Jane Goes Undercover. It’s Going To Be An Interesting Summer.


A little background, if I may: I began swimming competitively when I was about 9 years old. Apparently, I had a little talent in the sport. I made it to national meets by the time I was 13. I loved swimming. I was one of the weird ones who didn’t mind getting up at 5am to swim before school. I enjoyed being the first one to practice. I was one of those year-round crazies that swam 2-4 hours a day, 10,000 yards a practice, 50 weeks out of the year.

In college, I received a music scholarship and had to choose between swimming and music. It was a Big Ten University with a stellar swimming program. I made the team but not with any financial help. Since music was paying for some of my schooling, music won. But I had been coaching summer league swimming since I was 17 and found a part-time job as an assistant coach in a year round age group program in college. I could enjoy both of my loves. I was set. I coached for 12 years.

When my children came along I always steered them toward another sport. I knew how pushy/obnoxious/ignorant swimming parents could be. (Little did I know, they’d be the same way in every other sport) I didn’t want to become one of those parents. My youngest son wasn’t buying it. He begged and pleaded and practically went on strike until we’d let him swim. He started his first team experience a week ago.

Parents are required to volunteer at three meets per season. Because we started late, there weren’t many volunteer slots left to choose from. Except for Stroke and Turn Judge, which requires a training class. I attended the training class yesterday afternoon.

What an experience.

Background information #2: I’ve decided not to advertise my background in the sport. Many parents involved in swimming, if they haven’t competed themselves, think that because they’ve watched the Olympics a few times and can pick out Michael Phelps in a line up, they are experts at swimming. I’m a people watcher – a people observer. In short, I’m looking forward to seeing some of these “experts” in action.

“For those of us who arrived 4 minutes early, what did we miss?” asks a woman from the back, obviously annoyed that the instructor has started on time. Yes. He started on time. I know, because I’m a stickler for punctuality when it involves missing time from my family. I secretly shake my head and decide that those who choose any kind of officiating role must be control freaks.

The instructor is trying to find out what kind of experience we have in the sport.

“Raise your hand if you’ve officiated before and this is just a refresher course,” he asks.

Of course, my hand is down.

“Raise your hand if this is your first time taking the course.”

I raise my hand.

Because he thinks he knows the answer, he grins and says, “Keep your hand up if this is your child’s first season swimming.”

I’m the only one with my hand up.

He looks at me with wide eyes. “Your child has never swam before?”

“No sir,” I reply.

He shakes his head. “Then sharpen your pencil. You’ve got a lot to take in.”

I certainly do, I think, smiling inside.

About half way into the session, a woman asks, “Is this going to run much longer? My daughter has her last soccer game today.” We’ve only covered two strokes. We still have two more and relays and IMs to cover.

“You’ll need to sign up for another course,” the instructor replies, “You can’t be certified if you only complete half.”

“But my dad was an official at the Pam Am games,” she answers.

“Is he going to come with you to every meet?” asks the instructor.

She pouts and stays to finish the class.

We work in groups, analyzing different infractions. One of my group-mates boasts that he swam in high school and was never DQ’d (disqualified) so this is going to be a piece of cake for him.  And I think, yeah. That’s because you swam four months out of every year and probably only swam the freestyle. If you haven’t been DQ’d, you haven’t been swimming very long.

As we turned in our tests and they were graded in front of us, the instructor – obviously impressed with my score – said, “You must have been an excellent student in school.”

I smiled and nodded, afraid to open my mouth and betray my true experience.

Ahhhh, yes.

This is going to be an interesting season.


Filed under All In A Day's Work, Observations, People

18 responses to “Jane Goes Undercover. It’s Going To Be An Interesting Summer.

  1. Sounds like it will be a very interesting summer! I’m sorry your experience with kids sports has been unpleasant. Joe coached both AYSO soccer and baseball and for the most part everyone was really great–Baseball was a little more intense but I may have been the most obnoxious one (:-) since I believed a long with the kids, that it really is more fun when they won and you don’t have to lose to practice being a good sport. However we all had a great time and a lot of laughs.
    Good lucky with the mission you chose to accept. I am sure you will be an asset to the team!

  2. I was a competitive swimmer for 13 years. However, I never coached. That just wasn’t for me.

    When my eldest started seasonal swimming in middle school I had to step away. I did my volunteer hours but stayed away from the pool. I couldn’t stand *those* kind of parents and needed to keep my mouth shut.

    Have a fun and interesting summer!

  3. That lady sounds like an asshat. I love how he shut her up, though!

  4. We get wrapped up in our kids lives wanting the best and sometimes it turns out we are not giving them that because we are giving our worst!
    And as we all know everyone is watching and sporting events are not the time or place to vent everything that we are mad and angry about under the guise of competition and fairness. Hope your kids and you enjoy the summer!

  5. You swam FIFTY weeks/year, 2-4 hours a day? (Wait. I need more coffee. I must have misread that.)

    Holy *@#!!

    I say – give ’em hell, Jane. But only when you’re good and ready…


  6. For me, one of life’s biggest challenges is people who believe they are more qualified than they really are. Why oh why do we have this need to put on a show and pretend to be more than we are? My singular experience with kids’ sports when mine were that age was not good – because of the parents. Good luck to you and your son!

  7. ck

    You are so awesome, Jane. I know how hard-and secretly thrilling- it is to have a secret like that when surrounded by adults who think they’re better and you know they’re NOT. I can’t wait to read about the rest of these experiences.

    And it has to be pretty exciting to know that your son already has a love for something important to you.


  8. This better become a recurring series. Because I want to hear all about you telling those parents what’s what (or at least telling us)! =>

  9. My youngest brother-in-law was a varsity swimmer throughout high school and the state meets were always in my city. I don’t know much about competitive swimming, but attending 4 state meets did teach me just how obnoxious swim parents can be (especially about saving seats in the bleachers – sheesh!). Good luck. And I expect further reports from the peanut gallery!

  10. We’ve done hockey and baseball and for the most part the parents and coaches have all been great – although I realize that’s largely a matter of our good luck and not a blanket endorsement for how things always are. I don’t really understand why you’re not being up front about your experience. I agree that people who think they know more than they do are annoying (I tend to go too much the other way, which can also be annoying), but I’m not sure what you’re attempting to accomplish by being undercover.

  11. I think many kids’ sports are desperately short of people who know what they’re doing…I too wonder why you don’t speak up about your background!


  12. I can’t wait to hear more. You go girl!

  13. Oh this is going to be a good summer of reading all about it! 🙂 What instrument did you play (the music part!)

  14. Your buddy

    Jane, you need to speak up- I agree with previous commenter- what’s to be gained in going undercover? You will be more respected by the coaches and other parents, and any rulings you make will likewise be taken more seriously! Knowing you, I can just picture you standing there not wanting to be an attention hog, but really, your background deserves to be acknowledged. The coaches will really be grateful to have you.

  15. Allison/writerwoman/(my)buddy <—lol, love that, by the way…..

    The coach already knows my background, as we had a discussion at length of my son's lack of experience, yet passion for the sport, and whether he should even be on the team. The woman (another parent) that set up my training session knows — she tried to talk me out of doing that job because of the amount of knowledge about competitive swimming that is involved.

    Other than that, no — I haven't shared the info with any one else. As "my buddy" already stated, I'm not fond of tooting my own horn. And sounding like my group-mate who bragged about his (limited) high school experience just isn't my style. Who knows? I may be doing my boasting to a former Olympic hopeful.
    Plus, I'm actually looking forward to listening to the "know-it-somes" who think they know-it-all. It'll be entertainment at the daily practices and 4+ hour swim meets I'll be attending all summer.

  16. Jane, you’re awesome. And I love you for it. If nothing else, it’s best to remain silent and be thought a fool. I can’t wait to hear more about the adventures of being a swim parent with secret-swim-talent!

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