After my eight year old Skylee took first place on her team in the breast stroke time trials I told her that it’s not often in your life that you can say to yourself, “I’m the best at what I do”. I let her know that I was proud of her and that she should be proud of herself.
“Now I can brag about it?” she responded genuinely.
“No, that’s not the point. It’s better to show people what you can do, rather than telling them. You don’t want to hang out with someone who tells you how great they are all the time do you? That would be boring and alienating.” This line of reason made sense to me, but apparently not in the mind of my daughter.
“I’d want to hang out with them because they would be famous!” She was serious. It is tougher reasoning with a third grader than would have I ever imagined.
The fact is I never expected Skylee to do as well in the pool as she is now. Last year watching her swim was almost painful, her struggles so great crossing the pool. But as the season wore on her stokes smoothed out, and her times improved. The more she practiced the lower her times dropped. It was pretty amazing to watch someone transform so thoroughly in one season.
This year when Skylee got back in the pool she still looked a little awkward, but she’s a very smart, strong kid. She works hard and has a competitive drive. She wants to do well and is willing to put in the time and effort it takes to get better. Christ I hope this attitude sticks with her for the rest of her life. She has laid the foundation for success, and it happened before right before my eyes, inside a pool! I’m floored thinking about it.
The other day when we spoke about swimming and her performance again I made sure she understood that it doesn’t matter so much where you begin the season, as where you end and how you get there. I didn’t want her to think that she’ll be able to keep her advantage without trying. “As long as you keep practicing and trying your times will get better’, I told her. ‘Not everyone is willing to put in the time and effort it takes to get better, you’ll differentiate yourself by doing more and it will show in your results”. Our first swim meet against another team is next week. Stay tuned.
In the meantime Skylee’s six year old sister Sabrina is absolutely ripping up the water. At six she is a few seconds ahead of where her sister was last year at seven. The amazing thing is that Skylee is one of the best swimmers in her class of ‘eight and unders’, so I get the feeling Sabrina could be one of the best next year at tender age of seven. When she actually hits eight two years from now, who knows? If she sticks with swimming I wouldn’t doubt it if she is able to rewrite some of the pool records here in Marin in the years to come. I’m not saying this because I am her father, but because she has the talent and an ultra competitive mindset. She’s constantly saying she is going to be faster than her older sister, and she refuses to be beaten.
Sabrina’s biggest issue is that the pool is outdoors and we’ve had some practices in cold weather and wind. One week she only swam one day. Just yesterday I took her to the pool and she decided not to swim because it was too cold. What was I to do? I certainly don’t want to force the sport on her and have her end up hating it. So I asked Skylee if she would swim and she said she would for hot cocoa. I offered the same deal to Sabrina but she still declined. I figure if she is going to miss practices this is probably the year to do it because her times won’t be as competitive as in coming years.
I guess the question I need to ask myself now is whether or not we as a family and me as the father are making too big a deal of swimming? How important is swimming? Honestly I don’t think the final result, that is to say who is the fastest on the team, is so important. It’s more like, were you able to get better? Did you really try? Did you notice how much better you’ve gotten because you tried? There are so many lessons to learn in the pool. I just feel fortunate that my daughters are enjoying themselves and hopefully learning about what it takes to be successful in life.
Andy Falk is a father of two incredible daughters ages born in 2001 & 2003, Skylee
and Sabrina. Andy is very active in the lives of his daughters, from coaching soccer to supporting them during swimming season to just plain doing homework or hanging out. Andy also surfs regularly, bicycle commutes and is a successful Realtor in Marin County, CA. Andy earned his MBA from San Francisco State University with an Internet Marketing concentration, and holds a BA from the University of California at San Diego where he studied and surfed in the 80’s.