Sideline Etiquette


Three years ago our daughter Gabriella joined the Rose City Aquatic Club – or RCAC as it is known to us that enjoy the brevity offered up through the liberal use of acronyms. I don’t know how you feel but to me acronyms seem to suck the life out of anything and make even the most exciting and wonderful things seem mind numbingly boring. Anyone that has ever spent any time with an employer or institution involved with any kind of government funding will certainly be able to identify with what I am saying.

When Gabriella first joined RCAC I made myself a promise that I would never be one of “those parents.” You know the type – the sideline pacing, child self-esteem wrecking “experts” that offer up sage advice at ear drum bursting decibel levels. I can’t imagine anything more embarrassing or humiliating to a child than to have their parents publicly decry their lackluster athletic performance. Are the parents living out their own unfinished business through their children? Do they lack a crucial barrier between what they think and what they yell? Were they themselves athletic Gods that are somehow embarrassed at the insufficient abilities of their progeny? In all seriousness, I really don’t care – let the kids have a chance to compete without all the baggage from the sidelines. From the parents no less.

On a similar note, I do find it funny that in the world of swimming there really aren’t a lot of things to yell as a parent. For example, the most popular and widespread of the vocal options tends to be “go” and it truly covers all manners of events and purposes. Is your child competing for a personal record or PR? (Here’s that acronym thing again). Shout out a loud “go” and it’s as good as done. Goggles fly off during your child’s dive? Let fly a “go” and I’m sure your chlorine blinded child will skim along the water to the finish line in no time at all. Similar in popularity is the word “kick” which can also be shouted out during all manner of racing events since each swimmer seems to truly need their legs to propel them through the water. Perhaps some genius will blend the two together – shout out “gick” – and a true revolution in competitive swimming will take place.

When our children are born we spend the first frantic moments checking to make sure that they have all limbs, appendages, toes etc. As time goes by, it is no longer enough for those little bodies to be complete or even to breathe, walk, think and talk. At some point we make a remarkable transition in which we no longer recognize how extraordinary it is that they are alive at all. We begin to expect them to master skills, to train, to compete, to pursue perfection. In my opinion, each stroke that our kids learn, each skill that they master is miraculous at some level. It truly amazes me what our children are able to do when supplied with the right mix of encouragement, support, competition and camaraderie.

This last weekend Gabriella set numerous PRs and made her first “A” time at a swim meet in Newport. At the tender age of eight she is now eligible to compete at the State level. As you can imagine, both JJ and I are proud beyond words of our daughter’s achievements. I am far from an expert when it comes to swimming and my daughter’s expertise greatly outweighs anything that I know about strokes, legal turns, relays etc. But if you make it to one of her events I’m sure you’ll be able to hear me encouraging her with all my might through each of her events. You’ll know it’s me – I’m the one yelling “go.”

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2 thoughts on “Sideline Etiquette

  1. I loved this one!….”remarkable transition in which we no longer recognize how extraordinary it is that they are alive at all”…I love it. Coming at least one of “those parents” makes this article oh so true. Like my dad knew a darn thing about volleyball. :O) Great read and GO ELLA!

    1. The whole motor/muscle/memory thing in and of itself is pretty amazing. I remember this from drumming too – it’s not enough to just hit the darned things at some point; eventually you have to have some element of facility and control over the instrument. I’m seriously amazed at what people can do when it comes to music, athletics etc. We are blessed to have these bodies and brain cells – sometimes I don’t think we realize just how blessed.

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