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Be safe. "Teach your children to swim as soon as they are potty trained" says National Team Coach.
Swimming Lessons Lower the Risk of Drowning
Fixing the crisis in kids' sports begins at home. Sports Done Right found that the #1 problem most responsible for the crisis in kids' sports is out-of-control parents. Here are some tips from Sports Done Right to get you started in the right direction:
Encourage your child, regardless of his/her degree of success or level of skill. Ensure a balance in your student athlete's life, encouraging participation in multiple sports and activities while placing academics first. Emphasize enjoyment, development of skills and team play as the cornerstones of your child's early sports experiences while reserving serious competition for the varsity level. Leave coaching to coaches and avoid placing too much pressure on your youngster about swimming times and performance. Be realistic about your child's future in sports, recognizing that only a select few earn a college scholarship, compete in the Olympics or sign a professional contract. Be there when your child looks to the sidelines for a positive role model.
The Story of the Butterfly
A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to squeeze its body through the tiny hole. Then it stopped, as if it couldn't go further. So the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bits of cocoon. The butterfly emerged easily but it had a swollen body and shriveled wings. The man continued to watch it, expecting that any minute the wings would enlarge and expand enough to support the body, Neither happened! In fact the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around. It was never able to fly.
What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand: The restricting cocoon and the struggle required by the butterfly to get through the opening was a way of forcing the fluid from the body into the wings so that it would be ready for flight once that was achieved.
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. Going through life with no obstacles would cripple us. We will not be as strong as we could have been and we would never fly. So have a nice day and struggle a little and teach well.
10 Commandments for Swimming Parents
by Rose Snyder
Managing Director Coaching Division, USOC
Former Director of Club Services, USA Swimming
(adapted from Ed Clendaniel's 10 Commandments for Little League Parents)
I. Thou shalt not impose thy ambitions on thy child.
Remember that swimming is your child's activity. Improvements and progress occur at different rates for each individual. Don't judge your child's progress based on the performance of other athletes and don't push them based on what you think they should be doing. The nice thing about swimming is every person can strive to do their personal best and benefit from the process of competitive swimming.
II. Thou shalt be supportive no matter what.
There is only one question to ask your child after a practice or a competition - "Did you have fun?" If meets and practices are not fun, your child should not be forced to participate.
III. Thou shalt not coach thy child.
You are involved in one of the few youth sports programs that offer professional coaching; do not undermine the professional coach by trying to coach your child on the side. Your job is to provide love and support and a safe place to return at the end of the day. Love and hug your child no matter what. The coach is responsible for the technical part of the job. You should not offer advice on technique or race strategy or any other area that is not yours. And above all, never pay your child for a performance. This will only serve to confuse your child concerning the reasons to strive for excellence and weaken the swimmer/coach bond.
IV. Thou shalt only have positive things to say at a swimming meet.
If you are going to show up at a swimming meet, you should be encouraging, but never criticize your child or the coach. Both of them know when mistakes have been made. And remember “yelling at” is not the same as “cheering for”.
V. Thou shalt acknowledge thy child's fears.
A first swimming meet, 500 free or 200 IM can be a stressful situation. It is totally appropriate for your child to be scared. Don't yell or belittle, just assure your child that the coach would not have suggested the event if your child was not ready to compete in it. Remember your job is to love and support your child through all of the swimming experience.
VI. Thou shalt not criticize the officials.
If you do not care to devote the time or do not have the desire to train to become an official, don't criticize those who are doing the best they can.
VII. Honor thy child's coach.
The bond between coach and swimmer is a special one, and one that contributes to your child's success as well as fun. Do not criticize the coach in the presence of your child, it will only serve to hurt your child's swimming.
VIII. Thou shalt be loyal and supportive of thy team
It is not wise for parents to take their swimmers and to jump from team to team. The water isn't necessarily bluer in another team's pool. Every team has its own internal problems, even teams that build champions. Children who switch from team to team are often ostracized for a long, long time by the teammates they leave behind and are slowly received by new team mates. Often times swimmers who do switch teams never do better than they did before they sought the bluer water.
IX. Thy child shalt have goals besides winning.
Most successful swimmers are those who have learned to focus on the process and not the outcome. Giving an honest effort regardless of what the outcome is, is much more important than winning. One Olympian said, "My goal was to set a world record. Well, I did that, but someone else did it too, just a little faster than I did. I achieved my goal and I lost. Does this make me a failure? No, in fact I am very proud of that swim." What a tremendous outlook to carry on through life.
X. Thou shalt not expect thy child to become an Olympian.
There are 250,000 athletes in USA Swimming and we keep a record of the Top 100 all time swimming performance by age group. Only 2% of the swimmers listed in the all-time Top 100 10 & Under age group make it to the Top 100 in the 17-18 age group and of those only a small percentage will become elite level, world class athletes. There are only 52 spots available for the Olympic Team every four years. Your child's odds of becoming an Olympian are about .0002%.
Parent Tip From USA Swimming: Let the Coach Do the Coaching
When parents take on the roles and responsibility of the coach, it takes away from the fun in swimming. Critiquing races, offering suggestions on what went wrong or how to improve, and placing expectations on performance are examples of things parents do that tend to decrease the kids’ enjoyment. You must trust the coach to guide your child’s sports experience and you must be able to accept the coach’s authority. Not only will your instruction and criticism diminish your child’s enjoyment, it might also confuse the child, leaving him to wonder who he should listen to or who is giving the correct advice. The coach-athlete bond can be a very strong one. Some of the admiration and respect once directed solely to you now must be shared with the coach. Provide support and resist the urge to compete with the coach! Respect the coach and do not criticize the coach in front of your child. If you have serious concerns about the instruction or advice your child is receiving, make an appointment to speak to the coach privately to discuss your concerns.
50 Things to Help your Child Achieve
By Wayne Goldsmith and Helen Morris
1. Love them unconditionally.
2. Support their coaches.
3. Accept that they cannot win every time they compete.
4. Allow them to be kids and have fun.
5. Help them to develop as people with character and values.
6. Turn off as a sporting parent: don’t make sport the one and only topic of conversation at the dinner table, in the car, etc.
7. Don’t introduce your child as “This is my son/daughter the swimmer.”
8. Don’t do everything for them: teach responsibility and self-management.
9. Reward frequently for success and effort but make the rewards small, simple, practical and personal. Kids don’t need a CD or $20 just for playing a sport or getting a ribbon.
10. Reward them with what they really love: your time!
11. Be calm, relaxed and dignified at competitions.
12. Accept that progress in any sport takes a long time: at least 7 to 10 years after maturation in most sports for the athlete to reach full potential .A little manual work and helping out with household chores are important lessons in developing independence.
13. Believe it or not, kids can learn to pack and unpack their training bags and fill their own water bottles: teach and encourage them to take control of their own sporting careers.
14. Don’t reward championship performances with junk food.
15. Skills and attitude are most important. Don’t waste money on the latest and greatest equipment or gimmicks, hoping to buy a short cut to success.
16. Encourage the same commitment and passion for school and study as you do for sport.
17. Avoid relying on or encouraging “sports food” or “sports supplements”-focus on a sensible, balanced diet including a variety of wholesome foods.
18. Allow kids to try many sports and activities.
19. Don’t specialize too early. There is no such thing as a 10 year old Olympic swimmer.
20. Junk food is OK occasionally. Don’t worry about it, but see #14 above.
21. Praise qualities such as effort, attempting new skills and hard work rather than winning.
22. Love them unconditionally (worth repeating!!)
23. Have your “guilt gland” removed: this will help you avoid phrases like “I’ve got better things to do with my time” or “do you realize how much we give up so that you can swim?” Everyone loses when you play the guilt game.
24. Encourage activities which build broad, general movement skills like running, catching, throwing, agility, balance, co-ordination, speed and rhythm. These general skills can have a positive impact on all sports.
25. Encourage occasional “down time”-no school or sport-just time to be kids.
26. Encourage relationships and friendships away from training, competition and school work-it’s all about balance.
27. Help and support your children to achieve the goals they set, then take time to relax, celebrate and enjoy their achievements as a family.
28. Never use training or sport as punishment-i.e. more laps/more training.
29. Do a family fitness class-yoga or martial arts or another sport unrelated to the child’s main sport. Everyone benefits.
30. Car pool. Get to know the other kids and families on the team and in turn you can allow your child to be more independent by doing things with other trusted adults.
31. Attend practice regularly to show that you are interested in the effort and process, not just in the win/lose outcome.
32. Help raise money for the team and kids, even if your own child does not directly benefit from the fundraising.
33. Tell your children you are proud of them for being involved in healthy activities.
34. Volunteer your time for the team.
35. Teach your child the importance of “team”-where working together and supporting each other are important attributes.
36. Even if you were an athlete and even if you are a trained coach, resist the temptation to coach your own child, it rarely works.
37. Be aware that your child’s passion for a particular sport may change.
38. Be aware that skills learned in one sport can often transfer to another.
39. Accept “flat spots” or plateaus-times when your child does not improve. During these times encourage participation for fun, focus on learning skills and help develop perseverance and patience.
40. Believe it or not, American kids are unlikely to die from drinking tap water!
41. Cheer for your child appropriately. Do not embarrass yourself or your child.
42. Make sure that each week includes some family time where you do family things and talk about family issues-not about sport.
43. Take a strong stand against smoking and drug use (both recreational and performance enhancing.)
44. Set an example with sensible, responsible alcohol use.
45. Don’t look for short cuts like “miracle sports drinks” or “super supplements”-success comes from consistently practicing skills and developing an attitude where the love of the sport and physical fitness are the real “magic.”
46. If one of your children is a champion athlete and the others in the family are not so gifted, ensure that you have just as much time, energy and enthusiasm for their activities.
47. Eliminate the phrase “what we did when I was swimming....”
48. Encourage your children to find strong role models but try not to let this decision be based on sports only. Look for role models who consistently demonstrate integrity, humility, honesty and the ability to take responsibility for their own actions.
49. Encourage your children to learn leadership and practice concepts like sharing, selflessness, teamwork and generosity.
50. Don’t compare your child’s achievement to another other children-good or bad. This creates barriers and resentment and we don’t need any more of that.