By In Family

Swimmingly

Our oldest daughter Elizabeth swims. By this, I mean, she is on a swim team. She shocked the heck out of all of us a few months ago when she announced that she wanted to be on a swim team. Elizabeth had never shown any desire whatsoever to watch sports or play sports or even be around sports.* Whenever I tell people that, they invariably say the same thing: “Oh, well she’s still young, that could change when she gets older. When I was young, I didn’t like baseball at all, but now …” I suppose anything’s possible, but I’m not sure I’ve explained it well enough. Elizabeth actively, passionately, enthusiastically does not like sports. Put it this way: When we go as a family to baseball games, the most important thing we must remember to bring is not a glove or a hat or sunscreen or a blanket but a book for Elizabeth to read. She might last a few innings at the game if she has a book with her. If not, well, no.

*Except NASCAR, which fascinates her.

I get the biggest kick out of her at those baseball games. She will be reading her book — usually something about angst-ridden pre-teens or fairy tales gone awry or magical beings being weighed down by everyday problems or wolves — and then she will look up in this dazed way when the crowd grows loud after a double play or a bases-loaded strikeout or a stolen base. That look — not exactly confusion, perhaps something closer to perplexity — might be my favorite Elizabeth look. It has nothing whatsoever to do with what kind of baseball play sparked this book-interrupting outburst. She couldn’t care less about that. No, that look instead suggests that she has just remembered something important, something surprising — that she is at a baseball game. Once this mystery is solved, she will go back to the book fully satisfied until the next loud cheer pulls her out of her reading coma again.

I have absolutely no misgivings or concerns about her lack of interest in sports. This is how she is wired, and I think it’s great. Our younger daughter, Katie, is the sporty one, the one who has told us on several occasions since the Olympics ended that when she grows up she wants to “run the last leg” of the 4×400 meter relay at the Olympics. It’s always the last leg. She wants to be the one to cross the finish line. But even Katie could not care less about watching or following or even knowing the rules of the sports Daddy writes about for a living. We all spend a lot of our time these days talking about penguins, working out how to play “Call Me Maybe” on the piano and (oddly enough) watching old “Wonder Years” episodes. The Strasburg shutdown hasn’t come up.

So when Elizabeth said she wanted to join the swim team, I expected it to be one of those fleeting things that occasionally pass through her 11-year-old mind, like her temporary but fervent fixation on fake mustaches or the song “I”m Elmo and I Know It.” But she did not back down when I reminded her of a key family rule: You don’t have to start anything — hobbies, sports, clubs — but if you start you have to finish it. After dealing with her usual mountain of anxiety, she decided: She wanted to join the swim team.

And it turns out that she is a good swimmer. I don’t mean she is good in an Olympic sense, or a Junior Olympic sense, or even in a “she is faster than any other swimmer” sense. I just mean: She can swim quite well. She does not come close to drowning. She went to her first practice, and she had to swim, I don’t know, 10 or 20 laps total — we’re talking about a recreation league — and she did it. Her backstroke is quite a lovely thing, at least in her father’s eyes, and her other strokes look pretty good too, and she listens carefully to her coaches, and she gets better at every practice. I have to say it has been an extraordinary thing. I have been writing about sports for more than a quarter century now, and I’ve been in some pretty amazing places and seen some pretty amazing things. But — you already know — nothing is like watching your daughter swim a lap of butterfly for the first time. Nothing is even close.

Now, you might notice how I started this piece. I wrote: “Our oldest daughter Elizabeth swims.” There seems to be a word missing at the end there. The correct sentence, you might expect, is: “Our oldest daughter Elizabeth swims competitively.” But while that might be the way the sentence is usually constructed, in this case it would be totally wrong. Our daughter swims. Our daughter does not swim competitively.

It is striking. Her best stroke, as mentioned, is the backstroke. And in backstroke races, all the swimmers start in the water, the bell sounds, they kick off the wall, and then race to the end. Elizabeth does not do this. She too starts in the water, the bell sounds, she kicks off the wall. And then she swims the backstroke like she’s in some Esther Williams MGM swimming musical. My wife calls it the “La la la” stroke. I cannot possibly exaggerate this. She’s not trying to win the race. She hardly seems aware there is a race. She’s just enjoying the moment, floating on her back, living the life. When she finishes swimming her “race,” she has that same look on her face that she has when her book is interrupted by baseball cheering. It is a look that says, “Oh, yeah, I guess there were other people swimming too.”

Now, I’ve always said to my daughters that the only things that matter to me about playing sports is that they play fair and have fun. That’s it. I mean, yes, quietly I want them to try hard, and I want them to pick up a few of those sports lessons about teamwork and dedication and perfect practice and the rest. But I figure that stuff will happen naturally. Just the other day, Katie was at her soccer game, and there was a very nice professional soccer player giving tips to the 7-year-olds. He told the kids, “Don’t just run to the ball. If you see your teammate has the ball, run to the goal and get open for a pass.” Most of the other kids did not seem to be paying much attention, to be honest — 7-year-old soccer does not tend to be much of a passing game — but Katie was listening very carefully, as she tends to do, and, sure enough, the next two times she was on the field she ran AWAY from the ball, got open, someone actually passed to her, and it led to two great scoring chances. She didn’t score either time (we’re still working on those foot skills, you know), but I couldn’t have been happier. She learned something. And that something might help her in life — to trust other people, to be different, to listen to smart people.

So, I do not care at all if Elizabeth wins or finishes in the top three or finishes in any particular spot. I really don’t. I promise you I don’t. She’s getting stronger, learning discipline, developing an understanding of what it takes to get good at something. That’s what I care about. But here’s where it gets, you know, kind of tricky. I watch her in the water, swimming casually (and usually keeping up with most of the other swimmers because, like I say, it’s a good stroke) and something happens in my brain, something I would rather not happen. I find myself thinking, in capital letters and with explanation points: “HEY! SWIM FASTER! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? SWIM FASTER!”

I realize this is not a helpful thought. It’s not exactly technical advice, either. Swim faster? That’s all I’ve got after covering a bunch of Olympics, after watching Michael Phelps swim dozens of races? But this is the natural way of things, I guess. I’m the dad, she’s my daughter, and while I’m happy that she’s swimming, proud that she’s swimming well, thrilled that she’s found a sport she enjoys … my mind still thinks I’m Stefano Capriati: “COME ON! SWIM FASTER! MOVE YOUR ARMS FASTER! KICK FASTER! GO FASTER!”

I try to suppress it, but I cannot entirely. As a sportswriter, I have for 25 years watched stage parents scream at their kids for mistakes, cheer other children’s mistakes in a ghastly way and and try to live vicariously through these little games. You can see parents — in every city, in every town, at every youth sporting event — emptying out their own frustrations, their own discontent. You can see them pour their unrealistic expectations on children who almost certainly won’t win gold medals or Cy Young Awards or NBA scoring titles. Before I was a parent myself, I had nothing but fury for such people. Leave your kid alone! Let your kid enjoy childhood! I still have plenty of that fury.

After you become a parent, though, you realize that it’s not so simple. I have interviewed many of these parents and have found that they don’t push merely out of greed, but also out of love. And yet, they don’t push merely out of a pursuit of excellence but also out of the regret they feel not having pushed themselves. They want their children to succeed badly, but they also don’t want their children to fail. They understand that these are just games, but they also think that it’s a hard world out there and they want their kids to learn how to compete and win right from the start. It’s jumbled chaos, this relationship between parents and children, and much of the flammable stuff explodes when kids play games.

I don’t have a lesson here … or an answer. I tend to stay quiet, and I tend to offer positive feedback, and I tend to remind her again and again to have fun. But I also sneak in a “Swim faster!” in our talks — in the moments after the race, in the car ride home, in the quiet moments. I can’t help it. I try to sneak it in casually, in an off-handed way, you know:

“Hey, did you study for your test on the Pilgrims? Good. Who were the Separatists? Good. Swim faster.”

“Hey clean up your room, OK? Swim faster too.”

“Quit fighting with your sister! Why can’t you just swim faster and get along?”

So far, I don’t think she’s caught on. So far, she is still swimming in her own world. In my calm moments, I love this — love that she is swimming for herself and not for ribbons, love that she is not overtly competitive and gets real joy out of other people’s successes. But let’s face it: Deep down I’m The Great Santini. Maybe most of us are. I certainly don’t think I’m going to start bouncing basketballs off my child’s head like Santini did. Then again, the fall races haven’t begun.

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40 Responses to Swimmingly

  1. Tim says:

    Joe, you make me want to have kids, and, conversely, to pity those children, as well. I’m reminded of the way that, whenever I Skype with my nephew in Panama, I implore him to practice with his left foot, too.

  2. Bryan says:

    I probably laugh out loud the most during the Poz-family pieces. Always a joy to read.

  3. Roger Fan says:

    Be careful, having a competitive swimmer as a child is not an easy task. I feel so sorry for my parents, they had to deal with so many 5 am drives to practice.

    If you want to give more constructive advice than “swim faster” though, try working on technique. At that age, just starting, you probably still have a better understanding of proper technique than she does.

    • irishguy says:

      But talk to the coach first. You want to be on the same page as far as technique, and he/she might even appreciate the help, since they usually have lots of kids vying for their attention.

      As far as the “swim faster” urge, Joe, you’re going to quickly learn the same thing this swim parent learned. The kid’s got on goggles, a swim cap, and their ears are under water a lot. They can’t see or hear much of anything, including (and this is important) the people in the lanes next to them (except for the breast stroke).

      In other words, it may look like a race against other kids from the stands. It’s not. It’s a race only against yourself.

      You’ll soon see the phenomenon of a kid finishing first upset because he didn’t shave anything off his/her personal best, while a kid finishing fourth celebrates.

      It’s part of the true beauty of this wonderful sport, in addition that it is the best sport for total body fitness at the lowest risk of injury.

    • irishguy says:

      But talk to the coach first. You want to be on the same page as far as technique, and he/she might even appreciate the help, since they usually have lots of kids vying for their attention.

      As far as the “swim faster” urge, Joe, you’re going to quickly learn the same thing this swim parent learned. The kid’s got on goggles, a swim cap, and their ears are under water a lot. They can’t see or hear much of anything, including (and this is important) the people in the lanes next to them (except for the breast stroke).

      In other words, it may look like a race against other kids from the stands. It’s not. It’s a race only against yourself.

      You’ll soon see the phenomenon of a kid finishing first upset because he didn’t shave anything off his/her personal best, while a kid finishing fourth celebrates.

      It’s part of the true beauty of this wonderful sport, in addition that it is the best sport for total body fitness at the lowest risk of injury.

  4. clashfan says:

    Something struck me in this post–the line about how parents don’t want their kids to fail. Although I don’t have kids, this strikes me as a less-than-ideal approach, for two reasons. First, losing isn’t failing. It’s just losing a game, or a match, or even an at-bat. Sometimes the competition is just better than you, or you didn’t have your best game that day. Losing can be a spur to do better, but I don’t think it should be seen as a failure.

    Second, the idea that failure is always bad is a terrible one. Kids make mistakes–*people* make mistakes. Never failing means you never risked anything–and I think that’s a more fatal error than trying and falling flat. If a kid never moves outside their comfort zone, they’re less likely to take important risks in life–trying that tough math class, applying for a reach school, starting a small business.

    It’s a fine balance between rewarding success and rewarding effort. Do we value winning at all costs, and nothing less is important? Or do we give every kid a ribbon? I think the answer is rewarding success that’s achieved through effort. Is something easy for you? Great, challenge yourself more. Is it difficult? Keep at it, and when you get it right, we’ll cheer that.

  5. McSnide says:

    Aren’t kids great? My six-year-old got to play goalie for the first time last week. Let in three goals, and never even attempted to block a shot.

    When she came off the field, she was glowing – “Daddy, I got the ball every time!” I didn’t have the heart to point out that she’s supposed to try to get the ball BEFORE it’s firmly lodged in the net.

    • Norm says:

      Nice. I remember my daughter’s first game in goal. She walked out and shook hands with the first player who scored to congratulate her. And the second. And …. After the game we assured her that it was okay to wait and shake hands at the end of the game. Seven years later, she made the critical stop in a PK shoot-out to seal the team’s win in the title game. Good memories.

  6. Nice, Joe. I’m a new blog fan (and swim coach myself), but an old SI fan. Speaking with my swim cap on, I’d just like to say that giving anyone technique advise is really not a good idea. Let the professionals do that, please. “Go!” is always the right thing to say. Remembering her best times is also helpful, as the sport can be viewed much more productively while measuring against yourself instead of the medal winners. And with that in mind, please consider taking her out of summer league, where only the sprinters get any glory, and letting her swim year-round. It’s all about giving her the opportunity to succeed (my mantra), and having all the distance events around sometimes is what it takes. My daughter did her first Open Water race at 9 and has been going to the US Open Water Nationals for the last two years. Best of luck!

  7. Robin Taylor says:

    Joe I wish you were one of my swim parents.
    Swimming has the best of all sports. You are part of a team however you are swimming for yourself. I wish your daughter (and you) the best of luck in the sport. So many children get in the pool and try to be better than they were the dat before. Try to just get that 10/100th of a second faster. They compete against themselves every time they get in the pool. There is no greater competitor. What is so nice is those children swimmers take that into adulthood. They try to be better than they were the day before.
    What a terrific way to live their lives. Congrats to your daughter for choosing a sport that makes her want to succeed by the pure nature of it.
    Thanks
    Coach Robin
    BGH Swimming

  8. As a Tennis Parent, I totally, 100%, relate to what you’re feeling as you watch your daughter swim. It’s tough to be relegated to the sidelines, to watch your progeny out there, alone, doing their best, sometimes wishing you could go out there and just do it FOR them. Love your honesty – I’m a new fan!

  9. brhalbleib says:

    When it comes to running, swimming, and those kind of sports, really the desire for your child to do well and “beat” the other competitors is instinctual. * I do not see why you would feel guilty about it.

    * And when I say instinctual, I mean biologically instinctual, as in when our ancestors had to run away from predators, it was really best to outrun, outjump, outswim everyone else. That kind of instinctual.

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  11. “I reminded her of a key family rule: You don’t have to start anything — hobbies, sports, clubs — but if you start you have to finish it.”

    Maybe I’m misinterpreting it, but that strikes me as an extraordinarily stupid rule. What if she got interested in mountain climbing – would you insist that she commit to climbing Everest before even taking a lesson? Will you prohibit her from dating a boy unless she commits to marrying him?

    There are things you just can’t know if you will like or want to pursue seriously without trying them first.

    When I was of the right age, I was interested in joining the Boy Scouts. My father agreed, but stipulated that if I did, I had to stay in until I made Eagle. Not being an idiot, I declined.

    • clashfan says:

      I think Joe means for a full season, and not quitting with half the matches/games left to go. For hobbies, that might mean completing at least one decent-sized project. For clubs, one school year. The idea is to not let the kid quit after investing in a year-long lease on a piano, or a membership at a horse barn, or Little League fees, or a snowboard w/gear and then see them quit in six weeks.

  12. Steve Mahr says:

    Joe, thank you. I am going to use this post in the future as you have so well documented our shared experience. My Elizabeth is a year older than yours, but we share ‘identical’ girls. -Adding to my ‘dance’ of wanting her to swim faster; I am not only Dad, but also her coach!

    I have had similar discussions with my swim parents and I share with them this thought…I am so pleased that she has an interest in the sport, and although in my own head I refer to her as ‘One Speed Sally’, I hope one day she discovers her own potential and growth in becoming competitive…right now, I just adore her and the ground that she walks on and occassionally throw out a ‘swim faster’!

    Best of luck to you and Elizabeth’s swimming career.

  13. Bob Atwood says:

    Alright, this one finally prompted me for a response…I followed you in the KC Star(BEFORE the SI days) and have always loved your articles!

    …and all I want to say is that my wife has never understood my “Stefano Capriati” side and still gives me grief (probably well deserved) over my “Youth Soccer Coach” days!

    Another great article!

  14. Robert says:

    I have the exact opposite daughter as Joe’s (and Steve’s) Elizabeth(s). My 6 year old is so fiercely competitive that she doesn’t want to play an organized sport, or do anything publicly, until she has firmly mastered it. This is true even though she LOVES the sports/activities themselves.

    The Olympics finally motivated her to act. You can’t practice uneven bars or vault in the back yard, so she asked us to sign her up for gymnastics. She listens to coaches intently, tries things that I KNOW she has trepidation about, and uses way too much chalk imitating Gabby Douglas.

    Truth be told she gets the fierce competitiveness from me. And the fear of failure, too. I became good at the sports I played not because I worked hard chasing a trophy or glory but because I hated to lose. Parenting my daughter through that, and checking myself as a pushy parent, will likely be a great challenge for me.

  15. Iain says:

    “She too starts in the water, the bell sounds, she kicks off the wall. And then she swims the backstroke like she’s in some Esther Williams MGM swimming musical.”

    Thank you for that wonderful image, which made me actually laugh out loud in the office!

  16. Already caught up on the episodes of the Wonder Years i missed on Netflix.

    Every time i’m at a park i hear the football/baseball coaches screaming at those kids it really is pretty sad. Sometimes they even cuss, i’m “wth is wrong with those guys?” Are the parents ok with that stuff?

  17. Sean F says:

    As the Father of a swimmer (and a good swimmer!) I have to say, well done!

  18. Mark Daniel says:

    I don’t many 7 year olds are able to grasp sports strategy concepts. My son is 7 and playing soccer, and while he’s a rank amateur, there are 4 or 5 kids on his team who are pretty darn good. His whole team is comprised of 2nd graders. Despite their varying skill levels, none of them ever follow the coach’s directions, unless the coach explicitly tells them to do something. “Joey! Stand over here!”

    They all either cluster around the ball in a big mass of furiously kicking children, or they stand just outside the blob of kids as up close spectators. But none of them ever do anyone remotely close to what the coach has taught. I just don’t think 7 year olds are wired for conceptual stuff like sports strategy.
    On the other hand, when my daughter was 9, I saw plenty of examples of kids playing soccer properly, ie they were keeping good spacing, trying to pass to their teammates, etc. It makes me wonder whether coaching 7 YOs should be about the mechanics of whatever sport – hitting, kicking, shooting baskets – and have no instruction in game theory.

  19. I recall a gratifying Eureka! moment while coaching 7-8-year-old soccer, when kids absolutely are old enough to grasp team concepts. On the co-ed team there were two talented players, one male and one female. The male was extremely fast, and constantly outran the defense up the side of the field before invariably rushing — and missing — a shot. During one halftime I said to him that if he’d just slow down for an instant and look up, he’d see his teammate all alone in front of the goal every time. He said “Really?” She gave him a masterful stare and a heartfelt “Duh!” A few seconds later he got the ball and ran up the field, looked up, saw her all by herself, passed it over and she scored. Years later in varsity soccer, he was still one of the best passers around.

  20. Gene Claude says:

    Long time reader. Judging from your stories, my daughter and Elizabeth are very similar (in fact, I’m now monitoring her interests more closely to forestall any NASCAR…). Competition is just not her nature; she likes to work together, solve problems and find common ground. Sports are not her thing. She recently sat through a college football game and after about 30 minutes confided “I really prefer the tailgating.” She, too, wanted to join the swim team. She also excels at not drowning, enjoys it and pays attention, but couldn’t care less about the competition. And her best stroke is backstroke. After her first meet, she got outo of the pool after her backstroke run, mom and dad tell her how great she did and she says “did you see that hawk circling up there? It was so beautiful!” While every parent was yelling “come on, go fast, win!” she was admiring the beauty of a circling hawk. It still makes me misty. I figure if she can admire the beauty of the circling hawk and tune out all us idiots, she’ll be just fine.

  21. Gene Claude says:

    Long time reader. Judging from your stories, my daughter and Elizabeth are very similar (in fact, I’m now monitoring her interests more closely to forestall any NASCAR…). Competition is just not her nature; she likes to work together, solve problems and find common ground. Sports are not her thing. She recently sat through a college football game and after about 30 minutes confided “I really prefer the tailgating.” She, too, wanted to join the swim team. She also excels at not drowning, enjoys it and pays attention, but couldn’t care less about the competition. And her best stroke is backstroke. After her first meet, she got outo of the pool after her backstroke run, mom and dad tell her how great she did and she says “did you see that hawk circling up there? It was so beautiful!” While every parent was yelling “come on, go fast, win!” she was admiring the beauty of a circling hawk. It still makes me misty. I figure if she can admire the beauty of the circling hawk and tune out all us idiots, she’ll be just fine.

  22. Gene Claude says:

    Long time reader. Judging from your stories, my daughter and Elizabeth are very similar (in fact, I’m now monitoring her interests more closely to forestall any NASCAR…). Competition is just not her nature; she likes to work together, solve problems and find common ground. Sports are not her thing. She recently sat through a college football game and after about 30 minutes confided “I really prefer the tailgating.” She, too, wanted to join the swim team. She also excels at not drowning, enjoys it and pays attention, but couldn’t care less about the competition. And her best stroke is backstroke. After her first meet, she got outo of the pool after her backstroke run, mom and dad tell her how great she did and she says “did you see that hawk circling up there? It was so beautiful!” While every parent was yelling “come on, go fast, win!” she was admiring the beauty of a circling hawk. It still makes me misty. I figure if she can admire the beauty of the circling hawk and tune out all us idiots, she’ll be just fine.

  23. Gene Claude says:

    Long time reader. Judging from your stories, my daughter and Elizabeth are very similar (in fact, I’m now monitoring her interests more closely to forestall any NASCAR…). Competition is just not her nature; she likes to work together, solve problems and find common ground. Sports are not her thing. She recently sat through a college football game and after about 30 minutes confided “I really prefer the tailgating.” She, too, wanted to join the swim team. She also excels at not drowning, enjoys it and pays attention, but couldn’t care less about the competition. And her best stroke is backstroke. After her first meet, she got outo of the pool after her backstroke run, mom and dad tell her how great she did and she says “did you see that hawk circling up there? It was so beautiful!” While every parent was yelling “come on, go fast, win!” she was admiring the beauty of a circling hawk. It still makes me misty. I figure if she can admire the beauty of the circling hawk and tune out all us idiots, she’ll be just fine.

  24. Gene Claude says:

    Long time reader. Judging from your stories, my daughter and Elizabeth are very similar (in fact, I’m now monitoring her interests more closely to forestall any NASCAR…). Competition is just not her nature; she likes to work together, solve problems and find common ground. Sports are not her thing. She recently sat through a college football game and after about 30 minutes confided “I really prefer the tailgating.” She, too, wanted to join the swim team. She also excels at not drowning, enjoys it and pays attention, but couldn’t care less about the competition. And her best stroke is backstroke. After her first meet, she got outo of the pool after her backstroke run, mom and dad tell her how great she did and she says “did you see that hawk circling up there? It was so beautiful!” While every parent was yelling “come on, go fast, win!” she was admiring the beauty of a circling hawk. It still makes me misty. I figure if she can admire the beauty of the circling hawk and tune out all us idiots, she’ll be just fine.

  25. Gene Claude says:

    Long time reader. Judging from your stories, my daughter and Elizabeth are very similar (in fact, I’m now monitoring her interests more closely to forestall any NASCAR…). Competition is just not her nature; she likes to work together, solve problems and find common ground. Sports are not her thing. She recently sat through a college football game and after about 30 minutes confided “I really prefer the tailgating.” She, too, wanted to join the swim team. She also excels at not drowning, enjoys it and pays attention, but couldn’t care less about the competition. And her best stroke is backstroke. After her first meet, she got outo of the pool after her backstroke run, mom and dad tell her how great she did and she says “did you see that hawk circling up there? It was so beautiful!” While every parent was yelling “come on, go fast, win!” she was admiring the beauty of a circling hawk. It still makes me misty. I figure if she can admire the beauty of the circling hawk and tune out all us idiots, she’ll be just fine.

  26. Gene Claude says:

    Long time reader. Judging from your stories, my daughter and Elizabeth are very similar (in fact, I’m now monitoring her interests more closely to forestall any NASCAR…). Competition is just not her nature; she likes to work together, solve problems and find common ground. Sports are not her thing. She recently sat through a college football game and after about 30 minutes confided “I really prefer the tailgating.” She, too, wanted to join the swim team. She also excels at not drowning, enjoys it and pays attention, but couldn’t care less about the competition. And her best stroke is backstroke. After her first meet, she got outo of the pool after her backstroke run, mom and dad tell her how great she did and she says “did you see that hawk circling up there? It was so beautiful!” While every parent was yelling “come on, go fast, win!” she was admiring the beauty of a circling hawk. It still makes me misty. I figure if she can admire the beauty of the circling hawk and tune out all us idiots, she’ll be just fine.

  27. Gene Claude says:

    Long time reader. Judging from your stories, my daughter and Elizabeth are very similar (in fact, I’m now monitoring her interests more closely to forestall any NASCAR…). Competition is just not her nature; she likes to work together, solve problems and find common ground. Sports are not her thing. She recently sat through a college football game and after about 30 minutes confided “I really prefer the tailgating.” She, too, wanted to join the swim team. She also excels at not drowning, enjoys it and pays attention, but couldn’t care less about the competition. And her best stroke is backstroke. After her first meet, she got outo of the pool after her backstroke run, mom and dad tell her how great she did and she says “did you see that hawk circling up there? It was so beautiful!” While every parent was yelling “come on, go fast, win!” she was admiring the beauty of a circling hawk. It still makes me misty. I figure if she can admire the beauty of the circling hawk and tune out all us idiots, she’ll be just fine.

  28. Gene Claude says:

    Long time reader. Judging from your stories, my daughter and Elizabeth are very similar (in fact, I’m now monitoring her interests more closely to forestall any NASCAR…). Competition is just not her nature; she likes to work together, solve problems and find common ground. Sports are not her thing. She recently sat through a college football game and after about 30 minutes confided “I really prefer the tailgating.” She, too, wanted to join the swim team. She also excels at not drowning, enjoys it and pays attention, but couldn’t care less about the competition. And her best stroke is backstroke. After her first meet, she got outo of the pool after her backstroke run, mom and dad tell her how great she did and she says “did you see that hawk circling up there? It was so beautiful!” While every parent was yelling “come on, go fast, win!” she was admiring the beauty of a circling hawk. It still makes me misty. I figure if she can admire the beauty of the circling hawk and tune out all us idiots, she’ll be just fine.

  29. Gene Claude says:

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  30. Gene Claude says:

    Long time reader. Judging from your stories, my daughter and Elizabeth are very similar (in fact, I’m now monitoring her interests more closely to forestall any NASCAR…). Competition is just not her nature; she likes to work together, solve problems and find common ground. Sports are not her thing. She recently sat through a college football game and after about 30 minutes confided “I really prefer the tailgating.” She, too, wanted to join the swim team. She also excels at not drowning, enjoys it and pays attention, but couldn’t care less about the competition. And her best stroke is backstroke. After her first meet, she got outo of the pool after her backstroke run, mom and dad tell her how great she did and she says “did you see that hawk circling up there? It was so beautiful!” While every parent was yelling “come on, go fast, win!” she was admiring the beauty of a circling hawk. It still makes me misty. I figure if she can admire the beauty of the circling hawk and tune out all us idiots, she’ll be just fine.

  31. KCJoe says:

    Joe,

    I’m sitting in Phoenix airport, missing my very sportsminded boys and fighting back some tears as I read this article. I’ve said a couple times in these comment sections that I usually read you in the Kansas City Star but from the time you wrote your “Beth column” (I guess 11+ years ago), I have followed you faithfully.

    I like your sports stuff. Your Fatherhood stuff is never to be missed.

    Thanks,

    KC Joe

  32. Stephen says:

    “I wrote: ‘Our oldest daughter Elizabeth swims.’ There seems to be a word missing at the end there.”

    A word?!? There’s a child missing!

  33. Mark says:

    I always try to tell my kids, whatever you’re doing, do your best — that’s all we ever ask of you. And I think that’s (a) a valuable life lesson and (b) the best way to be fair to your teammates and the coaches who are giving their time.

    So I wonder if some of your frustration isn’t “misplaced competitiveness” but simply the nagging feeling that she’s not really giving this endeavor her all.

  34. 李丽 says:

    It with historical center age categories as the idea, moreover to the main sword fighting and bow and arrow ranged outside, also have miracle &medical and god’s help prayer. Players in basically is to rely on fighting, other as assistant. moreover to fight outside, also have other abilities, mainly used to create objects, such as having WOW Gold smithing mainly used to manufacture metal items, crafting manufacturing clothing, clay element, jewellery and so on.

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