Becoming a sports mom

It’s Tuesday night and I’m sitting on a rock-hard, backless plastic bleacher watching my eight-year-old swim laps.

It’s hot and humid, and I’m incredibly uncomfortable in my oversized sweater, but it’s -15º outside and I didn’t have time to change between work and swim team practice.

I’m not motivated enough to brave the cold and go grocery shopping—and actually utilize my “down time”—and I’m not feeling lively enough to go visit family or friends.

So, I’ll sit and watch and smile on cue when my daughter happens to look up at me. After all, I’m mom.

Instead of a “soccer mom,” I’m a swim mom.

I’m happy to support my daughter Anna’s new-found interest in sports. I wasn’t at all surprised when she joined a local swim team (after a little encouraging), and I’m proud of her and her dedication to the sport. But, her new found love for athletics has thrown me into a whole new world of practice times and tournament dates and equipment dollars.

She’s eight.

And, for whatever reason, I thought I was getting off easy with her joining the swim team. My rationale was: It’s not hockey, so we won’t have those crazy schedules and weekend tournaments, right? Plus, we won’t have the crazy expensive dance costumes to purchase.

Yep. I thought swimming was the perfect, family-schedule friendly sport for my daughter. Don’t worry, reality hit when I attended the swim team parents’ meeting.

Anna started innocently swimming two days a week, one hour each time. Just recently, she advanced a level and now swims three nights a week, an hour each time. At the parent meeting, I learned that when she advances to the next level, her practices will bump up to four nights a week for 1.5 or 2 hours each time. (I almost fell out of my chair.)

AND there are weekend tournaments, which means days of travel and hotel stays when Anna is competition-ready.

And of course, proper swimsuits are not even close to costing $10 (like the ones we pick up on clearance at Walmart). Geez! They must be made out of gold.

And, in addition to her swim cap and googles, she also needs her own flippers, hand paddles, and a front snorkel.

Oh, there’s also a mandatory annual fee to be a registered USA Swimmer—on top of the monthly practice fees.

All of you parents who are already living in the world of kid sports are probably laughing at my ignorance.

I am not an athlete. Sure, I played volleyball and golf in high school, but I never made varsity and only joined the teams to have fun.

And honestly, I still cringe when my editor hands me a sports story to write. It’s not that I don’t want to cover the stories unfolding on local fields, courts, rinks, mats and courses. I do want to cover these exciting events, but… I don’t fully understand all sports. HOWEVER, I do appreciate the time, skill and effort of the athletes competing.

And now, I can fully appreciate all the time, effort, and dollars that parents of student athletes pour into the athletic programs of their students’ choices. Heck, parents should get medals too!

I know many people don’t agree with getting children involved in competitive sports so young. Yet, a whole lot of people encourage it. I honestly don’t know where I stand on the issue. Right now, Anna enjoys going to her practices and spending time with her teammates.

Swimming hasn’t yet pushed out family time or school work or any of her responsibilities, and our family budget has been adjusted accordingly.

I’m happy she’s involved in a team sport and making new friends.

For now, I’m going to go with it. I’ll follow her into this crazy new world and cheer her on from those really uncomfortable bleachers.

I love that she loves to swim, and I want her to continue to love swimming—and not burnout on the sport.

Hopefully, I’m mom enough to gauge her needs and wants and will know when to encourage her to keep trying, competing, and working hard… and to know when not to, which I fear, will be the most difficult.

Cheers to this next chapter in parenthood!

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