Off the Blocks
May 29, 2014
Just looking at that date is crazy to me. It’s probably been five years since I’ve written an Off the Blocks for our team. Back in the day, I would write one once a week or so. We would cover everything from team cheers to sportsmanship to nutrition for your swimmers. Techniques and attitudes, the way to behave and how not to behave. Since those days, my life has taken many twists and turns. Two more children, a USA Swimming Coaching position, a child in college, a child still in preschool. I’ve been all over the place. I think its safe to say change has been the number one prevailing theme in my life.
What does that mean exactly?
Most of you reading this are “new” to our team. By new, I mean within the last 2-3 years. Some of you are veterans and remember how it used to be, but most of you were blessed to move into the neighborhood with a GOLD level swim team already in place and running - thanks to the volunteers - like a well-oiled machine. Lucky you. We have had and do have awesome coaches, we have had and do have awesome swimmers, but the most important thing we have on our team is legacy and tradition. Consistent ideals and values. You newbies haven’t really had to deal with change at all … you’ve been extremely fortunate to step right in to greatness.
Ten years ago, our beloved Heritage Oaks Torpedoes were on the bottom of the bottom. It was fun for sure, coaches would run the five/sixes around the pool for relays because we didn’t have enough kids. To watch Belle and Sam and Mady and Jess and Lucy swim was the highlight of the night … because they won their races! We won maybe one or two meets a season and were in the platinum level. Platinum in CCSL is not like platinum in real life in case you didn’t know, but we had fun and we were content. Thankfully, we live in West Cobb. If we lived in East Cobb, I think we would have been around the aluminum or tin foil level.
Some of the seniors that are now on our team were mere babies … and by babies, I mean babies. Four (because back in the day, four year olds could swim), five, six maybe seven years old. Maybe. Some of the swimmers that carry their age groups now were in diapers and pacifiers. Or not even born. There are stories I could tell you about these kids … but, as what happens, they grow up. They change. They work hard and they improve. We introduced them to the amazing sport of swimming with the intent to give them a life skill and a place to go in the mornings, a reason to wake up, a purpose while school was out. That was always the goal. If we won, that was awesome because of course its fun to win, but the GOAL, the PURPOSE was to introduce them, teach them how to survive in the water, teach them friendly competition, and to keep them busy.
Along with the kids, we strove to educate the parents.
As I said, we were in the platinum level, crazy times. Hand written ribbons and pinks and blues. Finally we got stickers for the ribbons and the pinks and blues. No beautiful pavillion, we had a tent that we set up in the mulch with folding chairs from the clubhouse. When it rained, it was a mud pit. The computer was inside and Todd Sieland never got to see his kids swim. Then we started winning and moved to the Bronze level, then the Silver. We hovered in the Silver level for a few years. At that point, my kids were swimming year round and I met so many more people. I learned, I changed, I began to understand what the sport was really all about. We were wary of moving up to Gold because I’d heard stories … stories of parents and kids who lose focus. Stories of parents and kids who no longer understood the big picture, the goal. Stories of nasty competition and no sportsmanship.
We didn’t want our team to be like that.
But, success being what it is brought us to the Gold level anyway. Because we are awesome.
Wary as we were, it was still something to be proud of, something to protect. We vowed to continue our way, a beacon in the sometimes muddied sports environment littered with egos, not enough education about swimming, and off-kilter ideals. Sportsmanship, team values, friendship and support. This is what made us what we are today and I challenge each and every one of you to protect it. To cherish it and hold it close to your family. Every one of you represents the collective whole that is the great team of the Torpedoes.
To whom much is given, much is expected.
That’s one of my family mottos, and something I repeat weekly to my children. Countless children have grown up on this team. They’ve moved on, finished college, gotten married, had babies. Our coaches have grown up on this team. Literally. Has anyone taken a second to read the bios on the website? Change is hard and change is formidable.
I challenge each and every one of you to be the role model for all of our children. Give encouragement and time to cultivate skills in the midst of the change we as a team are experiencing once again. Understand what we have standing in front of us. Understand where we came from and where we’ve been, do not rely on merely the one narrow view you’ve been presented since being on the team.
The great oak tree is beautiful, gold and red and orange in the autumn, but one cannot ignore the deep, deep roots that made it so.
Our team demands sportsmanship. It has been that way since its inception. Sportsmanship is more than the athlete shaking hands at the end of a race. Its more than clapping for the child who finally makes it to the wall after three minutes of hanging on the lane lines. It’s more than the Rookie meets and the shaving cream parties during practice.
Sportsmanship begins and ends as most things do, with the parents setting good examples. Cleaning up after meets. Encouraging everyone, even the other team. Being accommodating. Helpful. Kind.
And most of all remembering, if there is nothing nice to say … say nothing at all.
There are proper situations and channels to air grievances. All issues must be brought directly to the coordinators and those in charge. We may agree, we may agree to disagree, but we may not erode the team values with juvenile, middle school behavior. We are all volunteers with your child’s best interests at heart and snark has no place.
Sportsmanship, above everything else, must prevail.
But with that, remember that this is summer league. Not the Olympics. There are venues for that if you choose to go that route, and I’d be happy to help you navigate. If you aren’t willing to do that, remember to be happy for the opportunity that you have in front of you, and most of all, let your kids know how good they have it.