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swimming competition, first swim meet parents

First Swimming Meet Tips (for Parents)

Ah, that first swim meet. Remember when your little one attended her first “big” swim meet? Some days I long for those good, ole days, when expectations were low and we were just happy the kids made it from one end of the pool to the other.

Which reminds me, many new swim team parents enter the world of competitive swimming with no point of reference about swim meets. What they’re expecting is often far different than their first swim meet experience. Imagine …

What new swim team parents expect at their 1st swim meet

Posted on May 5 2019 by

You hit the alarm clock at 8 a.m., eat breakfast with the family, then head to the pool. Everyone is awake and happy in the car, excited for this new experience.

While your child swims warm up, you find a spot in the spectator area. Thankfully, there’s plenty of space and leg room, so you can spread out and get comfy.

While waiting for warm up to end, you text friends and make plans to meet for lunch. After all, how long could it possibly take to swim two 25s?

About 30 minutes later, your child walks up behind the blocks, smiling happily. She looks to the stands in search of you, then enthusiastically waves when you make eye contact.


Off to the races


The starter blows the whistle, so she climbs onto the blocks. She shoots off the block like a rocket and swims an amazing 25-yard freestyle, touching the wall first. You can’t help but beam with pride.

Your daughter jumps out of the pool, smiling ear to ear, and gets ready for her next race.

A few minutes later, she’s feeling even more confident and is chatting with teammates before her race. The scene plays out again: stepping up behind the blocks, waving to you, ready to race. She jumps in the water for her 25-yard backstroke. She swims the most beautiful backstroke you’ve ever seen.

Eager for the next swim meet


With both races finished, your daughter quickly packs up all of her belongings, then finds you in the stands. You look at your watch, thrilled that you’ll have an hour to return home and get dressed for your lunch with friends.

But first, you check the calendar for the next swim meet. You and your daughter can’t wait to come back!


What swim meets are really like


It’s Friday. You’re shocked to learn that warm up starts at 7 a.m. Saturday. You’re wondering why in the world you’ll be waking up your child earlier on a weekend than on a school day.

The alarm goes off Saturday morning at a ridiculously early hour. You drag yourself out of bed, wake up your son, and begin packing up to leave. Panic sets in when you realize your son’s goggles broke in practice the other night and you haven’t had time to buy a replacement. Now you rush around frantically, hoping to get to the pool even earlier in search of goggles.

Your son has different plans in mind. He’s slowly eating his breakfast, oblivious to the need to rush. “What is warm up, Mom?” he asks as he ties his shoes in record-slow time.

You load up the car, make your way out of the neighborhood and ask your son, “You have on your suit, right?”

You slam on the brakes, turn around, and head back to the house. Apparently, your son hadn’t considered putting on the suit you laid out for him. He walks inside to change while you wait in the car, trying to work on your word of the year: patience.

Finally, you arrive at the pool, 10 minutes after warm up has started. The coaches rush your child along so that he can get in at least part of warm up. They have spare goggles he can borrow for now, thank goodness.


On the hunt for goggles


You head to the merchandise table in hopes of finding goggles, but they won’t open for another half hour. Fine. This will give you time to find a spot in the bleachers.

As you walk upstairs, you realize 1) you’re overdressed for a swim meet, despite winter temperatures outside and 2) there’s barely room for you, let alone your stadium chair, bag of snacks and purse.

After scanning the crowd, you spot a space that looks roomy enough for you and your belongings. Getting settled is the easy part. As soon as you sit down, your wet swimmer is making his way up the stands to ask for food. The two of you head downstairs to buy something from concessions (your snack bag didn’t meet his standards) and to purchase goggles. The merchandise table is open for business by now.

A sense of calm overcomes you when you finally sit back down, knowing that your child’s potential goggle disaster is solved and your son is fed. Now we get to the fun part: the racing.

Waiting and waiting and …


After scanning the heat sheet, you realize there are 5 pages of other kids swimming before your son will ever hit the water. How long will that take? You’d considered having lunch with friends, but now that seems doubtful.

Approximately 90 minutes later, you spot your son lined up behind the blocks. How exciting! He’s finally racing. Suddenly, you are nervous and feeling butterflies in your stomach, feelings you haven’t had since high school. It seems silly – you aren’t the one racing, after all. But you have never been this nervous for your young son.

The scoreboard shows that heat 2 is in the water. Your son is in heat 4. He should be getting his goggles on so he’ll be ready, but he just stands there.

His gaze is fixed on something off in the distance, but you can’t see what it is. No matter, you’re sure he’ll check back in any moment and be ready to go. Heat 2 finishes and the next heat of swimmers takes the blocks. Your son turns around, away from the blocks, and looks at some other kids who are swinging around their goggles and pretending to fight like ninjas.

Those butterflies are really moving now. Why isn’t he moving up to the blocks? Is he going to miss this race? Should I yell? Why is it so darn hot in here?!?

Take your mark


The starter calls up heat 4 and all of the other swimmers take to the blocks. Your son laughs at his newfound friends, who are really perfecting those ninja moves now. You scream at your son, but he can’t hear.

Beep. Off goes heat 4. Your son looks at the scoreboard, then down at his arm, where his events and heats are written in Sharpie. He repeats this three or four times before realizing something’s wrong. His coach finds him behind the blocks and explains that he’s missed his event.

Deflated, he makes his way back to the team area. His body language says it all: his shoulders are rounded forward, his head is down, and you wonder if his eyes are a bit teary.

Another hour passes by before his next race. This time, his coaches have reminded him how he has to pay attention behind the blocks. He can’t zone out.

You’re a nervous wreck, not to mention slightly annoyed that you have now sat in this sweltering facility since 7:10 a.m. to see him miss a race. Please don’t miss another.

This time, he’s ready. He’s behind the blocks, newly purchased goggles are on, and he’s listening for the whistle from the starter.

The goggle malfunction


Beep. He dives in and pulls up almost immediately. Something is wrong. Those brand new goggles have fallen off and are covering his mouth. He moves them to his eyes and starts swimming. He stops again. This time, the goggles are filled with water. He adjusts them one more time, then takes off blazing to the wall.

You shake your head and laugh, because what else can you do in a moment like this? Your son climbs out of the pool, looks to you and waves. He’s smiling from ear to ear.

His races – well, race in this case — are over so you pack up your belongings and head to the exit. It’s been more than four hours since you arrived early in the morning.  You feel like it’s been eight hours. After waiting at the exit for your son for another 15 minutes, you begin to wonder where in the world he has gone. Did he forget where to meet you?

You spot him on deck, in the team area, playing a game of cards with his teammates. His stuff is scattered everywhere. Any butterflies you had earlier are replaced by feelings of rage. Come on, son! Let’s go! We’ve been here for hours already! But he can’t see or hear you, because parents aren’t allowed on deck.

You look helplessly to the team area, trying every last Jedi mind trick you can think of to get his attention. Thankfully, your son’s teammate walks by. You ask him to tell your son that it’s time to go.

Another 5 minutes pass before your son makes his way to you. At this point, you’re thinking this may be the last swim meet you ever attend.

But then he gives you a big hug and tells you how much fun he had swimming his race, how he loved playing with his teammates, and how his coach told him he did great. All of that rage melts away, and you think, “OK, we’ll be back.”

Once home, you unpack his bag. You smile as you think how great he did in those 15 yards once his new goggles were in place. It really wasn’t that bad, you think.

You take out his towel, suit, and water bottle, and then search around his bag. But one item is missing: those brand new goggles.

All kidding aside, swim meets are long, sometimes hot and often a comedy of errors. But when our kids are having fun, it’s worth every hundreth of a second.

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Author – Laura Healy

Laura Healy is a former collegiate swimmer, current swim team parent, and swim coach who’s passionate about sharing her love of competitive swimming with anyone who’ll listen. You can read more from Laura at goggles&flipturns 

Ditch sugary drinks to improve swimmer’s performance

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Earlier this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Heart Association issued a joint statement endorsing public health regulations aimed at reducing the amount of sugary drinks children consume.

Sugary drinks can range from soft drinks, fruit boxes, sports drinks, energy drinks, flavored waters … to name a few. How many of these are a part of your child’s normal, daily routine?

If you’re like most American families, sugary drinks are probably the norm. Fruit juice of some sort for breakfast, lemonade or soft drinks with lunch, Gatorade after school while playing outside. It’s easy to let consumption get out of control with so many tasty, well-marketed options!

How water became our first choice

Posted on May 2 2019 by

At our house, I am happy to say that my children’s sugary drink consumption is relatively low, at least right now. Our beverage of choice is water. The kids have a glass of orange juice or milk with breakfast, but then it’s water the rest of the day. During peak training season, they will add a Gatorade and/or recovery drink to the mix (more on this later).

But water is always our go-to drink.

For me, this hasn’t always been the case. I grew up drinking (and loving) Coca-Cola. The summer before I became pregnant with our first child, I noticed that I was constantly thirsty. I’d drink a Coke at lunch, be thirsty. I’d reach for another can. And I’d still be thirsty.

I hopped online for a little research and quickly discovered I was dehydrated and that each Coke was only making it worse. So I immediately began increasing my water intake and limiting my Coke to one per day at lunch.

That was more than 16 years ago and it still holds true today.

When our firstborn became a toddler, we noticed he’d obsessively drink pear juice. He’d suck that down like there was no tomorrow. But, hey, it’s fruit juice, right? Where’s the harm in that?

I learned at our next pediatrician’s visit, when the doctor asked how much juice he was drinking per day. When I told him how much he was drinking, he cautioned that my son should only have 6 ounces a day and that he was getting no benefit from the juice.

We eliminated it almost entirely, save a special occasion.

That set us on our course of favoring water above all other drinks (except milk, of course).

It’s ideal, really. We can get water just about anywhere we go, when dining out we save money by ordering water instead of other drinks, and now the kids prefer it over just about anything else.


Nutrition, sugary drinks & your athlete


The AAP and AHA’s new recommendations come as child obesity continues to be a major issue in our country. But if you have an athlete in your home, then you should already be concerned with how many sugary drinks your child is consuming (as well as sugary foods).

Nutrition is as important to your child’s training and performance as rest and recovery. Without proper nutrition, your athlete’s body won’t have the adequate fuel for training and won’t recover well after intense workouts.

If your child is consuming sugary drinks regularly during the day, chances are she’s not adequately hydrating her body for practice. Those sugary drinks don’t hydrate the body at all. An athlete needs water to properly hydrate.

The same sugary drinks are probably filling up your child, leaving little room or desire to consume healthier carbs and proteins that are needed to provide fuel to the body.


Commit to ditch sugary drinks


This season, make the commitment to improve your child’s nutrition. Commit to significantly reducing or eliminating all sugary drinks. Eliminate energy drinks that offer absolutely no value. Avoid fruit juices, except perhaps a small glass with breakfast. Replace juice boxes with water.

If you don’t think your child will be willing to give up all sugary drinks, then aim to reduce consumption significantly. Have your child choose one drink she’d like to keep, then eliminate the rest. Reduce consumption to one sugary drink per day or limit those drinks to weekends (when there isn’t a swim meet) only.


Refueling and recovery


Allow a couple of exceptions if your athlete practices more than an hour each day. Swimmers who train more than an hour should include a sports drink like Gatorade as part of their workout. Water alone isn’t enough to replace electrolytes and sugars that are depleted through intense, longer training sessions.

Within 30 minutes of those training sessions, your athlete needs to consume a recovery drink. Timing is essential here. In the 30 minutes after your swimmer finishes practice, your swimmer’s muscles are repairing at a faster level than normal. By consuming a recovery drink high in carbohydrates and protein during this window, those muscles will repair and rebuild even more quickly.

Why does this matter? When an athlete is pushing her body to the limit (or beyond) each and every day, every little bit counts. No doubt, your swimmer’s body is exhausted after each workout. Promoting better recovery from those intense workouts will prepare your swimmer’s body to attack the next practice.

Chocolate milk is touted as an excellent recovery drink in numerous studies. (Check out this presentation from USA Swimming on the benefits of chocolate milk.) The main reason is that chocolate milk provides the right amount of protein and carbs, yet is easy to find and affordable. Plus, it tastes great.

Be a role model for your athlete


Take the commitment to ditch sugary drinks one step further: Be a role model for your children. Replace that 32-ounce soft drink from the local convenience store with an insulated bottle filled with water.

When buying groceries, don’t purchase sugary drinks that you know will tempt you and your swimmer. Order a glass of water when dining out as a family.

Make it fun and save that money you would have spent on sugary drinks at the grocery store and restaurants. Instead, use it to let the family splurge on another treat once a month that everyone can enjoy.

If you’ve given up sugary drinks already, leave us a comment below with your tips and how it’s helped you or your child.

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Author – Laura Healy

Laura Healy is a former collegiate swimmer, current swim team parent, and swim coach who’s passionate about sharing her love of competitive swimming with anyone who’ll listen. You can read more from Laura at goggles&flipturns 

Swim lessons aren’t just for summer anymore

Parents often don’t think about swimming lessons for their children until summer arrives, but the cooler months are an ideal time to join a learn-to-swim program.

Several swimming lessons programs now offer year-round classes, giving parents the ability to choose when swim lessons work best for their family. My sons both enjoyed summer classes at a local swim club. The program was well-run, convenient, and perfect for our Michigan summers (unless the pool heater was down!).

But when my daughter was 3 and I had transitioned to staying home with her, we tried morning classes at the local YMCA during the winter and spring. That freed up our summer mornings for other activities and gave her confidence in the water for the start of the summer.

Those are just a couple of the benefits of year-round swimming lessons, but there are many more reasons to consider enrolling your child outside of summertime.

Benefits of year-round swimming lessons

Get desired class times

Posted on Apr 25 2019 by

One of the main benefits of enrolling in swimming lessons in the fall, winter, or spring is that classes tend to be smaller and in lower demand. So you’re more likely to get the day/time you want.

Summer programs often fill up fast due to high demand, so get ahead of the crowds the rest of the year. Also, in the summer, outdoor pools mostly offer classes in the mornings, before the pool opens to its members or the public.

Year-round programs, which in most states are located in indoor pools, typically offer a variety of class times throughout the day. This makes scheduling around school and other activities much easier.


More exposure in the pool = steady improvement


One reason swim schools have changed to a year-round format is that students tend to see steady improvement over several months.

In a summer program, students typically attend for 4-5 days per week over a two- or three-week period. There’s value in attending classes daily over a few weeks. But the problem is, when that session ends, the instruction stops and the child doesn’t practice skills gained or attain new skills until the next summer.

In a year-round program, a child has continued instruction over a longer time period, allowing them to continue to fine-tune acquired skills and move to new levels, where they’ll be challenged and learn new skills. 

Pool time in summer is more meaningful


One of the best ways to build your child’s swimming skills and confidence in the water is to increase exposure in the pool. For most families, that can only happen easily during the summer, when neighborhood or city pools are open. 

As a result, children can begin the summer timid and afraid of the pool. Even if they swam the previous summer, they often need to become reacquainted with the water. That can take weeks. Or they may not remember that great flutter kick they learned last summer or how to breathe in freestyle.

As a private swim instructor and neighborhood swim coach, I see this all the time. Kids who showed excellent improvement the previous summer start the next summer as if they’ve never been taught how to swim. After all, would we expect our second-graders to remember math if they took off 9 months from instruction?

Enrolling in swimming lessons for even a few months during the school year can help them retain what they’ve learned from the previous summer and build their confidence in the water.

Then, when summertime rolls around, they’ll be ready to hit the water for playtime, where all of those skills will be on display. That means more fun for your child all summer long.


Make more time in summer for family fun


Committing to swimming lessons during the school year means that your family can take the summer off to enjoy vacations, neighborhood pool time, or even lazy summer days.

This is particularly attractive to today’s busy families. It also means one less activity to schedule months in advance around summer camps. 


Exercise during the colder months


Children need to move and exercise year-round, but colder weather can limit opportunities during the winter months. Enter swim lessons. 

A year-round program that meets 2-3 times per week gives your child one outlet for her energy and time for exercise. The idea of taking your child from the cold outdoors to swim inside may seem crazy. But most kids enjoy being in the water, even if there’s snow on the ground outside.


Being in the water and learning to swim is fun. Your child is certain to enjoy the activities and feel a sense of pride as he masters new skills.

While your young child is having fun, he’s also learning important social skills — taking turns, listening to the teacher, following directions, to name a few.

An added benefit is that once your child feels comfortable swimming, she’ll be able to participate in fun, water-centered activities with family and friends, such as visiting waterparks, going boating, or playing at a friend’s pool.

Calming for the brain


A benefit of swimming that is often overlooked is how calming swimming can be for the busy brain. This is particularly helpful for children who have sensory processing issues.

When a child is in the water, the water is constantly pushing against the body. This constant pushing requires the body to respond in what occupational therapists refer to as heavy work, which helps to calm the brain.

I’ve seen first-hand how swimming can help. My oldest son had several sensory processing issues in elementary school that often made the classroom a challenge. I saw a remarkable difference in his behavior after he started swimming (which I’ll have to share about more in a future blog post). Even today, as a teenager, he benefits from extended time in the pool.


Sign up for swimming lessons today

No matter what time of year you choose to sign up for swimming lessons, don’t delay giving your child the opportunity to learn this life-saving skill.

Swimming lessons aren’t about determining if your child is the next Michael Phelps. Swim lessons are about teaching your child how to be safe in and around water, whether that be a pool, lake, or ocean.

Children also learn how to be comfortable in the water, which opens up many more opportunities to have fun with friends and family. One day, if they decide competitive swimming is worth a shot, they’ll also reap the benefits that competitive swimming offers.

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Author – Laura Healy

Laura Healy is a former collegiate swimmer, current swim team parent, and swim coach who’s passionate about sharing her love of competitive swimming with anyone who’ll listen. You can read more from Laura at goggles&flipturns