if they really want to cycle or run with you try that. Just ensure that they understand that if the don’t maintain the commitment to running or cycling with you that you expect them to find a different activity
  • I’ve seen far too many articles about kids who specialize and their burnout levels and injury levels. I’d much rather have a child who had a high activity level all throughout life in a variety of things unless they clearly gained a deep desire for a particular sport. Honestly, it’s much nicer to have that variety. It gives them a better love for life, a higher fitness level (because of the variety of muscles used).
  • The experience, skill, coordination, fitness level … all will not be lost. As a former competitive coach, I highly recommend letting them switch. I don’t feel kids needs to arrive at a high level in any sport at all. Rather, they merely need to be active.
  • Remember the reason you’ve all chosen this path? Are you willing to trust your children to take control, be responsible for their lives. Have you thought of why so many traditional-raised/educated school kids are viewed as disrespectful, out-of-control, unacceptably acted out in adult’s view? They don’t get to choose most of the time what they do. They lack “control” of their lives–no matter what age they are. Their voices are not heard. Their opinions don’t count. They lack respect from most adults in their lives.

Talk with Your Coach

At this same time, we also had a long talk with coach. He shared that at this age – as qualifying times begin to get harder and as kids have access to other sports through their schools – it is common that kids lose interest in swimming. He also stated that one of the biggest motivators is taking part in swim meets and really looking at your progress as an individual. As we don’t compete as regularly as most, we don’t have those little goals and milestones to celebrate.

Additionally, their skills and endurance have improved a great deal over the years and they’ve been swimming with the advanced group since September. Practice is longer and more intense. Coach thereby suggested allowing the kids to choose what practice time they wanted to attend – perhaps even swimming a couple times a week with the advanced group and a couple times with the intermediate group.

I took to heart the advice and experience that was shared with me and it really helped to open a dialogue with the kids. What we discovered really surprised us.

notsoccermom2

Really Listen to Your Child

My daughter was not interested in moving back to the intermediate level but she missed her friends. Those she most enjoyed swimming with were not attending the advanced group practice. Some were no longer swimming at all. My son shared that the advanced group was just too much for him. He stated that he would continue swimming if he could return to the intermediate level.

As the intermediate level practice and advanced level practice were at different times, I had been pushing my son to swim with the advanced group so that we wouldn’t have to be at the pool all evening. Though he was quite capable of swimming at the advanced level, he too, preferred swimming with his friends and “having fun” during practice.

Our team had also experienced a number of seasoned swimmers leaving the sport that winter season for a variety of reasons. We were in essence rebuilding and the kids agreed that it just didn’t have the same “feeling”.

Find a Compromise

Talking it over as a family and really listening to what the kids had to say was the key to finding a solution. As parents, we had to be willing to let them walk away and try something new. The kids realized that they couldn’t just veg out all day. Physical activity was equally important as academics and family bonding. We thereby compromised.

They agreed that they both wanted to continue swimming. Geneva wanted to stick with the advanced group. After talking with coach, she was inspired to take part in more swim meets and asked us to assure we could make this happen.

Jeffrey wanted to return to the intermediate group. He agreed he would occasionally swim with the advanced group if we had a schedule conflict (a couple times a month).

Because I was willing to listen and find a compromise, the kids are still swimming. Their enthusiasm for the sport has returned. When the summer season began in May, they both returned to the advanced swim group.

 

 

Sailing 101: Discovering a New Passion

We recently took part in a week-long sailing class offered by a local yacht club. Their mission is to introduce as many people – particularly youth – as possible to this great sport. They also want to make sure they’re learning in a safe, fun, high-quality environment ~ and it certainly was!

Our lead instructor, Carl, gave all the credit for the course to his brother, whose remarkable story is a testament to the human spirit and an inspiration to all of us. Once an accomplished downhill skier, a severe accident left him a quadriplegic. Not deterred by the forbidding prognosis by his physicians, he persevered and discovered the sport of sailing. Wanting to share his new found love of sailing with others, he convinced his brother to be his legs and to teach sailing each summer to area youth.

sailing101

Just glancing over the course objectives on the first day, I knew this was going to be an amazing class.

  • Learn the nomenclature of sailing (mast, main sail, main sheet, boom, hull, bow, stern, rudder, tiller, centerboard, cockpit, halyards, etc.)
  • Learn how to sail and demonstrate the points of sail (no-go-zone, close hulled, beam reach, broad reach, and running downhill
  • Learn how to tie sailing knots (bowline, etc.)
  • Learn to set-up a Sunfish, launch it, sail it, break it down, & trailer it
  • Learn how to “right” the sunfish (each kid must capsize the Sunfish and then flip it back over)
  • Learn how to be benevolent
  • Learn not be be imbroglio
  • Paint an Impressionist painting similar to Regatta at Argenteuil by Claude Monet

As the school year was underway, we were fortunate to have a small class – just 5 students all together (two of whom were young adults). Being attentive listeners, they were able to cover a lot of material quickly and to everyone’s surprise – even the lead instructor – they were sailing on their own on the first day! It was such a delight to watch their enthusiasm.

On the second day, they learned what to do in the case of a capsize. This was an incredible thing to watch. My kids weigh less then 70 pounds each so the instructor wasn’t sure they would be able to do it alone (the hull weight of the Sunfish is 120 lbs). They thereby went out together the first time and then tried it again alone.

Swallows & Amazons

We also discovered a delightful series of books as a result of this class (recommended to me by the other mom, who also homeschools coincidentally), Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. There are several books in the series and each one is sure to delight. Swallows and Amazons are two groups of siblings; one group has a boat called Swallow and the other group has a boat called Amazon. The Swallows and Amazons start out enemies, but become friends rapidly.

“Better drowned than duffers if not duffers won’t drown.”

Their adventures captivated our imaginations – particularly my son who begged me to keep reading when I set the book down. What young child doesn’t dream of sailing his own boat and having adventures on and around an island! Their adventures are not limited to the island, though, they even visit “the natives” back home. What’s best about their adventures is that all of them are possible!

sailingMy kiddos and I have loved this book from the start and are excited to read the next editions. In fact, before I finished reading aloud the Swallows & Amazons, they begged to listen to the audio for the second book, Swallowdale, in the car. Shortly thereafter, my son began listening to the third, Peter Duck, in his room as he builds with Legos each evening. I hope to add them to our library as they are sure to become treasures to pass on to later generations.

Interested in sailing yourself? Follow my Pinterest board, “I’d Rather Be Sailing” for lesson plans and educational resources.

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Integrating living books into your curriculum is easy! Discover more ideas at the iHomeschool Network’s A Book & a Big Idea Autumn edition.