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Some Unsolicited Advice

Being a parent of a young athlete is tough, but knowing how to ride out the highs and lows of sports is even tougher. I have two jobs on this team. The first is being a team director and the second is being a father to two young swimmers. I will be the first to admit it, I want my kids to swim in college and I want them both to earn college scholarships. I mean, who wouldn’t want that for their kids? Swimming is a healthy and safe sport for young kids and for all who do it, it provides excellent health benefits. But here’s a fact, most youth athletes will quit sports by their 13th birthday, so the odds of having both of my girls swim in college are stacked against me.

70% of athletes will quit the sport by the age of 13. I understand that some of the young athletes who stop sports at this age are because school and other activities may become more important as young people get into their teens, but let’s not kid ourselves, they are also stopping because sports is no longer fun. Here are some tips to making sure that you are doing what’s best for your young athlete and offering them the greatest opportunity to succeed in this sport so that this sport is always fun! 

1. Keep it Fun – While many of us want to see results, results are sometimes hard to see. We gauge our child’s success by improvement at swim meets, but we forget that having fun doesn’t always mean swimming fast. If my child is having fun, loves his/her coach, enjoys competing and has an overall positive outlook on the experience, leave it alone. The results will eventually come because a happy swimmer will eventually be a fast swimmer.
2.  Avoid “Too Much Too Soon” – Are your kids pushing back when you mention practice? It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are burned out or that they aren’t enjoying the sport. It may just mean that they need a break for a day. It’s the same when we as adults don’t want to go to work every day. If possible, add in another activity during the week to break up the routine or maybe an afternoon at home. Kids don’t “have” to go swimming every day but unfortunately, we have to go to work, even when we do not want to.
3. Let the Coaches, Coach – We have very competent people on our pool decks with many years of experience. Our coaches really care about your child and want to create a culture of excellence and an environment where maximizing potential, whatever that may be, becomes commonplace. They can’t do that if you are consistently yelling “kick” or “elbow up” or simply trying to get your swimmer’s attention by waving your arms or giving the death stare during practice. It is disruptive when parents do this so if this part of my message creates a feeling of guilt, then stop doing what you’re doing and let the coaches coach.
4. Promote a Positive Environment – Gossip destroys the culture of programs. It happens on many pool decks and it happens on ours as well. Stop! We must be positive and we must give our Club and swimmers an opportunity to succeed in an environment that promotes positive vibes. This is the least that we can offer them. If there is a problem, please email, text or call your coach. If you care enough about our Club and you want to see it thrive, gossiping about teammates, families, coaches or myself is not going to get us there.
5. Enjoy the Journey – We invest a lot of time in youth sports and cannot let it become the main, and sometimes only, topic we speak to our kids about. Our kids DO NOT CARE about “wins and losses,” as much as we do. If a child gets third in his heat, the only thing he will really care about is the ribbon, not the team or the place. Let this be about them and let us be the ones that are there to cheer them on, congratulate them for a great effort, and always be happy for them, no matter what. 

If we can follow these basic steps to assuring our children are happy and successful in this sport, we will be happier with the end result.

Let’s be great! GO GATORS!

Felipe Delgado
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Evolution Swim Academy / Gators Swim Club