By Paul Peavy

I know this is a blog for swim parents. A big part of parenting is teaching our kids to develop skills that will allow them to be leaders. I hope you will show this to your rising Juniors and Seniors.

Dear Upperclassmen and Upperclasswomen,

This is now your swim team. You may not have come to this stage of responsibility by choice. Charles Barkley is a basketball hall of famer and a very, very funny basketball broadcaster. He set off a national conversation several years ago when I said, “I don’t want to be no role model.” The truth is, he had some valid points. Mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, teachers, preachers and lots of other people should be a kid’s role model before a famous athlete. But the truth is since you are around the same pool as younger kids every day they watch you and they want to be like you. Remember what it was like when you were younger and you wanted to be just like an older swimmer, or you thought the older swimmers were soooo cool!

You came to this stage by hard work and dedication. You may or may not want the responsibility but it comes with the territory. Younger eyes will be watching you. Younger ears will be listening to you. In five years you may be physically gone from your swim team but the things you did intentionally or unintentionally will be evident five years from now. So here is the challenge I throw down to you:

  1. If you want your swim team to be filled with whiners and complainers, please whine and complain at every opportunity.
  2. If you want a team that never makes progress please question and doubt your coach publicly and privately. This way no one will ever have true belief in your coach or his or her system.
  3. If you want to establish your team as a team of gossipers, backstabbers, and trash talkers make you do this at every opportunity so that it is well established that being superior is the most important part of being on this team and the way to gain superiority is to put others down publicly, privately, or through social media.
  4. If you want  to make sure your team does not physically perform at its peak, take shortcuts. Cut laps, fake effort, just don’t show up. The younger swimmers and your peers will then see that is okay for them not try their hardest either.
  5. Ignore the younger swimmers if you want to maintain your own “cool points.” If the point on being on the swim team is for you to gather cool points than you don’t want  to risk that chance of you becoming The Grand Cool Points Champion, no matter what the cost.

If this is the legacy you want to leave behind, that you were the coolest jerk on a not very good swim team than you go ahead with your bad self!

If, on the other hand, you want to take the difficult challenge and continue to build or re-build a swim team you will be proud of here are the difficult challenges you need to face and conquer head on:

  1. Delete the negative words from your brain. Compartmentalize them in a rusted lock box. The more negative whining and complaining that comes out the more it pollutes the atmosphere of possible success. Today when you start to complain about a workout, literally swallow it. Don’t let it come out of your mouth. Once mastered, you will see that the whining only dragged you and your team down. If you feel really strong take the whines that others are spewing and say “C’mon! Let’s do this! This is going to make us stronger!”
  2. Trust your coach. There is a saying, “There’s a hundred ways to skin a cat.” Well, since we are not cat skinners (We’ll pretend this started with Sabre-Tooth Tigers), let’s say there may be a hundred ways to get you to a best time but doubting the one coach you have taking you there is definitely not the best way to success. If you have a question of your coach set up a private meeting, email him or her, ask for the big picture. Doubting your coach with your friends in the locker room or on social media will only lead to a team not performing at its best.
  3.  Stand up and stop the gossiping and bullying. Gossip is often defined as something untrue. Ironically, that is actually untrue. Gossip can be true but is something that is damaging or unhelpful that is said about another person. One of the worst things about most reality television is that there is a time where someone is given a couple of minutes and is expected to do nothing but trash another person. If you think you are building your credibility and your self-esteem by simply trashing another person you have a very weak plan for success. The hard part is also to be able to speak up and say “I don’t think that’s true,” or “This discussion isn’t helping anyone, let’s have a food fight instead!’ It takes courage to turn the tide of trash talk but it is well help your team become a true team maybe faster, than anything else.
  4. Do work! Your workouts are designed to make you stronger in the long run. Cutting any workout short with less effort lessens your chance of success. Remember sometimes you have to tear down a building completely if you want to build a new shiny strong temple! Everybody enjoys a good building explosion. Embrace the demolition!
  5. Enjoy the younger swimmers. They are not minions, they are little humanoids with feelings and dreams. You are the closest thing to a rock star they see every day. Trust me at the end of your life your cool points account is not made so much by the points you scored with other cool people but it is made up of what you did for people who could not pay your coolness back. Laugh with them, learn their names, scruff their hair, acknowledge them the way you wanted to be acknowledged when they were your age.
  6. Be a friend. Friends laugh with each other, build each other up, and confront each other with challenges in a positive way. In the long run you may remember your times but you will definitely remember your friends. If you set up your team as a place where deep, meaningful, fun, challenging friendships can be built you have built your team into a team that will be strong for eternity.