Heat Sheets and Sharpies and Crash Rooms, Oh My: Miranda’s First Real Swim Meet!

This past weekend Miranda had her first official swim meet! She started swim team this past fall, and she participated in an intrasquad meet several months ago, but this was her first time participating in a true swim meet. We were all excited but also a little bit nervous 🙂

After talking with her coach, I told her she had the option to swim 1, 2, or 3 races, and she said she wanted to do all 3, so for this first meet she swam 25m freestyle, 25m backstroke, and 25m butterfly races. One thing I love about her head coach is that any time I talk with her, she always has something encouraging to say about Miranda and how much they all enjoy working with her (she does this for all the kids and all the parents). She told me, when I asked her thoughts about which events Miranda should swim, that Miranda had one of the most natural dolphin kicks she’d ever seen, which thrilled Miranda to no end. She hasn’t quite put all the pieces of the butterfly stroke together smoothly yet, but she still loves swimming it so that she can put her dolphin kick to good use!

We had to get there early on Saturday morning – not ideal. Warm-ups started at 6:45, so I got up at 5:10. I am never, ever up at that time. I’ve been battling a cold, too, so it was not fun. But I powered through, and I woke both big girls up at 5:30 so they could get ready. Madeleine CaiQun insisted that she wanted to come early, too, so the three of us left the house in the pitch black darkness of the pre-sunrise hours.

I think Miranda was a bit overwhelmed by the big-ness of everything at the Mizzou pool. She’s used to me being 20 feet away from her for her entire practice, and this was not that. She swam in the pool farther away from the crash room, so she couldn’t even see her coaches or her pool from the crash room door. Parents are technically not allowed to be out on the pool deck…but I may or may not know anyone who, when confronted with the tears of her child, ignored the prohibition and walked out with her anyway.

Miranda is quite enamored with this sharpie-on-arm writing

I love the way everything is structured for these 25m 8-and-under events. They have a “bullpen” – essentially a staging area, where some coaches and volunteers get all of the kiddos lined up in exactly the order in which they need to be so that they can walk out to their lanes and swim. Then there are coaches and officials double-checking that each swimmer is where they need to be before their races begin.

The head coach of Miranda’s team is great about making sure that kids see meets as fun opportunities to improve their own times. No one focuses on rankings or where kids are placing relative to others; it’s all about personal growth.

Miranda swimming her freestyle event

I did look at the rankings, and Miranda finishes toward the bottom in every event, but that’s totally fine 🙂 It was huge to get this first ever big meet under her belt and to swim 3 whole events. Even at the intrasquad she’d only done 1 (backstroke). She improved her backstroke time by almost 4 whole seconds (!!), and she now has established times for freestyle and butterfly.

Miranda swimming backstroke

Matt and I were joking that she could actually shave multiple seconds off of her times if she would take off when the starting sound goes instead of looking around to make sure other swimmers have started first.

Miranda is the “splash” in lane 6, as other swimmers are already well underway 🙂

Honestly, I find it all quite endearing. I love seeing her start out at the beginning and make progress. When she first started swim team, she could make it across one length of the pool doing freestyle and one length doing backstroke, but barely. And now? She routinely swims the length of the pool dozens of times in each day’s practice, and she’s getting faster and better at the mechanics of everything. It’s so neat to see that growth.

And she’s growing in other ways, beyond just her swimming skills, too. She has a little friend she loves to see at swim practice, and she told me she made another friend at this swim meet, because they were in the same heat for their first race, so they had time to chat in the bullpen while waiting for their turn to go out on deck. Giving her a chance to interact with other kids her age and with other adults is a big reason we pursue extracurricular activities, so I’m thrilled to see that she’s starting to feel more comfortable in those areas, as well.

Overall, it was a very good experience. I’m so proud of her for being brave and taking on the challenge of swimming 3 races in a bit meet like this. It was such a fun morning for me, as her mom, to watch and help her through. I hope we’ll have many more fun swim meet experiences coming up in our future!

Another New Activity for Us – Swim Team!

I wrote this summer about how both of our older girls had opted to leave gymnastics behind for a new adventure of horseback riding. They’re still doing that, but we’ve also added another activity for Miranda – swim team!

She loves being in the water and loves swimming, and we realized this summer that she was actually a strong enough swimmer to be able to do swim team – kids just have to be able to swim one length of the pool in some approximation of freestyle and one length in backstroke, and while it wasn’t pretty, she could do that! She said she wanted to try it, so we signed her up, and she is loving it.

The first day was pretty overwhelming – there were so many people, but since then, it has calmed down significantly!

You can see Miranda in the front, next to the starting block for lane 2, dipping her toe in the water

For her age group, there is a 45-minute practice each day, and swimmers are asked to make it to one practice per week but are welcome to come daily, with most families choosing to have kids attend 2-3 days per week. There are a few days that I’ve made the choice of whether we’re going to go or not, based on what else we have going on and how everyone is doing, but when it’s left up to her, she almost always chooses to go!

swimming in lane 2

She is definitely a sensory seeker, so having this built in activity for many of her days is really a blessing for her. She’s also ready to be having more social interactions with other kids, and swimming provides her with an opportunity for some of that.

She’s one of the younger kids in this entry-level group of swimmers and one of the least experienced and one of the slower kids. That’s something of a new experience for her – being the oldest child in our family and the oldest child in our small group and one of the older kids at our church as a whole and being homeschooled, she’s used to being the top dog. We think it’s good for her to be able to experience working hard and persevering and celebrating doing her best, regardless of where that places her in the rest of the pack, and being able to have fun in the midst of all of that.

Last Friday evening was her first swim meet ever, a team intrasquad. I appreciate her coach’s perspective of taking things slowly and letting young swimmers just have fun and enjoy swimming. Our club is actually hosting a huge meet later this month, and her coach advised me not to sign Miranda up for that at all and to keep things very simple for her at this first intrasquad meet, just signing her up for one event. She’s really enjoying backstroke, and I do think it’s probably her strongest stroke right now, so she chose to swim the 25m backstroke for this first meet.

She was nervous beforehand, and honestly, I was a bit nervous for her. I’ve attended some swim meets with friends over the years, but this was the first time I’d been a parent responsible for a swimmer at a meet, and I was nervous that I’d somehow miss where she was supposed to go for her event or say something silly and discouraging before she had to race. But I think we did alright 🙂 We got her set up with her events written on her arm (she was so thrilled to have a legitimate reason to have Sharpie on her arm!).

And we made it to the pool in time for me to get a good seat to watch her race and for her to do her warm-ups, after which we had some time just to chill.

my nervous swimmer pre-race

(Don’t you just love her Christmas themed swimsuit? We were instructed to buy our swimmers endurance suits, which are more durable than regular swimsuits, and as she and I scrolled through the options on Amazon one evening, this is the one she really wanted. I verified that she planned to wear it for more than just December before purchasing, but while she has another one, too, she chooses this one virtually every day – I think it’s pretty adorable :)) 

She had a snack and played an ipad game while the older kids warmed up, and then we got her ready to race! They had a bullpen staging area for the 8-and-under crowd where coaches and volunteers got them lined up appropriately for their races, so I helped her get into her spot there, and then I went back to my seat to watch her.

I’d talked with her a lot about how Matt and I would be proud of her no matter what – she might win her heat, she might be somewhere in the middle, she might come in last, or she might get disqualified for some reason, and no matter what, we’d be proud of her for doing a new thing – her first race in her first swim meet.

I cheered hard and took a video of her, watching her and the swimmer next to her as he slowly edged in front of her as they swam across the pool. I knew she’d be disappointed if she finished last in her heat, but it also wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for her to experience – and as I saw the swimmer next to her pass her, I was pretty sure she was going to finish last.

She did finish the race (in what I thought was last place), she got out of the pool, and her coach gave her an enthusiastic high five and told her she’d done a great job, and she was beaming when she made it back to me 🙂

She was bummed when I told her I was pretty sure she’d finished last, but she took it well, and we got her dressed and got ready to head home. But on our way, I texted Matt and asked if it would be okay if I took her out to eat – everyone else had already eaten at home without us, and she’d been asking for a date with me for a while. She and I headed out to Olive Garden and enjoyed some sweet one-and-one time for the rest of the evening and talked about how proud I was of her for doing a new thing and working hard and swimming her best.

I actually realized later that night, after she was already in bed, when I went back to watch the video of her race, that it looked like she really did finish before one of the other swimmers in her heat (one on the far side of the pool, on whom I hadn’t been concentrating at all), putting her in 4th place in her heat instead of last. I told her that the next morning, and she was happy, but really, I was very pleased with how she handled it all even when she thought she had finished last!

Overall, I’m really thankful for her swimming experience thus far. It has upped the ante for us as a family in terms of these extra-curricular activities. Gymnastics – at the level at which Miranda and Madeleine CaiQun had been participating – was very much an activity where we paid our money and showed up once a week and that was it. Participating in a swim team is a whole different ballgame. We pay our money (though it’s actually a pretty low cost, given the number of hours she can be in the pool each week for that amount!), plus we have a fundraising expectation, plus we are required to volunteer at every meet our club hosts (and not just for an hour here or there – my required volunteer shifts for this upcoming meet will total something like 11 hours). And because of the timing of the practices, I can often be found parading into the pool building with 4 kids in tow, after having prepped most of dinner ahead of time, which I know is the only way we’ll be able to eat before 7:00. At least for now, though, the younger kids are all completely on board with going to swim practice, mostly, I think, because I let them play on old iPads of Matt’s while we’re there, an activity that is not generally allowed at home 🙂 Ultimately I think it would be neat if swimming became a whole-family sport – but we’ll have to see what the future holds for us in that regard! For now we’re just enjoying Miranda’s participation in it.

I do, though, really appreciate that swimming is such a good lifelong, healthy activity. Especially with Matt’s health history, it will be important for Miranda to establish good exercise habits from a young age, and my hope is that this will be part of that. It’s a great fit for her with her sensory seeking tendencies, and it’s a really good opportunity for her to get some experience interacting with the coaches and other swimmers, people outside of our family. Plus, she’s enjoying it 🙂 It’s a welcome addition to our repertoire this year.