London 2012 (or Who are you and what have you done with my son?)

We have been in Arkansas seven weeks now. In swim time, that would be three swim meets, at least 17 events, and 80+ hours of practice. I’m not complaining. In fact, I love being a swim mom, mainly because John enjoys swimming so much. He has been setting goals for himself since he started swimming nearly two years ago, and I have been excited to see him meet his goals and set even higher standards.

John has never been one to watch sports on TV or in person.  While many kids his age can quote team or individual statistics in basketball, football, and baseball (the big three), John has never paid much attention. I would dare say his own mother knows more about football and basketball than he does. John has played soccer, tee ball, and basketball, and up until he started swimming, liked playing basketball the best. He would much rather play a sport than watch it, except baseball. He hates baseball – watching it and playing it.

Fast-forward to the London 2012 Olympics, and the kid has become obsessed  not only with watching the swimmers compete but knowing the world record times for all the events along with trivia about swimmers from other countries. He knows the lingo and why swimmers wear two caps. He can tell you in which event and what year Michael Phelps’ goggles filled up with water. He can spout off when records have been set for events, not only in the world, but in Texas, Arkansas, and for the Little Rock Dolphin-Lasers, his current swim team. He also knows the qualifying times for 13-14 year old zone championships and sectionals.

I am amazed how a non-sports fan like John has turned into an Olympic-watching, swimming statistics junkie. His ultimate goals are to swim at the University of Texas in college and to qualify for the Olympics and haul in a few medals. Whether he swims a few more months or several more years, I’ll enjoy the ride.

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The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat

I love being a sports mom. When Catherine played basketball in fourth grade, I enthusiastically cheered from the sidelines and was very proud of my athlete. John has played t-ball, soccer, basketball, and he discovered swimming about 18 months ago. He has come a long way in a year and a half – from local meets to regional championship meets. I went to his first meet having no clue about heat sheets and seed times. In fact, I used to make fun of parents who brought clipboards and took notes of their childrens’ times. I have now become one of those parents. I not only have a folder with all his meet information, I also have apps on my iPhone to track his times and USA Swim rankings. At least I have not arrived at a meet blinged out in a Swim Mom t-shirt.

When short course season began in September, John started hitting the “B” qualifying times at his first meet. The standard age group motivational times start with B, which is the lowest, and progress to BB, A, AA, AAA, and AAAA. John did well by qualifying for B times in his second season of swimming. The B qualifications allowed him to participate in the “B” championship meet in San Antonio in January. All I can say is the kid cleaned up. He earned four second place medals, one first place medal, and four ribbons for 4th through 8th place. He also qualified for BB championships in all but one event at the B meet. He also qualified for an A time in his 50 breast at an earlier meet at Fort Hood. A couple of the timers referred to him as “that fast kid,” and he ate up all the attention. He won the most awards of any Swim Belton participant.

Needless to say, John had high expectations going into the BB meet (again in San Antonio). He wanted to do well enough to qualify for more A events at the “A” Championship meet in San Antonio. Unfortunately, John did not do as well as he expected. He qualified for finals and won a couple of 5th place and 7th place ribbons, but he was not happy with his overall performance. John swam his 50 breast at the “A” championship meet today in San Antonio with hopes of qualifying for TAGS (Texas Age Group Swimming) – a state meet. He needed to knock off close to 2 seconds to accomplish this goal. Instead, he added 3 seconds and came in close to last place in the preliminary race this morning. He not only didn’t qualify for finals, he wasn’t even close to the TAGS time.

I could tell he was unhappy with the results, and he referred to “jacking up the 50 breast.” He said he hated to end his 50 breast career (no more 50’s except free when he turns 13) on a bad note. On the other hand, he’s looking forward to long course season and hopes to qualify for more A times. Long course is different from short course in that the length is measured in meters instead of feet.

Although John has been disappointed with his results in the last two championship meets, I am still  very proud of him. He overcame illness with all three meets, and he is looking at ways to improve next time. It’s easy to cheer and get excited when things go well, but trying to cheer up a disappointed swimmer is not easy. I have a hard time knowing what to say that isn’t a cliche – “You did your best,” “There’s always next time,” ” Disappointment builds character.” I guess all I can do is let him know that I’m just as proud of him when he succeeds or when he doesn’t do well.

This swim mom gig is tough, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.