3 Tips to Help Swim Parents Deal with the Dreaded Plateau

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Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham via SwimSwam

The ever-dreaded plateau. It’s almost as bad as the “shank” in golf. I shanked every iron shot for months. I felt frightened every time I stood over the ball.

The plateau for a swimmer also can be a scary time. No matter what your swimmer does, he or she doesn’t drop time. One of my swimmers was stuck at 1:00 on her 100 free for what seemed to be a lifetime. In reality, she was 13 and it lasted for more than a year.

Coaches and parents of older swimmers told me it’s normal. Plateaus can happen to anyone — 13-14 year olds, high school swimmers or college students. If swimmers stay in the pool, they will break through it. But, it can be very discouraging and some give up.

As a parent, here are three tips to help your swimmer make it through a plateau:


Don’t freak out. Your anxiety will be felt by your swimmer. You need to trust the process and your athlete’s coach.


Reassure your swimmer that his or her coach has gotten many swimmers through plateaus. It’s not our job to coach our kid through a plateau. It’s our job to encourage and reassure.


Keep the swimming atmosphere fun. Have teammates over to hang out, like a Saturday after-practice breakfast. Team fun and bonding will help swimmers through tough plateaus.

Here’s what our coaches did: they had swimmers compete in off events at meets. Swimmers may see success and get best times in events they rarely swim. Also, they worked on specific things in practice like underwaters or breakouts. When swimmers focus on improving technique, their times will eventually get faster.

Swimming is a process. Trust in it.

I’ll never forget watching my daughter break 1:00 for her first time at the Belmont Pool in Southern California. She swam a :57. Her coach asked, “What happened to :58 and :59?” She said, “They are highly over-rated.”



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