A: Be happy that your child is having fun! According to a recent study conducted by USA Swimming children who experience fun while participating stay in sports longer (Tuffey, Gould, & Medbery, 1998). At this stage of the game, the most important aspect of development is the mastery of skills, which means learning to swim the strokes with proper technique. Fundamentals must be established prior to true “training” taking place. And, if she is having fun in the process of learning, she is more likely to continue to swim.
A: The coach has set up expectations of proper behavior both in and out of the water. Hopefully, your child is aware of the consequences of testing these boundaries. Obviously the coach is reinforcing what is expected of the children at practice. We encourage you to reinforce the coach's practice expectations by discussing your child’s behavior and the consequences of that behavior. Hopefully, this “time out” begins to reinforce self-discipline, accountability and respect for others.
A: Your child needs to develop a solid foundation in stroke mechanics. Drills and drill sets serve the specific purpose of teaching skills and fundamentals. Drills develop motor coordination, motor skills, and balance. In fact, your child’s coach may prescribe a particular drill, just for your child, in order to improve a part of her stroke. In addition, she may actually be experiencing a “training” benefit from drills. Drills require concentration and aerobic energy to do them correctly.
A: Children involved in other activities can benefit in the areas of coordination and balance, as well as improved social and intellectual development. Specialized training in one activity does not necessarily need to take place at this stage of development. Will your son’s teammate who makes all practices have better results? Probably, because his teammate is working solely on developing swimming skills. It is up to you to explain to your child that making the choice to participate in other activities can have its consequences. Tell your son that he should not compare his results to that of his teammate, but to focus on the fact that he is benefiting from and enjoying both sports.
Q: What’s wrong with encouraging your child during practice?
A: There are two issues. First we want the child to focus on the coach and to learn the skill for their personal satisfaction rather than learning it to please their parents. Secondly, parental encouragement often gets translated into a command to swim faster or run faster and going faster may be the exact opposite of what the coach is trying to accomplish. In most skill development we first slow the athletes down so that they can think through the motions. Save encouragements and praise for after the practice session.
Q: What’s wrong with shouting or signaling instructions to your children?
A: Those instructions might be different from the coach’s instructions and then you have a confused child. Sometimes you might think the child did not hear the coach’s instruction and you want to help. The fact is that children miss instructions all the time. Part of the learning process is learning how to listen to instructions. When children learn to rely on a backup they will have more difficulty learning how to listen better the first time.
Q: What’s wrong with helping your child fix his equipment?
A: Quite simply, we want to encourage the children to become self-reliant and learn to take care of their own equipment. If you need to speak to your child regarding a family issue or a transportation issue or to take your child from practice early you are certainly welcome to do so but please approach the coach directly with your request and we will immediately get your child out of the practice. If you need to speak to the coach for other reasons please wait until the end of practice or call the coach at an appropriate time.
(Adapted from “News for Swim Parents.” Published by the American Swimming Coaches Association. and usaswimming.org)