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THE SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE NEW SWIMMING PARENT
Congratulations! You just joined a swim team.
Helpful Links - Concussion information for parents and athletes http://www.usaswimming.org/.
Necessary Stuff: Suit and Goggles
The basic items needed are a racing suit and a pair of competition goggles. Our team has a team suit that you can purchase through the team store link or at www.swimoutlet.com. You can also check out vendors stands typically set up at invitational meets on various websites.
It’s best to have two or more suits. One to wear at practice and one to wear at meets. The practice suit will get worn out and become slow, but the meet suit will stay snug and fast. When the meet suit wears out, it can be used as the practice suit.
You must have goggles for practice and meets! Two or three pairs are important because they tend to break at the wrong time.
Goggles protect the eyes from chlorine and help your child see underwater. There are many types and styles. It tends to be a matter of personal choice. The longest lasting goggles are those with rubber like gaskets. A good pair has soft gaskets that conform around the eye sockets. "Swedish" style goggles (a hard plastic goggle that sits inside the eye socket) are not recommended for beginners. For first time swimmers who have difficulty with rubber gaskets, a pair with foam gaskets might work. Anti-Fog goggles have a coating that reduce fogging. For those goggles without the coating try dipping them in water or applying a little saliva before putting them on.
Get a swim cap (this is a must for long hair) swim bag and chlorine shampoo. A latex cap is the cheapest though the most difficult to put on for the new swimmer. A lycra cap is softer and easier to use. A silicon cap is easy to pull on and gives more protection than a lycra cap. EA swim caps are available from the coaches for $4. Swim bags should have lots or mesh compartments to separate the wet from the dry items.
The First Meet
Start with a swim bag the size of your child, stuff it with everything you normally would take to practice and then double this. Also include warm clothing for your child. Pack snacks and drinks for your swimmer. Your coach will probably have more to say about eating on the day of a meet. Don’t forget to layer your clothes, indoor pools can be extremely warm, outdoor pools can have anything from sun to rain.
Arrive 15 minutes before warm-up to allow time to change and find a place to sit. Don’t forget to bring a folding chair.
If you have non-swimming siblings going, pack some fun things for them to do. Remember a pool can be a dangerous place, so keep an eye on them at all times. Don’t forget snacks.
Most meets have a concession stand which serves breakfast, lunch and other snacks and drinks. Bring cash for a heat sheet as well. Heat sheets list all the swimmers’ races and seed times. This is how you keep track of your swimmers’ events, heats and lanes. There are also apps such as Meet Mobile and OnDeck Parent you can download.
Competitive swimming programs provide many benefits to young athletes. They develop self-discipline, good sportsmanship and time management skills. Competition allows the swimmer to experience success and to learn how to deal with defeat, while becoming healthy and physically fit.
As a parent, your major responsibility is to provide a stable, loving and supportive environment. This positive environment will encourage your child to continue. Show your interest by ensuring your child’s attendance at practices, and by coming to meets.
Parents are not participants on their child’s team, but contribute to the success experienced by the child and his/her team. Parents serve as role models and their attitudes are often emulated by their children. Be aware of this and strive to be positive models. Most importantly, show good sportsmanship at all times toward coaches, officials, opponents and teammates.
Good sportsmanship starts with you; cheer for your child and your team. Remember that improvement and personal accomplishments are more important than winning.
Be Enthusiastic and Supportive
Remember that your child is the swimmer. Children need to establish their own goals and make their own progress towards them. Be careful not to impose your own standards and goals. Do not over-burden your child with winning or achieving best times. The most important part of your child’s swimming experience is that he/she learns about themselves while enjoying the sport. This healthy environment encourages learning and fun which will develop a positive self-image within your child.
Let the Coach be the Coach
The best way to help a child achieve his/her goals and reduce the natural fear of failure is through positive reinforcement. No one likes to make a mistake. If your child does make one, remember that he/she is still learning. Encourage his/her efforts and point out the things done well. As long as they gave their best effort, that’s what matters.
Ten Commandments for Parents with Athletic Children
1. Make sure your child knows that, win or lose, scared or heroic, you love them, appreciate their efforts, and are not disappointed in them. This will allow him to do his best without fear of failure. Be the person in his or her life he can look to for constant positive reinforcement.
2. Try your best to be completely honest with yourself about your child's athletic ability, his competitive attitude, his/her sportsmanship and his/her actual skill level.
3. Be helpful but don’t coach your child on the way to the pool or on the way back, or at breakfast, and so on. It’s tough not to, but it’s a lot tougher for the child to be inundated with advice, pep talks, and often critical instruction.
4. Teach your child to enjoy the thrill of competition, to be "out there trying," to be working to improve his/her skills and attitude. Help your child to develop the feel for competing, for trying hard and for having fun.
5. Try not to re-live your athletic life through your child in a way that creates pressure; you fumbled too. You lost as well as won. Don’t pressure him/her based on your experience.
6. Don’t compete with the coach. Let the coach be the coach.
7. Don’t compare the skill, courage, or attitudes of your child with other members of the team.
8. Get to know the coach so that you can he assured that his/her philosophy, attitudes, ethics and knowledge are such that you are happy to have your child under his/her leadership.
9. Always remember that children tend to exaggerate, both when praised and when criticized. Temper your reaction and investigate before over-reacting.
10. Make a point of understanding courage, and the fact that it is relative. Explain that courage is not the absence of fear, but a means of doing something in spite of fear.
Officials are present at all competitions to implement the technical rules of swimming and to ensure that the competition is fair and equitable. Officials attend clinics, pass a written test and work meets before being certified. Parents are encouraged to get involved with some form of officiating.
Turn Judges - observe from each end of the pool and ensure that the turns and finishes comply with the rules applicable to each stroke.
Stroke Judges - observe from both sides of the pool, walking abreast of the swimmers, to ensure that the rules relating to each stroke are being followed. The positions of Stroke Judge and Turn Judge may be combined into one position called the Stroke and Turn Judge.
Relay Takeoff Judges - stand beside the starting blocks to observe the relay exchange, ensuring that the feet of the departing swimmer have not lost contact with the block before the incoming swimmer touches the end of the pool.
Clerk of the Course - arranges the swimmers in their proper heats and lanes.
Starter - assumes control of the swimmers from the Referee, directs them to "take your mark’ and sees that no swimmer is in motion prior to giving the start signal.
Referee - has overall authority and control of the competition, ensuring that all the rules are followed; assigns and instructs all officials, and decides all questions relating to the conduct of the meet. If your child is disqualified (DQ’d) in an event, be supportive rather than critical. For beginning swimmers, a disqualification should be treated as a learning experience, not as punishment. A DQ alerts the swimmer and the coach to what portions of the swimmer’s stroke need to be corrected. They should be considered in the same light as an incorrect answer in schoolwork. They point out areas which need further practice. The DQ is necessary to keep the competition fair and equitable for all other competitors. A supportive attitude on the part of the official, the coach, and the parent can also keep it a positive experience for the DQ’d swimmer. A DQ in a race means that race is not counted and no time will be given.
Timers - operate timing devices (watches or automatic timing systems) and record the official time for the swimmer in their lane.