I was on the Oyster River Otters swim team when I was a kid. I was pretty slow and seemingly always cold.
I was so skinny that I sank and did not have very many muscles—but I loved it (except the time I was disqualified because the Mt. Washington ferry’s wake pushed me into an adjoining lane). My sister was an amazing swimmer, coming in 2nd in practically every race to a girl who became an Olympian. At the time it was annoying, but now it is a badge of honor.
So, last weekend while I was at the gym, I stopped by the swim meet to watch the action. It looked and felt the same as it did in the late 1970’s-early 1980’s. The parents were still in the stands reading the New York Times and chatting while waiting for hours for their kiddo to swim 3 races. Kids giggled, wrote their races on their hands, and fought with too-tight swim caps.
I felt a bit nostalgic and could not help but smile. I told my daughter about her Aunt’s swimming prowess. Then, however, I saw the snack bar that had been set up by the boosters. Sadly, despite everything we know about childhood obesity, diabetes and heart disease, the food had not changed either. I remember eating those caramel squares before races to “get energy” but I hoped we had moved beyond that. Donuts, potato chips, cookies and muffins dominated the offerings. There were a few healthier options, but they were greatly outnumbered.
We need to change the culture of food. Kids don’t need to be “rewarded” for exercising by filling themselves up with sugar, fat, sodium and calorie laden options. It is not good for them and sets them up for bad habits that could lead to heart disease later in life.
I hope you keep this in mind if you are a booster, or the parent of an athlete. I know that changing the booster culture may feel like swimming upstream, but our kids will thank us later when they have life-long healthy habits.