The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Reality of a Swim Meet

Swim Meets are Long.
The Good…. My kid wakes up every morning at 7 (IN THE SUMMER) to swim laps at the pool. What is this fresh madness? Who does THIS? Thousands of kids across Houston do. As a non-athlete, I find this dedication inspirational. I’m also SO GLAD the meets are long because it means all these kids who have been getting up so early for months have the chance to race in actual meets.
The Bad… Last night we got home at 10:30 PM, which is sort-of like the middle of the night to Hergneraders. As we were stumbling to the car, the coaches were all like, “See you at practice in the morning!” and I was all like, “Are you kidding me?” Then they were all like, “DONUTS!” And Catie was like, “I AM SO THERE! SEE YOU IN EIGHT HOURS FOR MORE SWIMMING, COACHES.” Bad, bad news.
The Ugly Reality: Races take about twenty seconds. So, at most meets, you will see your kid swim for less than a minute. There is A LOT of fat in the swim team schedule. But, again, all those other mamas get to watch their kids’ twenty seconds in the (literal) sun, so we’ll take the long meets.

It’s a Family Commitment.
The Good…we’ve been part of teams where three parents do all the volunteer duties. This is so not happening for swimming. Every parent has to volunteer at (almost) every meet. By the end of the season, you know these other mamas and daddies pretty well.
The Bad…You know these other mamas and daddies pretty well. This isn’t always pretty when the competitive ones work shoulder to shoulder with the non-athletes. Case in point: last night I was handing out ribbons with another mom. She was clearly athletic and enjoyed competition. With every ribbon, I was like, “Oooooh! Sixth place! Look at how pretty that pink is! You are so wonderful to have a PRETTY PINK RIBBON!” I think this drove her crazy since she was much more of a “Let’s go for blues, girls!” kind of mama.
The Ugly Reality: Our family is too big to commit to anything together. Aunt Katie stayed with the other kids while M and I volunteered at the meet. Aunt Katie was at our house for FIFTEEN+ HOURS yesterday loving on our kids. The kids were so happy, and M and I got a sort-of a date. As long as you count tirelessly reminding eight-year-olds to STOP RACING TO SEE WHO CAN EAT THE MOST SUGAR as a date. M and I do count that, by the way

Swimming is An Individual Sport
The Good: In the “Everyone is a Winner! We Don’t Keep Score!” world of kids’ athletics, swimming is different.  We’ve been part of soccer teams where our kid didn’t touch the ball, but he still won a trophy and a standing ovation at the team party. As it turns out, kids like earning the applause. Who knew? Being married to a lifelong runner, who excels at personal sports, the habit of always improving yourself is a great habit.
The bad: Kids as young as four know how fast they can do the butterfly across the pool–and cry when they don’t shave seconds off their time. Or beat the kid in the lane next to them. This is weird for me to watch. Especially when it’s my kid.
The Ugly Reality: Really, the kids are pretty cool about striving to do their best. But, again, the parents. So many times, a zealous mom or dad would run over to our tent to say, “Let’s beat your PR!” While I was hoping no one would ask me exactly what PR means, the kid would respond, “Okay, Mom. I’ll do my best.”
And watching THAT is the very best part of a swim meet.


  1. […] Like I’ve written before, swim meets are also crazy. Parents are required to volunteer so it’s a real grass-roots effort to make the whole event a success. It’s also complete chaos. All those families and swimmers and judges swarming around the pool, trying to get the kids to the right event at the right time makes for an exhausting day. Think track meet, but seven thousand degrees hotter. […]

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