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Moving Up: The Parent Transition

Moving Up: The Parent Transition by Ryan Woodruff

"Moving up" is an important experience in the life of a swimmer. When a swimmer is old enough, has shown a sufficient level of commitment, and has improved his skills to a new level, he will be invited to "move up" into the next training group. The invitation is an honor, a sign that the coaching staff believes the swimmer is ready to take his preparation and thus his performance to new heights.

Moving up often means increases in commitment, training time, the difficulty of practices, and a new group of teammates to train with. Each of these aspects of the move-up can present challenges. Thus, the swimmer will need the support of his parents. This brings us to our topic: The Parent Transition.

When your swimmer moves from one group to the next, you as a parent must also make a transition. These changes include:

  • Increasing your own level of commitment. Your swimmer will likely be expected to practice MORE OFTEN. Our groups are set up so that each group practices for a longer duration more frequently than the group below it. At the senior level, this means that your swimmer may now be expected to attend morning practices. This of course means that you may have to drive early in the morning.
  • Adjusting your expectations for your swimmer's improvement. Generally speaking, as swimmers get older they swim best times by smaller margins with less frequency. For instance, 8-year-old Johnny drops 6 seconds in the 100 free in meet after meet all season long. When Johnny is 16, his audacious goal may be to drop 3 seconds in the entire season. This may not happen immediately when a swimmer moves up, but with increased levels of training, he may be more fatigued and have a more difficult time swimming fast during the season. Rest assured, if he is working hard, the coaches are preparing him to swim faster than ever.
  • Being willing to travel more often and for longer distances. For younger swimmers, we often don't have to travel outside of a two-hour radius to find competition to challenge our swimmers. As swimmers get older and reach more elite levels in our sport (particularly the Y-National level and beyond), it will become necessary to travel further for meets. Regional and National meets are usually held in locations outside of Virginia, and we want to find new competition and faster competition to continue to challenge our swimmers. Think of the famous Japanese koi fish. When kept in small ponds, they don't grow particularly large. When set free to larger bodies of water, they grow to much greater lengths. In order for our swimmers to become "big fish" we must expose them to the "ocean" of competition that exists outside of our small Lynchuburg and Virginia ponds.
  • Taking a step back and encouraging your swimmer to take ownership. Often, young 10 & under swimmers are motivated to swim fast in order to make their parents proud. As swimmers progress into the early teens, this motivation dries up and a swimmer must be motivated from within by his own desire to succeed. He also must learn to take responsibility for all aspects of his swimming. For instance, a 12-year-old should be packing his own swim bag, and a high schooler should be waking himself up for morning practice. With increased responsibility comes increased ownership and a stronger internal drive to succeed.

Making The Parent Transition is a vital part of a swimmer's growth and development from novice to age grouper, from age grouper to senior swimmer, and from senior swimmer to elite champion.

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