This last weekend was the All-City Swim Meet and the culmination of my son’s third year of swimming on the neighborhood team. Three years ago he was unable to muster a legal version of three of the four strokes, this year he broke team records in all but breaststroke (to include the individual medley). Next week he heads to the Maryland State Championship Meet where he has qualified to compete in nine different events, to include one AAAA time and two AAA times (I just learned how significant those A-ratings were this year). I am sure everyone who knows me knows how very proud I am of my son. He has found his sport of choice. He loves it and he’s good at it, the former being significantly more important than the latter, though we know that love and competence are nearly always directly related. Yes, I am proud of his accomplishments in the pool, but the main reason I smile when I am in his presence is because of the man he is becoming outside the pool.

Though he has a long way to go if he is to achieve his inside the pool goals,  he is becoming quite the swimmer. His expectations of himself have gone from “I hope I improve this week” to “I better have improved this week.” Admittedly, there are some negatives in that evolution, but even more goodness in a deliberate focus on continual improvement. He works so hard and because he, alone, owns the result, there is a direct and measurable return on his effort. I say he owns the result because he remains focused on racing the clock and not those in the pool with him. Sure the “competition” next to him helps him to up his game, but it’s not the place he finishes that matters, but the time in which he finished as it relates to his personal best to date. And despite the result, he is quick to shake the hands of the swimmers next to him.

As much as he continues to evolve as a swimmer, how he grows because of swimming is the primary reason I love that he swims. My son is a swimmer; he has lofty goals and will have my wholehearted support so that he can realize them, but I am much more interested in what I see after he touches the wall. To me, swimming is merely a vehicle he has chosen to learn the following:

  1. Teamwork
  2. Self Confidence
  3. Goal Setting/Achieving
  4. Sportsmanship
  5. Perseverance

Youth sports are crazy and often times extremely unhealthy. The sad thing for many parents is that they fail to see what their children are really learning in the process. They fail to see the example their overly competitive attempt to relive their own youth sports activity might have on their child. They fail to understand that the true measure of growth is what happens prior to and upon completion of the event/game/recital/fair. I’ll be spending yet another weekend at the pool. I’ll be cheering for his success in the pool, and regardless of those results, I’ll continue to pay more attention to how he continues to grow outside the pool.

  • What life lessons did you learn while pursuing your childhood interests?
  • What is the real reason you continue to encourage your child to participate in youth activities?
  • How will you determine the return on that investment of time/money?