Below you will find a wealth of knowledge and resources compiled to aid parents and swimmers. For your child to have the most rewarding experience, it is important that you, too learn how to be an outstanding swim parent.
The Ten Commandments For Parents Of Athletic Children
Published by The American Swimming Coaches Association:
Reprinted from The Young Athlete by Bill Burgess
The job of the parent of an athletic child is a tough one, and it takes a lot of effort to do it well. It is worth all the effort when you hear your child say, "My parents really helped and I was lucky in this respect."
- Make sure your child knows that win or lose, scared or heroic, you love him, appreciate his efforts, and are not disappointed in him. This will allow him to do his best without a fear of failure. Be the person in his life he can look to for constant positive enforcement.
- Try your best to be completely honest about your child’s athletic ability, his competitive attitude, his sportsmanship, and his actual skill level.
- Be helpful but don’t coach him on the way to the pool or 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.
- Teach him to enjoy the thrill of competition, to be “out there trying”, to be working to improve his swimming skills and attitudes. Help him to develop the feel for competing, for trying hard, for having fun.
- Try not to re-live your athletic life through your child in a way that creates pressure; you lost as well as won. You were frightened, you blacked off at times, you were not always heroic. Don’t pressure your child because of your pride. Athletic children need their parents so you must not withdraw. Just remember there is a thinking, feeling, sensitive free spirit out there in that uniform who needs a lot of understanding, especially when his word turns bad. If he is comfortable with you win or lose; he’s on his way to maximum achievement and enjoyment.
- Don’t compete with the coach. If the coach becomes an authority figure, it will run from enchantment to disenchantment…with your athlete.
- Don’t compare the skill, courage, or attitudes of your child with other members of the team, at least within his hearing.
- Get t know the coach so that you can be assured that his philosophy, attitudes, ethics and knowledge are such that you are happy to have your child under his leadership.
- Always remember that children tend to exaggerate both when praised and when criticized. Temper your reaction and investigate before over-reacting.
- Make a point of understanding courage, and the fact that it is relative. Some of us can climb mountains, and are afraid to fight, but turn to jelly if a bee approaches. Everyone is frightened in certain areas. Explain that courage is not the absence of fear, but a means of doing something in spite of fear of discomfort.
50 Things to Help your Child Achieve
By Wayne Goldsmith and Helen Morris
- Love them unconditionally.
- Support their coaches.
- Accept that they cannot win every time they compete.
- Allow them to be kids and have fun.
- Help them to develop as people with character and values.
- 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.
- Don't introduce your child as "This is my son/daughter the swimmer." Their sports are something they do, not who they are.
- Don't do everything for them: teach responsibility and self-management.
- 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.
- Reward them with what they really love: your time!
- Be calm, relaxed and dignified at competitions.
- 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.
- 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.
- Don't reward championship performances with junk food.
- 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.
- Encourage the same commitment and passion for school and study as you do for sport.
- Avoid relying on or encouraging "sports food" or "sports supplements"-focus on a sensible, balanced diet which includes a variety of wholesome foods.
- Allow kids to try many sports and activities.
- Don't specialize too early. There is no such thing as a 10 year old Olympic swimmer.
- Junk food is OK occasionally. Don't worry about it, but see #14 above.
- Praise qualities such as effort, attempting new skills and hard work rather than winning.
- Love them unconditionally (worth repeating!!)
- 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.
- 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.
- Encourage occasional "down time"-no school or sport-just time to be kids.
- Encourage relationships and friendships away from training, competition and school work-it's all about balance.
- Help and support your children to achieve the goals they set, then take time to relax, celebrate and enjoy their achievements as a family.
- Never use training or sport as punishment-i.e. more laps/more training.
- Do a family fitness class-yoga or martial arts or another sport unrelated to the child's main sport. Everyone benefits.
- 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.
- Attend practice regularly to show that you are interested in the effort and process, not just in the win/lose outcome.
- Help raise money for the team and kids, even if your own child does not directly benefit from the fundraising.
- Tell your children you are proud of them for being involved in healthy activities.
- Volunteer your time for the team.
- Teach your child the importance of "team"-where working together and supporting each other are important attributes.
- 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.
- Be aware that your child's passion for a particular sport may change.
- Be aware that skills learned in one sport can often transfer to another.
- 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.
- Believe it or not, American kids are unlikely to die from drinking tap water!
- Cheer for your child appropriately. Do not embarrass yourself or your child.
- Make sure that each week includes some family time where you do family things and talk about family issue snot about sport.
- Take a strong stand against smoking and drug use (both recreational and performance enhancing.)
- Set an example with sensible, responsible alcohol use.
- 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."
- 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.
- Eliminate the phrase "what we did when I was swimming....."
- 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.
- Encourage your children to learn leadership and practice concepts like sharing, selflessness, team work and generosity.
- 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!
The Positive Attitude
Published by The American Swimming Coaches Association
Written by Forbes Carlile, Head Coach of the Carlile School of Swimming and Head Coach of numerous Australian Olympic Teams. His book, "Forbes Carlile on Swimming" was the first modern book on competitive swimming.
Just as it is of utmost importance that coaches must be continually positive and optimistic, so too must parents. It has been said that 95% of us are predominantly negative in our approach to life-so most of us have a problem!
These notes are equally applicable to parents, and if not understood and acted upon by the whole swimming family, swimmers will be greatly handicapped, and not reach full potential. Being critical, no matter how much it may seem justified to the parents ("who have spent so much money and time") is clearly a negative approach with a strongly undermining effect. When constructive criticism is needed to form the foundations of a revised plan for improvement, parents should express their ideas to the coaches. The secure coach will be able to handle such help. Most coaching organizations welcome constructive criticism, presented in the right way at the appropriate time.
Parents should continually protect the swimmers from the damaging input of negative thoughts. If they can make a habit of always being positive and only foreseeing success, swimmers will be given the greatest opportunity to transcend existing performance levels. Clearly, the training must be as good as well, but where, in addition, an atmosphere is of positive self-expectancy continually promoted by coaches and family, even when progress seems to be slow and the going difficult, swimmers will have the right mental approach. While doing their best to carry out all aspects of preparation well, swimmers will learn to regard themselves as winners, and eventually succeed in reaching realistic goals. The chances of this diminish greatly when parents, often because personal shortcomings (in having a pessimistic, negative nature) continually remind a child of the lack of improvement or failure to come up to expectations. Swimmers should continually be programming their subconscious by positive self-talk and visual imagery of success. This task should be made easy by reinforcing positive vibrations around them.
It is important for the swimmers to know that they are loved no matter what their swimming performance. The negative fear of failure is mush less likely to develop when parents emphasize their love and compassion.
When setbacks occur, the attitude of parents and coaches must express the idea..."Well, you did not do as well as you are capable of this time, but next time it will be better"...positive self-expectancy and optimism. This helps the programming of the subconscious mind that we should be striving for. The coach and swimmer should analyze and determine what can be improved and positive action taken. Parents, about all, should be the least critical and never suggest that what has happened is more than a temporary setback. If such principles are applied to all our thinking we might well improve our lives too. It is not only the swimming development of the child that parents can help by the right psychological approach. We can all benefit greatly.
The parents eventual reward for their sacrifices of time and money will be when the grown-up, mature swimmers realize that their parents have played an important part in their success as a swimmer, and as an individual, by giving them the opportunity to train without attempting to intrude, or basking in reflected glory.
Are You a Pressure Parent?
The following survey has been taken from the Amateur Survey Association of Great Britain.
If you answer yes to one or more of the following questions, you may be in danger of pressuring your child. It is important to remember that the parents' role is critical and should be supportive at all times to ensure a positive experience for your child.
- Do you want your child to win more than he/she does?
- Do you show your disappointment if he/she has a poor result?
- Do you feel your child enjoys the sport only if he/she wins?
- Do you feel you have to "psyche" your child up before competition?
- Do you conduct "post mortems" immediately after meets or practices?
- Do you feel you have to force your child to go to practice? How often?
- Do you find yourself disliking your child's opponents or friends because of the competition?
Speaking Up to Grow Up
by Coach Bryan Davis
Your swimmer has a multitude of things that they could improve technically to get just a little faster. You know it, your swimmer knows it and your child's coach knows it. The coach however knows which techniques are the priorities at any given time. The swimmer should have a pretty good understanding of what they are supposed to be working on. Although, your swimmer will not know what the coach has possibly not brought to the swimmers attention yet. The coach may omit technical corrections if there is a technical focus of high priority at the time. It may be that the swimmer is struggling with another high priority focus, then the coach may feel the need to not overload the swimmer with too many technical corrections.
If there is something specific that your swimmer does not understand, is struggling with or just curious about, you should encourage your swimmer to ask the coach to explain it better or for extra attention in that area. When a parent brings the request straight to the coach outside of the presence of the swimmer, it cuts the responsibility of the swimmer out of the equation. The goal of the coach is to get their swimmers to need the coach as little as possible. This frees up more time for the coach to focus on the finer details of your swimmer as an athlete. If you want to help your swimmer become more self-sufficient, then encourage your child to take the responsibility of approaching the coach personally on all aspects of the sport. If you know your swimmer is apprehensive about this type of interaction with the coach. Please stand there with your swimmer and support them as they speak with the coach. With this approach the swimmer will be practicing the skill of speaking up for oneself. The sooner your child takes the wheel the better. Remember, youth sports are about personal growth competitively but also for growing up in general, not always just about getting a little faster.
Ten Commandments of Parental Behavior
(These commandments are adapted from an article by sports psychology expert Rick Wolfe, author of Good Sports, The Concerned Parent's Guide to Competitive Youth Sports)
Unfortunately children's extracurricular activities are often marred by the involvement of parents who lose their perspective of what is important and how to behave appropriately. Here is a reminder of how grown-ups should act at kids' swim meets and practices.
- Talk positive about the other kids on the team - In fact, talk positive about kids from other teams. Do not gossip. Talk about other swimmers in the same manner you would want someone talking about your child. This is the golden rule applied to sports. Sitting in the stands watching the meet can be a social affair for parents. When you are making conversation, think about what you are saying before you actually say it. To be on the safe side, only voice praise for other children. That way you'll never go wrong!
- It's nice to give your coach a pat on the back - Give your coach a pat on the back when your child swims well. It's even nicer to give your coach a pat on the back when your child doesn't do so great.
- Do not talk specifically about a certain swimmer your child races - Try and stay away from talking to your child about a specific person whom they are racing (especially teammates and friends). What ends up happening is that your child begins to get a mental block in their head that they can't beat "Stevey." Kids feel pressure as it is. They don't need use comparing them to other swimmers or talking to them about other swimmers.
- Always remind you child that it is the effort that counts - We know kids want to win. Everyone wants to win and everyone wants a best time. But realistically that can't happen. Where there are winners, there are losers. Be prepared top cushion your child with love and support. Point out how proud you are of their effort.
- At all costs avoid post meet analysis - When the meet is over and your child climbs in the back seat of the car, avoid at all costs the detailed, excruciating analysis of everything the kids did right or wrong. Just let them chill out, have fun and relax. The absolute worst time for "friendly criticism" is immediately after the meet.
- Smile a lot - Kids sports are about having fun. Kids will sense how you feel and it will directly affect the way they feel, thus directly affect the way they swim. Relax and have fun.
- If you aren't a good sport at meets then your child will not be either - If you blame the coaches, the other swimmers the officials or anyone else for your child's performance, then they will copy your behavior and will not accept responsibility for themselves.
- Learn the rules - Know the rules. Read the schedules, emails and newsletters that the coach send out. Ask questions. Find out the procedures of the team and sport. Make it your job to know what's going on with the team and your child's swimming life.
- If you yell at meets, shout only words of encouragement & praise - There will never be any place for derogatory, snide or sarcastic remarks at children's meets.
- Above all, be there for your children - Support them, praise them, let them know you can always be counted on for unconditional love, regardless of the times they swim.
The Marginally Motivated Swimmer
Guy Edson - ASCA Staff
- The other day I was remembering a time when I was a much younger coach and the day I asked a swimmer to leave practice and "not to come back." In recalling and thinking about this incident I believe there is a message for parents of older, aged 13 and above, lesser committed swimmers.
- What was this swimmer doing that was so terrible? Nothing. He was doing nothing; and that was the problem. For whatever reason, he simply decided he wasn't going to do the set I had prescribed and decided he was going to leave practice.
- This 13 year old had a dismal attendance record making just a couple of workouts a week and when he did come there was minimal communication with me. He would arrive seconds before we began the first set and he would immediately leave after the last set. I only saw the mom one time; the dad, never. Quite simply, it appeared that he didn't want to be there.
- I thought about the incident throughout that evening and it was the first thing on my mind when I woke up in the next morning. I hated kicking a swimmer out of practice. I asked myself these questions:
- Did I need to permanently dismiss him from the team?
- Should I have just let him go without comment at the time or should I have taken the time to find out what was bothering him?
- Should I have had a discussion with the parents long before the incident about what my expectations were and to find out what their expectations were?
- Before I tackle those questions there are a couple of concepts I would like all parents to consider. First, one of the primary duties of the coach is to provide adversity for the athletes. That may sound like an unusual way to describe it but the reality is that a workout is not meant to be easy. It is meant to be a physical and mental challenge. Good coaches throw the challenge out there and then attempt to provide the environment where the athlete's will to meet the challenge is high. At older ages and upper levels, say 13 and over at sectional and above level, coaches sometimes design entire workouts meant to make the athlete fail - temporarily fail. At lower levels, right down to novice level swimming, swimmers need to be exposed to sets that are difficult, perhaps so difficult that no one can achieve the set. Good coaches use these sets to build a desire in the athletes to achieve higher levels of physical and mental toughness. Good coaches know that being successful requires a combination of challenge and success in the workout environment and that the relative amount of each will change as the swimmer ages.
- The second concept has two parts: the coach's time and effort; and the athlete's submissiveness - best described as the athlete's willingness to release themselves to the coach. To whom should the coach give their time and effort? Answer: to those athletes who give themselves to the coach. The coach has limited time and energy and the fairest behavior of the coach is focusing on those who are ready to meet the adversity. Coaches simply do not have time to coddle and convince reluctant swimmers to do work while there are other swimmers willing and ready to go.
- Now, back to the questions at hand. Did I need to dismiss him from the team entirely? In this case, Yes. But it should have been discussed with the parent the next day rather than shouted to him across the pool. Why dismiss him from the team? He had a poor history of effort, bad attendance, and it was not worth the team's time to try change his work ethic. In a case where a swimmer had a history of good effort, and had shown a high degree of coachability - well, this situation wouldn't have been an issue in the first place.
- Should I have let him go without comment at the time? Yes. Running a workout where emotions are high is not the time to get into it with an athlete or the parent. It is better to discuss such things in a different environment at a different time.
- Should I have take the time to find out what was bothering him? No. That would have been taking time from those in the water who were doing the work and that is where the coach's focus needs to be.
- Long before the incident should I have had a discussion with the parents about "expectations"? Absolutely Yes. This was a failure on my part - and the parents.
- The bottom lines: There are adolescent swimmers who are of marginal ability who come to practice for a variety or reasons. Sometimes it's friends. That's a pretty good reason, but there has to be the willingness to work as well.
- Sometimes it's Mom and Dad making the child go to practice. There are good reasons and bad reasons for this. Good reasons include a sincere desire for the child to be involved in a wholesome activity. Bad reasons include a parent's desire for the child to be a champion swimmer and earn a swimming scholarship when the child doesn't have that talent.
- Whatever the reasons, it is important for parents and swimmers and coaches to discuss their respective expectations with each other. Frankly, sometimes expectations just do not match up with what's being offered or what is being done. And then it is time to think about moving on to another program or another activity.
- Guy Edson is a Level 5 Age Group Coach and has enjoyed 5 years as a part time age group coach, 2 years as a full time age group coach, 8 years as a full time head coach, and 20+ years coaching novice/intermediate swimmers. (In that order.) And, 7 years as high school coach mixed in with the above. He has served as an ASCA staff member since 1988 where his favorite role is helping young coaches with everything from teaching techniques to designing workouts. He also manages ASCA's Job Service program helping both coaches and employers with a wide range of needs including contract reviews, interviews, and relational and club structural issues.
The "Stroke Guru"
By John Leonard
old buddy Albert Einstein is credited with saying "all things should be made
as simple as possible, but no simpler". Occasionally we run into one
of those situations in Swimming. I received a letter last month from a
coach who said "I discovered that a few swimmers on my team were secretly
seeing a 'private coach' for stroke work. By word of mouth, one swimmer
who had been taking lessons from this person did well at a taper meet and the
word spread. The stroke guru got the credit for the improvement instead of
the parents crediting the training in the club setting, or the effort of the
child herself getting credit. Naturally, not wanting to miss a good thing,
parents flocked to the guru, without telling any of the team coaches. We
just noted people missing from practice at time to time."
first thought was "can't blame parents for wanting the best for their
went on, "We weren't happy with this situation because the guru taught the
strokes differently than we do, and it was undermining our program, and besides,
the coach started contacting the children by phone when they were at swim meets
to 'help them'. "
second thought was "well of course, you can't have two coaches telling one
child how to swim a stroke...all it produces is a confused child...and the phone
thing...well, that's just too much ego disguised as "caring".
facility and organization do not allow private lessons, and not one parent had
approached us about work on a specific skill or technique before seeking
my mind perked up. Why would an organization not want to allow private
instruction? First of all, you can teach in a group, but correcting in a
group is close to impossible. Taking the time for individualized feedback
during practice to any real extent that is likely to be helpful, is "robbing
time" from all the other swimmers. Of course you need private instruction
time, and since its needed, it either has to be a part of the coach's job
description, or you have to allow the coach to charge some private and reasonable
fees for private instruction.
organization is asking for trouble when it won't allow the expertise of its own
coaches to be utilized to the fullest possible extent by members of the
organization and it's an open invitation to do something less desirable, like
take a child to a "stroke guru" for outside help.
about shooting yourself in the foot!
feel the parents are looking for a quick fix and are willing to pay anything to
make it happen.....whether it's a new tech suit or private lessons for their
child, in order to "fast track" their swimmer. Am I crazy? Am I paranoid in my
thinking that this is a bad thing for our program?"
Coach, you're not crazy and it IS a bad thing, both for the children involved,
and the program.
1. Stroke technique is a
critical piece of constructing a swimmer's success. And the coach who works
with the child everyday must be in charge of constructing and correcting that
technique. Trying to do it once a week, without watching the child train daily,
is like trying to cook a meal by telephone from 1000 miles away . Can't be
done. But what WILL happen is that when the child swims well, the parent
and the child will attribute the positive to the guru...(because that's what is
different) and the guru will happily accept that applause....and when the child
swims poorly, it will be the fault of the home coach whose training is "not
correct.". Utter and complete nonsense.
2. The reality is that swimming
success is a complex interplay between technique and training and the two must
be in harmony. Only the home coach can do that. The guru is ONLY looking at a
snapshot in time when they work with the child and the home coach sees the
whole, lifelong movie of the child in action and over time. Does a child need a
great deal of technique work? Absolutely, and it must be completely integrated
into the training program of the athlete...so the new techniques can be learned
first by concentration and focus, then incorporated into some moderately
stressful sets and finally into the crucible of competition. If you can't do it
under pressure, it is of zero value to the athlete.
3. Every coach needs to be a good
teacher of technique. And every organization must realize that to be
successful, they must provide all they can to enhance the success of each
athlete...including supporting private correctional assistance as needed by the
4. As a Parent, we all want what is
best for our children. We should chose a swimming team based first on the
character of the coach.....if your child grows up a lot like the coach (and many
will, since they spend so much time with them...) would you be happy with that?
Second, based on the technical teaching and training skill of that coach.
While it is tempting to "go
somewhere else" for an appetizer and then to the home coach for the main course
and then somewhere else for dessert, it's a LOT better for the long term health
of the athlete's swimming career, to have the "whole meal" in one
Remember that the bottom line
of performance is confidence in what you are doing and commitment to one team,
one coach and one organization. Swimming is far too difficult a sport to
be done individually...it takes a team.
Being a parent is hard. There's no doubt about it. Being a parent of an athlete can be even harder. Learning how to keep the purpose of sports in the right perspective for your own child can be one of the hardest things on earth to do. We love our children. We want the best for them. We want them to succeed. We don't want them to fail. As parents we need to learn to be supportive and put as little pressure on our kids as possible. With the trials and temptations that our kids face on a daily basis the last thing they need is their parents putting pressure on them for performance and commitment issues.
Below is a list of comments & questions that I have heard parents say around the pool deck that completely undermine the purpose of sports and the child's place in it. I'm not saying that these are not real issues because they are and they can be. But how and when they should be addressed is a separate issue.
- "You should...." - It's not the parents job to critique their child's swimming. The coach & the swimmer know what the swimmer needs to be concentrating on. Let the coach- coach. If you do have legitimate concerns as a parent talk to the coach in private. Don't tell the swimmer want he should or should be doing. If the swimmer asks you send them to the coaches.
- "Mary beat you by 5 seconds!" or "You beat Mary by 5 seconds!" - You should never compare your swimmer to other swimmer ? especially verbally. Your swimmer cannot control the way others are swimming and need to be able to concentrate on what they are doing. Express support and not concern to your child.
- "Are you tired? Drink your gator-ade! Eat, eat, eat! Do you need to sit down?" - Do not nag your swimmers and don't obsess over every little detail. Allow your swimmer to be responsible. Allow them to find out what works for them. Swimmers are funny about what they eat, drink and wear at swim meets. They establish little pre-race rituals that help them get ready mentally. Don't undermine their ability to perform by nagging them.
- "If you think I'm going to spend all this money for you to swim like this.." - What is the real issue here? Your lack of money? As a parent investing tons of time & money for your child's sports program it should be understood that there would be days like this. Hang in there. Be positive and don't ever put money matters on your child's performance ? even if you say it jokingly. The kid knows and so does everyone else around you that you are being serious.
- "I will buy you a new suit so you will be faster" - Suits do not make kids fast in the water. Practice, work ethic, dedication and focus are what helps kids improve. Kids need to feel that YOU BELIEVE in them, not some magic suit.
(Unlikely) Lessons Learned from Being a Swim Parent/Swimmer
- Have you asked your ________ (coach, teacher, professor, advisor, college coach) about that?
Probably the best question to learn to ask. The day will come when you can't call the teacher/professor/advisor to "fix" the problem, and you're not there to see the details of even what the problem is. By then it's great if the question comes naturally (from the parent) and for the child to be used to going to the authority independently.
- There is always someone out there better than you - or your child. The swimming world is a big place. So is the rest of the world. It's ok. Celebrate your own achievement.
- Strategically position your child to be under the positive influence of another trusted and caring adult. Do they have someone in their life who will confront them if they see something that needs to be addressed? The day will come (quickly!) when they will take it from someone else better than from mom or dad. PA coaches are those kinds of people.
- It's not always easy to trust the coach. Sometimes you have to close your mouth, smile, and hope for the best. But when you have good coaches, it usually works out.
- When life is stressful, (AP exams, championship meets, big school projects, etc.), the best thing for a kid is to go to swim practice where all they have to do is follow directions and do what they're supposed to do. At least one area of their life can be simple and they can leave the results to the coach. They can know that if it doesn't work out, it's not their "fault."
- Swimmers can keep track of a lot of stuff!!! Just try counting laps, figuring out what stroke you're supposed to be doing, figuring out when on the pace clock you're going to go next (what is 1:25 added on to :20??? - when you're in the middle of the pool at 5:35 am), keep track of when to breathe, not to mention where you're supposed to hold your head, arms, legs, body!
- Let the parent be the parent and the coach be the coach. We hear it all the time. But there have been plenty of times when the coach was a better "parent" than I was. Our coaches usually know just what to say to a swimmer in any given circumstance.
- Most girls hit a swimming plateau. Lots of boys too. By the time they hit the plateau, they had better know that their parents love and pride is not dependent on how fast they swim or what place they get. They will be putting in a ton of work for little return. That is enough to be proud of. I wish I had understood this better ahead of time.
- Things will not go as planned.
They will change the lane assignments, a heat will be missed, a DQ will happen, it will be colder or hotter or longer or shorter, you will get sick before finals, you will get an injury during taper, coach will change your training...
It's ok. The same thing happens in life. You take a deep breath and go on. For kids who like to be in control and know what's going to happen ahead of time, this is a great tool for them to learn to adapt.
- You have to know when to quit, or cut corners. Swimmers have a full life. They can't do everything to perfection. They have to learn what is good enough, and how to get things done quickly (so they can get to bed!).
- Swim parents don't usually have to worry (much) about where their kid is at 11 pm. They're in bed asleep because they have practice in the morning!
- "Did you do what the coach told you to do?" If the answer is yes, that is success.
- A coach tells a kid to talk to them before and after a race. The swimmer goes to the coach, and the coach talks to them. The kid just learned a lesson about keeping his word and follow-through. Amazing.
- Do not take good coaches for granted.
There are lots of coaches out there who don't do what our coaches do. Some don't show up to meets on time, or watch the kids swim, or talk to them. Many don't have the interest or expertise to teach a child how to improve. Much less care about teaching life lessons.
- No coach or program is perfect. I don't want people to expect me to be perfect, so it's ok if a coach isn't perfect 100% of the time. Even if they are working with my precious kid.
- The person you are competing "against" may be your teammate someday. Swimming is bigger than just your lane, or your team. There is a state zone team, where suddenly you're on the same team. Or there's a sectional meet, where suddenly there are only a few from each team, and you sit with the other kids from the same LSC. Or you go to college, and your teammate is someone you competed against from another state. The swim community is a small world, so be nice to your teammates, competition, and swim parents/coaches from other teams. Life lesson: treat others the way you want to be treated
- Be careful whose advice you listen to. Swimmers (and parents) get a lot of advice from many different people (Coach A, Coach B from summer league, Coach C from private lessons, from Dad, from Mom, from other parents, teammates, etc...) It's the same thing in life - everyone has an opinion to share. Listen to them all if you have to, but choose who you will pay attention to in different circumstances and let the rest go.
Three Variables of a Swimmer's Performance That Parents Contribute To
By Jack Maddan, Head Coach and CEO of Hilton Head Aquatics.
As we approach the midpoint of the short course season the athletes are realizing that they are on the path to reaching their goals or they need to make some wholesale changes. Each season presents another mountain to climb for each swimmer. The climb they have to make will depend on the level of success they achieved in the previous season. Success is a relative term and is different for each athlete and training group in the program. For one swimmer it might be to qualify for the State meet and for another it might be to make Olympic trials. Whatever the goal might be, each swimmer has to be willing to do more work than they did in the previous season. And parents can help.
Parents put a lot of time, money and commitment into the sport. You assist in providing the best opportunity for your children to be successful in the pool. Coaches appreciate that. There are certain variables that you have a direct impact on that do affect the swimmers' level of success.
One variable is practice attendance. As a parent, we are asking you to support the coaching staff and encourage your swimmers to be at the number of practices required by the coach. If the swimmers are not making that requirement it is hard for them to benefit from the whole seasonal plan. This is critical because each coach has a daily, weekly and seasonal plan and missing out on that will hinder the overall success. This is different with each group, but as each swimmer moves within the program, the expectations become much greater.
Another set of variables are nutrition, rest and body changes. This is, for some people, the most sensitive area, but it is significant and should be addressed seriously. As parents, if you are not providing your children with good fuel on a daily basis then over time they will not excel in practice. This starts the moment they enter the program. If you start with good nutritional habits it makes it easier for them to sustain over the course of the season and to establish a healthy lifestyle in the long term.
It is also imperative that each swimmer is getting adequate rest. When a swimmer is burning the candle at both ends this is where injuries and illness set in. When we have a day off, all swimmers should be wise about the decisions made so their bodies can recover properly.
The physiological factors that take place in athletes can impede or accelerate their progress. When a swimmer is growing, depending on how much they are growing, this can be a good or bad thing. Many swimmers struggle physically and mentally during this time. The growth can make them stronger in the water or can cause them to be awkward because of growing too quickly. This is usually more typical in boys between the ages of 13-16. For the girls, going through puberty affects body composition and proportions and can really mess up stroke techniques especially in butterfly and breaststroke. , especially on the girl's side. In addition, girls go from an 11-14 year old with a lean body that recovers very quickly to a young woman's body that takes longer to recover between workouts. This is where plateaus sometimes take place and can last up to several years. Parental support in a positive manner is a key component in helping them to wade through these waters. There are two specific things a parent can do. First, never allow a young swimmer to be identified as a stroke specialist - Be cautious in saying things like, "You're my perfect little butterflyer," or "You'll be swimming the breaststroke in the 2020 Olympics." Secondly, focus comments on continual, long term improvement in all strokes.
One more variable: parental support of the swimmer and coach. This should be the easiest one to control, but it is not always the case. Parents have only one role at a swim meet: support the swimmer and the coach to achieve the athlete's goals. I think this is important to remember because sometimes the athlete and parent have different goals.
These are the comments a coach would most appreciate a parent to say to their child before and after a swim: Before the swim - "Good luck and have fun." After the swim -- "Good Job," and "What did your coach say?" and "I'm proud of you," or sometimes, "I am sure you will do better next time."
If your dialogue is different then this, then you are not supporting the coach and swimmer relationship. The most detrimental thing you can do for your child is compare them to another swimmer, coach them before or after a swim, or give them negative feedback after a race.
So what I recommend is to make sure that you are communicating with your son or daughter on how they are doing in practice on a daily basis. Periodically check in with their coach and ask him or her how you child is doing, so there are no surprises when it comes to competition time.
Remember, swimming is a sport where we look at long term progress. Some athletes have to work for 6 months to drop one second in an event. If you can really be aware what the contributing variables are for success (and remember that means having some patience to reach the process), then I stand behind the belief that your children will be better prepared for anything that comes their way in life.
Thoughts on Age Group Development
We do not need to give all the available meets, awards, training time, or even training techniques to all levels and all ages of swimmers. Life is progressive. We cannot drive until we are sixteen, we cannot vote until we are 18. Just because we have seniors swimming at prelim and final meets doesn't mean that age group swimmers need to also. Age group swimmers do not need the same kind of awards which seniors receive. Our system gives too much too soon and sets up for a serious problem because every level looks the same. Let the swimmers grow through the sport rather than giving it to them. Let them experience racing, winning, and losing but they do not need twelve solid years of these things to become effective prelims-finals swimmers.
ASCA Level 5
Sometimes young swimmers perform exceptionally well quite simply because they are "big for their age" and, or, they are capable of working harder. They do not need to depend on technique and they may, or may not have better technique than slower swimmers. If we could go back and get a physical description of all the 10 and under swimmers who were nationally ranked, I think we would find that these young athletes were all more physically developed than the average 10 and under.
Most of these children will not continue dominating their age group into the senior years as other swimmers catch up in size and ability to work. Unfortunately they may not have developed the quality of skills other swimmers have. Too often the result is a young senior swimmer who becomes frustrated at losing when he had been so used to winning.
There are two important points for parents to keep in mind:
Skills need to be the basis of an age group program, not distance.
It is a mistake to seek a distance oriented age group program to place your child in so that he can keep up with other faster swimmers.
Age group swimmers should concentrate on fundamentals and not senior oriented yardage so that they can learn correctly. There is a proper time and place for athletes to take part in a serious training program but it is not for our younger swimmers. We must accept the fact that we are not dealing with miniature adults.
ASCA Level 5
On Ageing Up and Expectations
We interviewed a former age group national record holder who is now in her 20's. She set a national age group record in the 9-10 age group. When she turned 11 she joined a group of excellent nationally ranked 11 - 12 year old girls. She continued to improve but struggled emotionally and was not happy. Just before turning 13 her mom and dad decided she needed to be swimming in a different environment with a nationally prominent team and moved the mom and her to a new team out of state while the dad stayed behind. Unfortunately, she didn't enjoy her new surroundings, didn't swim well, and mom and daughter moved back but joined a different team.
She told us in the interview that the reason why she had a difficult time as an 11 and 12 year old was that "everyone" expected her to continue being great. We asked her who was included in "everyone" and the answer was...everyone -- coaches and parents and friends.
When swimmers age up, whether it is B swimmers or national record holders, it is time for communication between the coach, swimmer, and parents. Don't assume that the swimmer knows and understands that the coach and parents aren't expecting a ribbon in the very next meet. Give swimmers special support and encouragement when they age up.
Developing Swimmers Progressively
We develop our swimmers progressively with great patience. Winning is not an issue with our younger age groups. We want swimmers to be their best in their later teen and college age years. We spend the majority of time with our youngest swimmers developing technique, some time developing endurance, and very little time developing speed. As swimmers become older and more skilled we increase the amount of endurance work, continue to develop technique, and introduce "race preparation." Racing preparation means learning how to race more than it means high volumes of quality speed work. At older ages and higher levels of skill the emphasis is on racing speed and competition while continuing to build long term endurance and continuing to refine technique and race strategy.
On the mental side we want the swimmers to learn to take responsibility for their own performance and to learn the importance and the thrill of meeting challenges straight forward. We also teach swimmers to; learn to read a pace clock and understand time relationships; learn about setting goals and the relationship between work and achieving goals; learn that everyone on the team contributes to each other's performance; and learn a sense of control in pacing swims, sets, and practices. Control allows for the highest levels of work without counterproductive out of control struggling. We feel this learned sense of control is applicable to other areas of life as well.
Gain Weight To Gain Strength
By Keith B. Wheeler, Ph.D. And Angeline M. Cameron
Should young (9 to 11 years old) male swimmers try to gain weight to gain strength? If so, what is the best way?
No, young male swimmers in this age range should not be too concerned with increasing their muscle mass to increase strength. Until they reach puberty, usually between 12 and 15 years of age, young men cannot increase their muscle mass rapidly because of the lack of the male hormone testosterone.
However, studies have shown that with the appropriate weight-training program prepubescent boys can significantly increase their strength, despite the lack of muscle growth. The primary reason for this is that strength is regulated by factors other than muscle size -- namely, various neurological controls that are influenced by weight training.
Helping Your Young Child Set Goals
Goal setting for young swimmers is an important process that requires interaction of the parent, coach, and athlete. It is important to remember that for young swimmers the goal of goal setting is to learn how to set goals. The progression for learning how to set goals is based upon the age and competitive experience of the swimmer. In this issue we will look at one approach for introducing goals to 8 through 10 year olds.
There are many approaches to goal setting for younger swimmers. The following approach is presented because it is a little different from the "normal" routine of coach-swimmer interaction and one that I personally find more rewarding for the parent-coach-athlete relationship.
With younger, inexperienced swimmers, generally ages 8 - 10, goal setting needs to be carefully guided by adults. The purpose of goal setting with this age is for the young swimmer to learn what a goal is, that to achieve a goal a series of steps toward the goal must be taken, and that some amount of preparation and work is required to meet the goal. These are very powerful lifelong skills.
I think it is very important that children are successful in achieving goals at this stage. For this reason, the coach, who best knows the ability of the swimmer, should suggest goals to the parents who, in turn, guide their young swimmer to set goals well within the possibilities described by the coach. Goals should be objective and based upon time standards or performance standards. In addition, goals need to be short term goals aiming at completion in 4 to 6 weeks. A long term goal is a difficult concept for 8 - 10 year olds.
Billy is a 9 year old who has been on the swim team for 18 months. He has all "B" times except for the 100 IM which he has an unofficial "C" time. He has been disqualified in his three 100 IM races because he has an illegal breaststroke kick. His best friend, neighbor, and swimming rival, John, began swimming at the same time as Billy but has achieved "A" times in the breaststroke and freestyle, several "B" times, and was recently moved to a more advanced group. Billy's ambition is to swim in the same workout group with John. Billy's dad and John's dad are friends and weekend golf rivals. Coincidentally, John's dad regularly beats Billy's dad. Billy's dad's goal is to see Billy beat John.
What should Billy's goals be and who should set them? Billy's goals must not be based upon John. At this point in time John is a more accomplished swimmer. Perhaps he will always be more accomplished for a variety of reasons which will frustrate Billy if Billy's goal is always to beat John. On the other hand, maybe John is temporarily bigger and stronger than Billy. As the boys reach and pass puberty Billy may become the bigger and stronger and more skilled of the two and beating John may not present an adequate challenge.
The coach should suggest several goals for Billy to Billy's parents. These goals are based upon the coaches' assessment of Billy's ability to improve in the next two months. One suggested goal might be for Billy to make an "A" time in the 50 free. Currently, Billy is only 4 tenths of a second from an "A" time. A second goal might be to swim a legal 100 yard IM. The coach has been working on Billy's breaststroke kick several times each week and is confident that Billy will have a legal kick in time for the next swim meet.
Why suggest these goals to the parents? Two reasons: 1) It is a good way for the parents and coach to communicate on the progress and future expectations for the young swimmer, and 2) the most important and most influential people in the young swimmer's life are Mom and Dad. What better source is there in guiding the young swimmer towards setting goals?
How should parents discuss goals with young swimmers? I think the best way is to ask the young swimmer a series of questions designed to bring him to the goals suggested by the coach. A conversation may go something like this:
Parent: "Billy, our team is hosting a meet in six weeks. Do you have any goals for our meet?"
Billy: "What's a goal?"
Parent: "A goal is something you want to do that you have never done before." Billy: [without hesitation] "I want to swim in John's group!"
Parent: "Someday I think you will. What does it take to move up to that group?" Billy: "Coach says I need an A time."
Parent: "Do you know what your best time is?" Billy: "No"
Parent: "Coach says you have 32.2 and that's only 4 tenths of a second from an "A" time which is a 31.8. Would you like to make an "A" time?
Parent: "Do you know how short 4 tenths of a second is?" [Demonstrates with stop watch.] "Coach says you can knock off those 4 tenths of a second just by streamlining better off the start and turn and by finishing with a long arm and strong kick. What are you going to work on in practice to help you make your goal?"
Billy: "I'm going to work on streamlining and finishing with a long arm and strong kick."
Parent: "Great! I KNOW you're going to make your goal! There is a dual meet with Fairport in three weeks. What do you think you would like to do in the 50 free in that meet?"
Billy: "An "A" time?"
Parent: "Right! Now let's write down your goal."
The next step is for Billy to write down his goal(s) on two pieces of paper. He should write his current best time, his goal, target date, and things he needs to work on in order to accomplish his goal.
His goal statement may look like this:
My Goal: 31.8 "A" time in the 50 free
When: February 17 home meet
Best Time: 32.2
Every day in practice: streamlining and good finishes
Billy should keep one at home in his room where he can look at it every day. Mom and Dad should ask Billy once every week or so how he is doing on his goal. The second copy he takes to swim practice to review with the coach. Then he can keep it in his locker or swim bag and look at it every day before practice.
Of course, it's a wonderful thing if a young swimmer is aware enough of times, both his own and qualifying times, to set his own valid goals in addition to those suggested by the coach. If a swimmer sets a reachable goal it should be accepted by coach and parents. Most young swimmers however need the expert guidance of coach and parents to set obtainable goals. Remember, at this age it is vitally important that swimmers are able to accomplish their goals.
One of the most common questions I get form swim parents concerns the issue of "how fast should athletes improve?" Like most things in sports (in life?) the answer must be qualified with an "it depends."
Depends on what? A number of factors.
First, when a young person begins their swimming career, they are as far from their "athletic potential" as they will ever be. As a result, each learned technical improvement makes enormous differences in performance. Athletes improve rapidly at this early stage. Both the fact that physiologically they are simply "training their bodies" for the first time, coupled with biomechanical (stroke) learning, provides for rapid improvement. Typically, young age group swimmers, if they come to practice on a regular schedule, will improve relatively steadily.
Note that relatively steadily" does not mean that every single swim will be a best time, but month to month, you will see improvement.
Second, it is critical that a young person be taught well initially. Otherwise they form crucial stroke habits that will be problems for them all of their swimming life. Once a bad habit is in place, they must "relearn" the correct technique, which is difficult. The child will likely "go slower" for a period of time since they have to "think about" swimming their "new stroke" rather than just "go swim." This correction process takes time and can slow down progress for a while. Again, the crucial piece is that the swimmer be taught correctly early and not have to "relearn." Thus, a coaches' saying that the most important coach a young person will ever have is their first coach... their learn to swim teacher.
In the age group years, athletes will continue to improve steadily as they grow and mature physically. Constant swimmer attention to improving strokes is critical, as is attendance at more and more training sessions and more and more intense practice habits. As children progress through their age group years up into their early teens, naturally their progress will slow as they come closer to their eventual potential.
In the early senior swimming years, the child first experiences the concepts of "Taper and Shave" and real improvements rarely come until and unless the athlete is tapered and shaved. Thus, in these years, coaches and athletes begin keeping track of things like unrested and unshaved best times as well as tapered and shaved best times, so that in the evaluation process, both swimmer and coach can compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges.
In senior swimming, the body has to work hard enough to become pretty substantially fatigued at times during the season, in order that it be able to experience the "rebound effect" and improve at the end of the season, when tapered and shaved. Older athletes learn during these "tired times" to concentrate on other parts of their sport, like racing skills and improving technique. These things allow the athlete to have measurable goals that do not include only "best times" as evaluations tools while they are in heavy training.
Sophisticated athletes and coaches compare meets year-to-year within the same point in the training cycle to see where the athlete "is" relative to the year before.
In mature athletes (ages 18 and up into their 30's), it is not uncommon to go a whole season through a taper before a rested, shaved best time occurs. At the world level, athletes can do a 2-3 year training cycle where a best time comes only at the end. A dramatic lesson in understanding "delayed gratification!"
If you have questions about the rate of improvement of your swimmer, start by asking your coach about it.
The simplest and most easily measured way to improve is to come to more workouts. We can show you very clearly that the more a swimmer comes to practice, the faster their improvement will be. Attendance corresponds 100% to speed of improvement.
Kids and Sports
By Ira Klein, ASCA Level 5
Recently I read an article from Sports Psychology magazine, written by Dr. David A. Feigley. He works with the Rutgers University Youth Sport Research Council. The article was entitled "Why Kids Quit" and contained interesting and useful information which I wish to share with all of you.
First, why do kids play sports?
There are three basic types of participants. Ability oriented children enjoy competition and "want to be the best". Task oriented children enjoy the activity itself and often focus on self- improvement. Social approval oriented children work to please others such as coaches, parents, and teammates. To my surprise, the author says that the evidence suggests that those who work for social approval persist the longest.
Children aged six years and younger cannot distinguish between ability and effort. They believe that when they try hard they are automatically good at what they are doing. Praise tends to be accepted positively by very young children regardless of whether the task was successfully completed or not.
Children aged seven through eleven develop the ability to differentiate between having talent and trying hard. They compare themselves with others, and if they feel they cannot succeed, they would rather not try. They find it easier to attribute failure to a deliberate lack of effort, than to admit that they lack ability.
Children from age twelve become skilled at making social comparisons and realize that expending effort is no longer a guarantee that they will succeed.
What can we do to help reduce the pressures that children feel?
- Encourage enjoyment of the activity and self-improvement.
- Encourage children to interpret comparisons with others solely as a tool for improving. Comparisons should be constructive and never as simple as "they are better" or "you are not as good".
- Praise must be an earned reward. As children mature, they begin to value praise for successful outcomes much more than praise for trying hard. Look for specific successes.
- Continually remind your children that ability often changes dramatically as they mature.
Growing recognition that many American children are neither developing sufficient fitness, nor learning appropriate lifetime health habits has caused leading physical educators to re-evaluate their long-time methods and shed the traditional coach/drill sergeant image for an educational approach that gives young students the tools for lifetime fitness.
Ron Feingold, Ph.D. of Adelphi University in N.Y., and one of the leaders in this movement explains,"To me, what's relevant is what they learn about fitness, and how do they feel about physical activity. The goal should be to get them to enjoy fitness and physical activities and to understand their benefits."
Accordingly, progressive P.E. teachers are exchanging their former emphasis on teaching competitive sports skills and administering competitive fitness tests for an approach that encourages students to adopt "appropriate lifelong exercise behavior," and a healthy appreciation for physical activity. The proverbial "ounce of prevention" will help children improve their long term health prospects by developing healthy lifestyle habits from an early age.
The new priority is that kids should know how their bodies work after they've had 12 years of physical education. As one teacher said: "It's more important that they understand how to develop strength and cardiovascular fitness, how to train safely, and to have a basic understanding of what happens when you move, than to know how to shoot a basketball."
The changing focus of thinking about youth fitness is also leading to a re-examination of fitness testing methods. Such competitive tests as the Presidential Physical Fitness Test tended to discourage those children who needed help the most. Kids who performed poorly were embarrassed both by taking the fitness test and by their results, while better athletes were rewarded for their performances.
That test has now been adjusted to make it an educational process and to focus on personal improvement rather than performance level with rewards and recognition to those making progress from previous tests. "We want kids to buy into the idea that it's the activity that's important and the performance score is secondary," says Dr. Marilu Meredith, director of youth fitness programs for the Institute of Aerobics Research. "If we can impart an activity habit - and keep it fun - they'll stay active and they will be fit."
What actions can both parents and age group coaches take to import these ideas into age group swimming?
- Consciously communicate to kids the importance of aerobic fitness and "healthy hearts" by raising their level of awareness of swimming's aerobic benefits.
- Be more conscious of the importance of your own role modeling in maintaining good health through personal fitness programs.
- Balance emphasis on achievement and performance for age groupers with emphasis on the simple values of participation for the long term and communicate swimming as simply the first step in a lifelong fitness habit.
- Tie in the value of good nutritional habits, not simply for better performance, but for health's sake.
If we adopt a health-related outlook for age group swimming we'll be giving the kids in our programs a form of lifelong health insurance that can't be purchased at any cost.
It's clear to anyone observing a swimming meet that some swimmers are much faster off of the blocks. Differences in starting ability from one swimmer to the next are easy for parents to observe. Unfortunately, it is one part of the race that is not always mastered equally well by all swimmers. There are two contributing factors to the success of the start: learned skill and natural ability.
The simple fact is that not all swimmers are built the same. Some will always be better starters because they are born with a higher percentage of "fast twitch" fibers making them more explosive and capable of getting off the starting block faster. It is an hereditary factor and cannot be significantly changed through training.
But start ability is not all heredity as proper mechanics also contribute. Coaches teach these mechanics several times a week and can help the swimmer make significant improvements over time. It is important to remember that swimmers learn at different paces. Despite the best efforts of coaches, some swimmers will take longer to learn a good start than others.
Before judging a swimmer's ability to get off the block, either as very good or as needing a lot more coaching, look at where and when the swimmer surfaces after the start. After the starting signal, who gets to the 10 meter mark first? It's not always the first swimmer off of the block. A study done several years ago examined the relative importance of the initial quickness off the block versus the swimmer's ability to enter the water, streamline, kick, and breakout properly.
According to the study, how the swimmer hits the water and what they do in the water are of far greater importance than speed off of the block. This ability is a complex skill requiring a lot of practice, mixed with the right body type. Some argue that it is more dependent on body type which is a factor a swimmer cannot control. The fact is, that because of body type and buoyancy, some swimmers streamline better than other swimmers and with proper kicking an breakout mechanics will surface in front of other less able swimmers.
So what can we make of all this? Answer: always look at the larger picture. Is the swimmer improving and is she or he happy? That's the larger, larger picture. Looking at the "smaller larger picture" one needs to consider all aspects of the race including good approaches to the walls, good turns, proper breakouts, good stroke mechanics, proper race management, and a great finish. It all adds up. If the swimmer has not yet developed a great start, entry, and break out, there are many other areas of the event we can look to for success.
Stones? Flagstones? Milestones? Stepping stones... boulders of change.
Meets, qualifying times, travel situations, practices, practice groups, practice lanes, dry land, weights, two a days, Saturdays, mornings, yardage, age groups. All kinds of change. All kinds of situations. All new, all big steps, all challenging.
By now, most of you are familiar with the national age group time standards. Swimmers are setting their sights on that "BB" time or that "AAA" time and progressing up the time chart, only to age up to a new group and begin the process all over. These time standards provide a measuring stick of performance, they provide a goal to strive for, a reason to put forth effort and they can show the change in one's abilities. But there are also many other markers, other aspects of swimming that swimmers can look to as a measurement their progress and development.
Meets are a good example. Many meets propose change. Some meets are bigger in name and rank than others and some are bigger in numbers than others. The meets can and should be goals. Some meets are special because they are hard to get to and they represent stepping stones of success in and of themselves. For example, while a swimmer may go to a meet like Age Group Sectionals and place high swimming your best times, attaining Senior Sectional cuts and attending that meet where the competition is even faster may help you swim even better times. Though you may not place as high, may not place AT ALL, the achievement of getting to the Senior Sectional meet is a step further along the road to swimming success.
Some higher level meets may mean traveling as a team with the coach and not with your parents. This type of meet requires new responsibilities, new challenges to cope with - from getting along with your roommates to waking up on time on your own to being sure your towels are dry to keeping up with your own eating needs while also being part of a group. One of the positive things about swimming is the constant progression of challenges, and the ability to set goals, reach them, and set new goals. Meets are one of the reflections of this progression, one of the many educational processes teaching swimmers to adapt.
Practices and practice groups also reflect the stepping stones of swimming. Practices and practice groups should challenge you every day. Sometimes the challenges are evident. Some days they must come from within. Sometimes it is good to focus on beating your teammate. Sometimes the challenge is racing the guy two lanes over back to the wall even though they are doing something different. Sometimes it is going breast against someone else swimming fly, lifting the heaviest weight on the team, doing more sit-ups in the fastest time, leaving 5 seconds back and catching the guy in the next lane who left early. Sometimes it is trying to beat them to the halfway point of the pool. Gaining time and distance over the next couple of lanes on each turn. Kicking up faster and further. Pushing off harder and further on every kick set. Racing the kick sets and learning newer, faster turns. Each event and each thing can be a challenge. Racing back to the wall, racing to the flags or racing off the walls on every turn.
Race yourself. Challenge yourself. Know your best practice times for different sets. 100s, 200s, 500s, 3000 for times, kick sets, pull sets, paddle sets, sprint sets, pace sets, and best average sets. Beat others, beat your last practice time or your best meet time or your best meet splits. To do this you need to KNOW them. You need to REMEMBER them. Make them important to you. Make them stick out in your mind.
Each new thing, each new challenge, each new target, each practice should be available to you to set a new standard. The more measuring sticks that you personally have, the more chances for success that you will have. And the more fun each practice will be. And the more involved you will be in practice. Other sports scrimmage a lot to ensure that everyone stays focused. That way everyone knows the measurement involved - winning the scrimmage. Make your practices ones that you can win, or conversely lose, for each set, each effort, each day. That way you can measure each step and take many new steps on your path forward towards success at every practice. It is called making the most of every opportunity!
Each year, each season, each session, we as coaches look for enough change and development in our swimmers to measure them against what we determine to be the needs of the next training group. If the development is there, we talk to the next training group's coach to ask what they think based on what they see or know of the swimmer in question. We ask if there is anything that is new or different in the next training group's practices that might pose a problem to our swimmer. If everyone agrees, we move you up into the next group. A new step in the practice group progression.
Many factors go into this process and individuals are treated as, well. . . individuals! But we also try to move swimmers along in groups if we can so that the adjustment to the new group will be easier. Some are more ready than others and some have things just beneath the surface that we see. But you each have to earn your spot on your own. Meanwhile, there are many things you can do to help each other including: racing each other, encouraging each other, cheering each other's achievements and accomplishments during practice, trying to make as many practices as possible together, working with each other and pushing each other.
LEADING each other.
And how can parents help? Besides trusting the coaches and cheering for your swimmer, be aware that whenever swimmers make the change from one group to the next, parents need to help make sure that their swimmer is getting the rest they need, the calories they need, and the appropriate mix of protein and iron and fat and carbs that they need to meet the new training parameters. If the work load is substantially bigger, they will need more calories in general, but make sure that you increase the protein intake and the iron intake. Make sure that rest is also increased and that they have water at all their practices.
Everyone can participate in moving along the stepping stones of successful swimming. Set your sights on the next stone and help yourself help your teammates, and get help from your teammates, from your parents, from your coaches. Be aware of all the various tools at your disposal for measuring your progress. And make the most of all of them!
Emotional Development of the Swimmer:
Defeating Negative Self-Thoughts
BY DR. AIMEE KIMBALL//Sport Psychologist
Have you ever said mean things to yourself like, "You are awful. You are the slowest person in the water," or "There is no way I'm going to get better, I should just quit?"
If so, imagine how you would react if someone else said those things to you. You would definitely be angry and possibly push them in the pool. My point is, don't say anything to yourself that you wouldn't let anyone else get away with.
Tips for helping you quiet the negative talk in your head:
Be your own biggest fan.
Imagine the president of your fan club standing on your shoulder wearing a T-shirt with your face on it telling you, "You're awesome. You've worked so hard, I know you'll do well. You deserve to be out here, show them what you got." Cheer yourself on and have your "biggest fan" fill your head with positive thoughts.
Write down your negative thoughts.
Write a list of things you typically say to yourself, then counteract those thoughts with something positive. For example, if you write down "I'm not nearly as good as her. There's no way I can win," you can cross it out and say to yourself, "She's fast, but I don't control her. I am going swim my best and get a great time."
Create more positives than negatives.
Any time you say something negative, make yourself say two things you're doing well. For example, if you say, "My turns are awful," you have to positively refocus yourself by saying, "I have a great stroke and my starts are fantastic." Tell your coach, your teammates, and your parents to enforce this with you, too, in all areas of your life.
Make it Great!
Dr. Aimee C. Kimball is the Director of Mental Training for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Center for Sports Medicine.
Self-talk includes all the purposeful and random thoughts that run through the athlete's mind, the continual chatter of things said silently and out loud. Self-talk can be positive. Athletes can direct their self-talk toward what they want to do and where they want to focus. Self-talk can motivate, and, if developed purposefully, it can serve numerous other beneficial functions. Unfortunately, self-talk can also be negative and damaging to performance (GIGO, or "garbage in, garbage out"). In fact, when left untrained, self-talk often becomes negative and critical. Therefore, the athlete must learn to manage his or her internal dialogue to keep it beneficial to performance.
As with other mental skills, the first step is awareness. Athletes need to become aware of their inner voices-what they tend to say to themselves silently and out loud and how this affects performance. Keep in mind that what may be negative and damaging to one athlete may be motivational and beneficial to another athlete.
Once aware of their self-talk and its affect on performance, athletes need to develop strategies to manage negative self-talk. One common technique used by athletes is "thought stopping," which entails the following:
- Identify negative thoughts and the situations in which they typically occur.
- Practice stopping the thoughts or "parking" the thoughts.
Replace the negative thoughts with positive thoughts, cue words, or images. Identify positive replacement thoughts in advance. The keys to thought stopping are being aware of common negative talk; stopping the thought; and filling the void with positive, productive thoughts.
Another technique for managing negative self-talk is for athletes to identify, in advance, what they want to say or reinforce to themselves at critical points in practice and competition. Then, instead of waiting anxiously for negative thoughts to occur, the athlete automatically uses the preplanned positive self-talk. For example, an athlete who typically has defeating thoughts in the middle segment of the 1,500-meter race can develop a plan to automatically say to him- or herself, "relax, take it easy" or "smooth stroke," during this part of the race, regardless of how he or she is feeling.
Although it may appear that positive self-talk is most important during competition, it is equally important during practice and, therefore, must be monitored and practiced during training. Concentrating on positive self-talk in practice allows for quality training and provides an opportunity to practice this important skill. Athletes must accept that they will experience doubts and fears. They can overcome these doubts by continually reinforcing positive, productive thoughts not just prior to competition but also on a daily basis so that positive self-talk becomes habitual. In preparation for competitions, the athlete can mentally rehearse the cue words or self-talk he or she will use throughout the race. When needed during the race, athletes can trust their training by quieting their negative self-talk and letting their bodies perform.
The Importance of "Self Confidence" in Achieving Your Swimming Goals
Importance of "Self Confidence" in Achieving Your Swimming Goals
Belief is the knowledge that we can do something. It's the inner
feeling that what we undertake, we can accomplish. For the most part, all of us
have the ability to look at something and know whether or not we can do it. So,
in belief there is power: our eyes are opened; our opportunities become plain;
our visions become realities. - Unknown
Have you said (or thought) any of the following in the past few
months??? "I can't do it," "They are much faster than me. I'll
come last," "I'm hopeless," "I've never been able to do
that, so I know I can't do it now," "It's just too hard. It's
You are not alone. Many swimmers have these thoughts and say
these words from time to time. Most swimmers (and people generally) have times
when they get a little negative and lack faith in their abilities. When
swimmers say "I can't" or "it's too hard," what are they
Swimmer says: "I can't do it." Swimmer
means: "I am not prepared to try because if people might think less of
Swimmer says: "They are faster than me. I'll come
last." Swimmer means: "If I can't win there's no point trying."
Swimmer says: "I'm hopeless." Swimmer means:
"I have no faith in myself or my ability to succeed. I have no
Swimmer says: "I've never been able to do that,
so I know I can't do it now." Swimmer means: "I've never really
prepared for this or learnt how to do it correctly so the chances of me doing
it now are not very good" or "I tried once and failed, so I am not
going to try again."
Swimmer says: "It's just too hard. It's
impossible." Swimmer means: "I'm not prepared to try."
Confidence is believing in yourself to do what has to be done.
To do what needs to be done, with faith in your ability to achieve it. To meet
new challenges with an expectation that anything is possible. To accept failure
as an opportunity to learn from the experience and try again. And try again.
And try again if necessary.
Confidence is trying to achieve and if you fail knowing that it
was the nature of the task or the circumstances or just plain bad luck, not
your lack of character that is to blame. Confidence is learning from that
failure and trying again with more energy, more commitment and greater
determination than before.
do some of Australia's most successful people say about CONFIDENCE??
"Confidence comes from
accepting a challenge and achieving it using the best of your ability.
Confidence builds through training to meet your challenge." - Phil Rogers
(Commonwealth Games and Olympic Medallist)
"Confidence is about believing
in yourself and your ability to do something - not necessarily believing in
your ability to do it perfectly or better than other people, but believing that
you have as good a chance as anyone to achieve something. Confidence is having
the courage to get up and try and face whatever the outcome is - good, bad or
something in between." - Chloe Flutter (Australian Representative Swimmer,
now Rhodes scholar)
"In my experience, confidence
is best achieved through controlled independence. If a young athlete is
constantly challenged to be independent (within reasonable bounds), they will
learn to rely on themselves and know how to thrive without the assistance of
others in moments of greatest need. The ability to follow good decision making
processes is a crucial part of this. For young athletes, teach them to take
personal responsibility ( control the controllable and develop a chameleon-like
ability to deal with the rest). Confidence is the ability to believe you can do
something and the courage to do it - if others have made the hard decisions for
you and you have never had to live with the results of your own actions, you
can never be expected to know full confidence and the power of the self."
- Marty Roberts (Dual Olympian, Commonwealth Games Gold medallist, University
Graduate, father of two)
"Attitudes such as belief,
optimism, high aspirations, and anticipation of the best possible result-all
these positive states of mind add up to confidence, the keystone for success.
But of course it pays for all of these to be built on the firm rock of a sound
preparation." - Forbes Carlile (Legendary Coach, successful business man,
author, leading anti-drugs in sport campaigner)
Confidence it seems, is a skill -- a skill that can be learnt.
You learnt to swim. You learnt to tumble turn. You learnt how to do butterfly.
You can learn to be confident.
Leading Melbourne based Sports Psychologist, Dr Mark Andersen
agrees: "Many people believe that confidence is something that comes from
the inside, but we probably develop confidence from the models we have around
us, that confidence really comes from the outside. If we have coaches, parents,
teachers and instructors that model confidence in our abilities and let us know
that they think we can do good things, slowly their confidence in us becomes
Tips to Develop Confidence:
Accept who you are and learn to like and respect yourself.
Nothing helps build confidence like learning the 3 P's:
- Practice to the best of your ability.
- Develop Positive Attitude to trying new tasks.
- Persevere,Persevere, Persevere.
Think I Can
Think I Might
Wish I Could
Don't Know How
This is called the Ladder of Achievement. It shows how your
attitude towards a goal or task can impact your ability to achieve it. The
ladder of achievement suggests that an attitude of "I can't" has
almost no chance of success whilst "I won't" is no chance at all.
Change "I can't" and "I won't" to I CAN -
I WILL - I DID! Understand what motivates you to do well then you can
harness your energy in the right directions.
Failure is a race or a meet or a task -it is not a person.
Failure is not the person: it's not you- it's the performance. Learn to
separate who you are from what you do.
Learn to talk to yourself positively. When the negative thoughts
come, learn to replace them with positive ones. I can't = I can, I won't = I
will, I will try = I did. Remember the old saying, "If you think you can
or think you can't, you're probably right."
"The greatest achievement is not in never failing but in
getting up every time you fall." Keep trying and it will happen. What you
believe, you can, with effort and persistence, achieve. Dream a dream, believe
in that dream, work towards achieving it and live the dream.
Anything worth having is worth working to achieve. Talent is
important, but there are many talented swimmers who don't make it to the top.
TOUGH, TENACIOUS TRAINING makes up for most talent limitations.
people are not afraid to fail. They have the ability to accept their failures
and continue on, knowing that failure is a natural consequence of trying. The
law of failure is one of the most powerful of all the success laws because you
only really fail when you quit trying.
By Keith B. Wheeler, Ph.D. And Angeline M. Cameron
Question: What exactly is carbohydrate loading? Is it appropriate for age group swimmers?
Answer: Carbohydrate loading refers to the process by which the carbohydrate (glycogen) stores in an athlete's active muscles are increased significantly above normal levels. This loading of carbohydrate in the muscles is accomplished through a combination of training and diet manipulation.
Specific techniques for carbohydrate loading have changed since the method was developed in Sweden. The original program consisted of 7 days of dietary management, beginning with exhaustive exercise bouts on the 1st day, followed by 3 days of extremely low carbohydrate consumption. The next 3 days consisted of an extremely high carbohydrate intake that caused the muscles to super increase their carbohydrate stores. In some people, this regimen produced nausea, fatigue, and diarrhea. Therefore, less drastic carbohydrate loading regimens were developed and are currently recommended.
Although, when done properly, it does increase muscle-glycogen stores above normal levels, carbohydrate loading is most useful for athletes who are preparing for endurance events such as triathons, marathons, cycling races, or open water long distance swimming. It should be done only a few times in a year. A nutritional concern that is more important to an age-group swimmer than carbohydrate loading is consuming enough carbohydrate on a daily basis. Age-group swimmers should get at least 60% of their daily calories from carbohydrate, which will maintain their muscle glycogen at levels that will support their training.
Coffee and Caffeine
By Keith B. Wheeler, Ph.D. And Angeline M. Cameron
Q: Will a cup of caffeinated coffee enhance athletic performance? Does caffeine have any undesirable side affects? Why do so many people drink coffee?
A: No, consuming one cup of caffeinated coffee will not enhance athletic performance. Some studies have suggested that caffeine will enhance performance under certain circumstances (ie, short-term high-intensity or long-term moderate-intensity exercise). However, most studies have demonstrated no effect of caffeine on endurance and performance. In the studies that suggest an effect, the caffeine consumption usually exceeded 400 mg before exercise. To get this level of caffeine, you would have to consume approximately 4 cups (5 oz) of caffeinated coffee, 12 cups (5 oz) of tea, or 3 quarts of cola.
Consuming caffeine can have some undesirable side effects, including increased heart rate, digestive secretions, breathing rate, and urine output. Caffeine also affects the central nervous system by increasing restlessness. Other side effects include headaches, irritability, insomnia, diarrhea, hyperactivity, and depression. Keep in mind also that caffeine is recognized as a stimulant by the International Olympic Committee, and if present in excessive amounts is considered a banned substance.
Most people drink coffee because they like the taste, and it is a socially acceptable ritual.
Eating for Peak Performance
By Sarah Knott - Splash Magazine, 2006 Nationals Issue
Balance a training diet with a competition diet for your best, season-ending performances, says Lisa Dorfman, the national media spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Dorfman is also the sports nutritionist for the University of Miami.
"A training diet (which should be in gear at least two to three months before the big meet) has more modified carbs than a competition diet," Dorfman says. It should consist of:
- About 50% of total calories from carbs, 30% from fat and 20% from protein.
- Five to six small meals a day.
- Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats.
This type of eating will help "lay the base as your training mileage climbs," Dorfman says. "Your metabolism gets high, and you become a very efficient machine." About a week before you want peak performance (somewhere during taper), refine your diet. This means:
- Revising your diet to consist of 70% of calories from carbs, 20% from protein and 10% from fat.
- Lowering the amount of fibrous foods.
"You'll get great, fast, quick carbohydrate-driven energy going into competition," says Dorfman. "And you don't want to be rolling into an event with a lot of fiber in your system." Right before a race, Dorfman suggests swim-friendly foods. Fruit, frozen fruit pops or fruit gummies will energize muscles (but no more than 60 grams of sugar or carbs every hour). Get some carbs within 30 to 120 minutes after an event.
Dorfman adds the best way to find your peak performance with help from nutrition is to try it in-training and schedule a mini-peak in-season.
Eating on the Road
By Linda Houtkooper, Ph.D., R.D. Linda is a Food Nutrition Specialist at the Cooperative Extension Service at the University of Arizona. She was once the author of a question/answer column in Swimming World magazine and she gave a presentation on nutrition at the ASCA World Clinic.
What should swimmers eat when swim meet or vacation takes them on the road? Should the foods for best performance be sacrificed for popular, convenient, fatty foods or is there something else they can eat?
Swimming success depends on ability, top-notch training, coaching, and good nutrition. Proper nutrition for swimmers includes foods that provide all essential nutrients in the proper amounts for good health and performance.
Nutrition-conscious swimmers know that they need high carbohydrate, low fat foods to perform their best. The best diet for training and performance is the VIM diet.
V = Variety of wholesome foods that provide the proper amount of nutrients to maintain desirable levels of body water, lean body mass, and fat. These foods will also maintain good health.
I = Eat foods that are individualized. Foods should reflect personal like. They should also make it possible to follow religious food preferences. Avoid foods that cause allergic reactions, and those the body can?t tolerate. Only use nutritional supplements recommended by your doctor or registered dietician.
M = Eat moderate amounts of foods that are high in fat, sugar, or sodium.
Use the suggestions below to maintain your top-notch VIM diet "on the road."
Order pancakes, French toast, muffins, toast, or cereal, and fruit or fruit juices. These foods are all higher in carbohydrates and lower in fat than the traditional egg and bacon breakfasts. Request that toast, pancakes, or muffins be served without butter or margarine. Use syrup or jam to keep carbohydrate high and fat to a low. Choose low fat dairy products, milk, hot chocolate, etc. Fresh fruit may be expensive or difficult to find. Carry fresh and/or dried fruits with you. Cold cereal can be a good breakfast or snack; carry boxes in the car or on the bus. Keep milk in a cooler or purchase it at convenience stores.
Remember that most of the fat in sandwiches is found in the spread. Prepare or order your sandwiches without the "mayo," "special sauce," or butter. Use ketchup or mustard instead. Peanut butter and jelly is a favorite and easy to make, but remember that peanut butter is high in fat. Use whole grain bread and spread more jelly, while using a small amount of peanut butter. Avoid all fried foods at fast food places. Salad bars can be lifesavers, but watch the dressings, olives, fried croutons, nuts, and seeds; or you could end up with more fat than any super burger could hope to hold! Use low fat luncheon meats such as skinless poultry and lean meats. Low fat bologna can be found in the stores, but read labels carefully. Baked potatoes should be ordered with butter and sauces "on the side." Add just enough to moisten the carbohydrate-rich potato. Soups and crackers can be good low fat meals; avoid cream soups. Fruit juices and low fat milk are more nutritious choices than soda pop.
Go to restaurants that offer high-carbohydrate foods such as pasta, baked potatoes, rice, breads, vegetables, salad bars, and fruits. Eat thick crust pizzas with low fat toppings such as green peppers, mushrooms, Canadian bacon, and onions. Avoid fatty meats, extra cheese, and olives. Eat breads without butter or margarine. Use jelly instead. Ask for salads with dressing "on the side" so you can add minimal amounts yourself.
Eat whole grain bread, muffins, fruit, fruit breads, low fat crackers, pretzels, unbuttered popcorn, oatmeal raisin cookies, fig bars, animal crackers, fruit juice, breakfast cereal, canned meal replacements, and dried and fresh fruits.
Fast Food Breakfast Choices
Warm-ups for the morning session start at 7:00 am, your two children need a breakfast, you're in a strange town, and the only place you can find for breakfast is one of the fast food places. What to do?
The most important thing to do is avoid fats for two reasons: 1) Fats have an immediate and dramatic effect on the ability of the circulatory system to carry nutrients, especially oxygen, to muscle cells. For young people about to participate in a swimming meet this is a definite handicap. And 2) As part of developing lifetime habits for long term health, people of all ages should keep their daily fat intake to less than 30 percent of the total calories consumed.
The Mayo Clinic Nutrition Letter offers these tips:
You don't always have to nix nutrition for speed and convenience. Fast foods may not make ideal meals, but some do offer healthful carbohydrate and only moderate amounts of fat. You also can downplay fat excesses by sorting out subtle differences among items. Consider these points the next time you're grabbing breakfast on the run:
- Keep it simple -- The fewer ingredients you order in breakfast sandwiches, the lower the fat, sodium and calories. Hold the sausage and bacon.
- Order it "drier that a biscuit" -- The English muffin is the lowest-fat breakfast food on most quick-service menus. Order it dry and substitute jelly for the butter; this virtually eliminates fat. When other ingredients are equal, a sandwich made on an English muffin is lower in fat than one on a biscuit. Croissant sandwiches are highest in fat. "Croissant" may sound light and airy, but it contains twice the fat of a biscuit and six times the fat of an English muffin.
- Choose "cakes" instead of eggs --Pancakes, even with a little butter, offer more energizing carbohydrate and less fat and cholesterol than egg dishes.
Below are three of the lowest-fat breakfast options found by the Mayo Clinic Nutrition Letter: These meals supply 20 to 30 percent of daily protein for the average adult, about 25 percent of daily calories for the average women, complex carbohydrates, vitamin C, and, in one example, calcium.
1. McDonald's Hotcakes with butter and syrup, orange juice,coffee: 493 calories,16% of calories from fat.
2. McDonald's English muffin with butter, orange juice, low-fat milk: 384 calories, 23 % of calories from fat.
3. Jack in the Box Breakfast Jack (egg, ham and cheese on a hamburger bun), orange juice, coffee: 387 calories, 30 percent of calories from fat.
*Reprinted from Mayo Clinic Nutrition Letter with permission of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Rochester, Minnesota, 55905.
Fast Food - How To Lift The Guise On Healthier Choices
Reprinted from Mayo Clinic Nutrition Letter with permission of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Rochester, Minnesota 55905
By changing menus and methods of cooking, fast-food restaurants are making it easier for you to eat more healthfully. But don't be fooled by products that sound healthy. Here are our suggestions for how you truly can trim calories and fat:
- Be salad savvy -- Avoid the mistake of thinking "salad" is synonymous with "diet food." Salads can be sneaky about fat and calories. The taco salads offered at Wend's and Jack In The Box each deliver 500-plus calories, more than half of which come from fat. The meat and cheese in chef salads invariably overpower the vegetables to increase fat. Chicken and seafood salads usually are lower in fat and calories, averaging less than 200 calories.
It's the dressings that provide the crowning touch. They can add as much as 400 calories to any salad. Watch out for packaged dressings that contain more than one serving.
The calories and other nutrients are given for a one-half ounce serving, yet some packages hold up to 2.5 ounces. Ask for reduced or low-calorie salad dressing.
- Choose chicken carefully -- Chicken may be naturally lower in fat than hamburger, but when breaded and fried, it loses its nutritional edge. At 688 calories and 40 grams of fat, Burger King's Chicken Specialty has 100 more calories and 20 percent more fat than McDonald's Big Mac. Chicken chunks, strips and "stix" have fewer calories than chicken sandwiches, but still carry a heavy load of fat.
The leanest chicken sandwich we found is Jack In The Box Chicken Fajita Pita for 292 calories and 8 grams of fat -- if you skip the guacamole.
- Be suspicious of specialty sandwiches -- Even non-fried sandwiches made with lean turkey or ham can be deceiving. Hardee's Turkey Club packs more calories and as much fat as McDonald's Quarter Pounder. General clues to keep in mind when deciding about this type of sandwich are its size and the amount of cheese, mayonnaise or special sauces.
- Order burgers plain and non-imposing -- You know you're headed for calories and fat if you order a burger billed "jumbo," "ultimate," "double" or "deluxe." You may have to search the menu board a bit, but all major franchises offer a plain hamburger for under 300 calories. At Hardee's and Roy Rogers, the roast beef sandwich is one of the leanest items you can order.
- Don't read too much into the hype about healthier fat -- Switching from animal to vegetable fats is one step to lowered dietary cholesterol and saturated fat. But it doesn't transform fried foods into healthy options. Large orders of McDonald's french fries (cooked in an animal/vegetable blend) and Hardee's french fries (cooked in vegetable oil) have about 20 grams of total fat. Hardee's fries have no cholesterol and a bit less saturated fat. But the key to your heart health is trimming total fat, and all fried fast foods still fail to do that.
- You make the call -- Fast food has come a long way since the days of only burgers, fries and shakes. More food options can make it easier for you to elude excess fat and calories for speed and convenience. Nevertheless, it all comes down to what you say when the person at the counter asks, "May I take your order?"
Here are the leanest and fattest fast foods you can eat
We* reviewed products offered at six popular fast-food franchises. In terms of fat and calories, here are the best and worst choices you can make:
|Burger King Chicken Tenders (6 pieces
|Hardee's Chicken Stix (6 pieces
|Jack In The Box Chicken Fajita Pita
|Roy Rogers Roast Beef Sandwich
|Wendy's Plain Single
|Burger King Whopper with Cheese
|Hardee's Bacon Cheeseburger
|Jack In The Box Ultimate Cheeseburger
|Roy Rogers Bar Burger
|Wendy's Bacon Swiss Burger
Note: Calories and fat are based on the most recent printed information provided to us by each company.
By Keith B. Wheeler, Ph.D. And Angeline M. Cameron
Q. Can age-group children (9 12 years old) become glycogen depleted? How can a parent detect glycogen depletion and what should be done to correct it?
A. Yes, just like their older counterparts, age-group swimmers can deplete, or significantly lower, the glycogen (carbohydrate) stores in their muscles. If the body's need for energy to support growth and training consistently exceeds the supply, the athlete will become chronically fatigued. This fatigue is due, in part, to an inadequate supply of glycogen in the active muscles. Until the physical demand is reduced (training is cut back) or the supply of dietary fuel (mainly carbohydrate) is increased, the athlete will continue to be fatigued.
Detection of glycogen depletion is not easy because the symptoms are similar to those elicited by other physiological problems. However, chronic tiredness and/or early fatigue in a swimmer's normal training or exercise routine are the most obvious signs of glycogen depletion.
If the young athlete wants to regain his or her normal endurance and cannot realistically reduce daily activity, an increase in daily calories, especially carbohydrate calories is a must. Meals and snacks containing high-carbohydrate foods, such as bagels, potatoes, pasta, and fresh fruit, should be consumed. Concentrated liquid carbohydrate supplements, such as EXCEED\ High Carbohydrate Source, are also very useful in this situation. Liquid supplements provide needed carbohydrate calories without providing the bulk that would be in an equivalent amount of solid food. Additional bulk may not be well tolerated during an aggressive training program.
Know the Scoop on Cereals.
For swimmers, cereal is great just about any time of the day. Competitive athletes are encouraged to choose nutrient dense cereals, which contain more of the right kinds of nutrients (carbohydrate, protein, vitamins, minerals) per serving than their "candy cereal" counterparts. More bang for the buck, so to speak.
Generally speaking, the best cereals are high-carbohydrate (>25 grams/serving), moderate-protein (5-10 grams/serving), low-fat (<5 grams/serving), and moderate-fiber (2-4 grams/serving). Most cereals on the market today, including "candy cereal," are fortified with vitamins and minerals, such that one serving usually provides 20-100% of a given vitamin or mineral. However, these values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, which is well below the energy requirements for most competitive swimmers in their teens and twenties.
Consider cereals in three categories: High Nutrient Density, Moderate Nutrient Density, and Low Density (aka "candy cereal"). Athletes looking for a good cereal but not a whole lot of calories, a Moderate Nutrient Density product is best. For those looking for density (i.e. lots more nutrients/calories in a smaller serving), then a High Nutrient Density cereal is the way to go. Swimmers looking for "candy cereal" should be encouraged to save this type of product for weekends and/or limited occasions. The following table offers a non-exhaustive list of cereals in each of the categories mentioned above:
|High Nutrient Density Cereals
>30 grams carb
>4 grams protein
<40% of carbohydrate is sugar
|Moderate Nutrient Density Cereals
20-30 grams carbohydrate
2-4 grams protein
<40% of carbohydrate is sugar
|Low Nutrient Density ("candy") Cereals
>40% of carbohydrate is sugar
|Quaker Toasted Oatmeal
Wheaties Energy Crunch
Raisin Nut Bran
Honey Nut Shredded Wheat
Cinnamon Toast Crunch
Source: USA Swimming,http://www.usaswimming.org/USASWeb/ViewMiscArticle.aspx?TabId=402&Alias=Rainbow&Lang=en&mid=635&ItemID=552
Nutrition Between Prelims And Finals
By Keith B. Wheeler, Ph.D. And Angeline M. Cameron
Question: In a preliminary/finals meet, an age group swimmer might finish the last preliminary event at 3 PM and return to the pool at 5 PM to warm up for the finals, which are at 6 PM. What would be the best nutrition for this swimmer?
Answer: The best nutrition for this swimmer depends on what the swimmer eats the morning of the competition. If he or she eats a large breakfast that contains at least 200 to 300 grams of carbohydrate, the swimmer will need mainly water and a small amount of carbohydrate, which can be provided by a fluid replacement and energy drink or fruit juice.
If he or she didn't each a high carbohydrate breakfast, the swimmer will need to eat carbohydrate after the 4 PM event to provide energy for the warm up and finals. The swimmer should eat an amount of carbohydrate, in grams, equal to 75% of his or her body weight within 15 minutes of the completion of the preliminary event and again 1 hour later. For example, a 100 pound swimmer should eat 75 grams (0.75 x 100 pounds) of carbohydrate by 4:15 PM and another 75 grams of carbohydrate at approximately 5 PM.
Liquid or solid forms of carbohydrate can be eaten: however, liquids are usually better tolerated and are more quickly digested. The amount of carbohydrate needed in the example above, 75 grams, is provided by 4 apples, 3 bananas, or 3 bagels.
By Sarah Knott, Splash, Nov/Dec, 2006
Swimmers may have heard of a "training diet," but many may not know exactly what one is.
A training diet is how an athlete modifies a diet for peak performance. Rob Skinner, the director of the Homer Ricer Center for Sports Performance and a sports dietician for Georgia Tech University in Atlanta, says, "There is no off season anymore."
When athletes come to him for advice on a training diet, he first looks at what part of the season they are in: non-competition, competition or taper. Swimmers, in particular, will be extremely mindful of a training diet during taper, very mindful of a training diet during competition, and a little more relaxed during non-competition periods.
Next, Skinner assesses how much energy an athlete uses in a day. Swimmers, who often practice twice a day, have more total energy (calories) needs than many athletes.
"I then create a meal plan based on their weight and energy needs," he says. "My first goal is to give them as much energy as they need. My second goal is to make sure they are doing what they need to recover, especially with endurance athletes."
Skinner says he bases his suggested training diet plans on calories per kilogram of body weight Successful training diets hinge on the right amount of quality carbs consumed. Fruits, vegetables, lean protein sources and milk (especially for female swimmers) support that cornerstone of carbs.
Skinner encourages coaches to invite local dieticians to talk to their team about training diets. He suggests researching trusted sources such as medical journals or credible athletic magazines for additional information on how best to implement a training diet. Pre-race meals should always be low-fat and high in carbohydrates. Fat slows down the absorption rate in your GI tract, which is not ideal. What you want is easily digestible carbohydrates so you body can use them for energy during the race. Depending on how much time you have between when you eat and the start of your first race, there are some general guidelines for the type and amount of carbohydrate to consume.
If you eat 3-4 hours before the start of your first race, you need 1.5 to 2 grams of carbohydrate per pound of bodyweight. For a 130-pound athlete, that is 195-260 grams of carbohydrate. You want low fat, low fat proteins and low fiber (fiber also slows digestion). Good sources are cereal, fruit, fruit juices, breads, bagels, yogurt, non-fat milk and preserves.
If you eat 2 hours before the start of your first race, the amount of carbohydrate needed is 1 gram per pound of bodyweight. Now our 130-pound athlete needs 130 grams of carbohydrate form low-fat, low-fiber sources of food. Good sources are again cereals, fruit, fruit juices, non-fat milk, yogurt and preserves.
If you eat 1 hour or less before the start of your first race, the amount of carbohydrate needed is .5 grams per pound of bodyweight. Our 130-pound athlete now needs 65 grams of carbohydrate. At this point, you need to emphasize liquid sources of carbohydrate and avoid protein, fat and fiber. Good sources are fruits and fruit juices.
Two A Day Swim Practices - When Should the Athlete Start?
By Paul Blair*, ASCA Level 5 Little Rock Racquet Club
When looking at the possibility of beginning two a day workouts for an athlete it is important to consider three things:
2. What events the athlete is training for
3. The goals of the athlete
Over the years some of the top sprinters in the world have not begun swimming until their mid-teens. With this in mind, two a day practices with some sprint athletes must be handled with great planning and understanding. Young sprinters can be overwhelmed with the workload of two a day practices and may be chased out of our sport.
On the other hand, distance swimmers who are interested in competing as distance swimmers must start two a day practices as soon as the individual athlete is ready. The age of 12 for males and maybe younger for some females is our guideline. Distance swimmers must develop a base level of aerobic conditioning which requires years of training. Distance swimming and training is an art just like sprinting.
The goals of the athlete are also important in determining the age to start two a day practices. Normally, swimmers who have the ability to swim fast want to begin two a day training sessions early on in their career.
Over the years, I have tried different combinations of two a day training. During the school year I have found the following schedule to be successful:
- Monday, Wednesday, Friday, from 5:00 am to 7:00 am.
- Saturday from 9 - 11 am.
- Afternoon workouts on Monday through Friday from 4 - 6 pm.
This schedule allows us to train at our maximum four days a week and rest the other three days a week.
The best two a day practice schedule is the one that enhances the development of the athlete.
The athlete needs to have fun and needs to want to achieve success.
This article is reprinted from the ASCA archives. Coach Blair passed on in 2006. He was recognized as one of the great sprint coaches and a great team builder. He developed John Hargis to an Olympic gold medal and his Arkansas Dolphins swim team won the men's national team title in 1989.
By Jim Rusnak, Splash Managing Editor
There's probably no stage of the season that swimmers look forward to more than tapering. For their coaches, however, there's probably no other stage of the season that's more challenging.
The concept of the taper seems simple enough - gradually reduce yardage to rest swimmers for optimal performance at their biggest meet of the season. The exact process, however, is not so simple and varies from program to program, swimmer to swimmer, based on a variety of factors, including the age, size and sex of the swimmer, the type of event the swimmer is training for, the amount of training each swimmer has done prior to the taper, and so on.
"Taper is the only thing in swimming that is totally individualistic," said Jon Urbanchek, head men's coach at the University of Michigan and coach of Olympic medalists Chris Thompson and Tom Malchow. "The rest of the season, all the top programs use pretty much the same type of training, but when you get to taper, it is so different.
"It is so much more than cutting down on yardage. It becomes very geared to the individual and is very hard to define. It's about the only time of the season when we really earn our money." About the worst thing a coach can do, Urbanchek says, is take another coach's taper and apply it directly set-by-set to his or her own program. "It's like being a professor in a class and having someone else write the final exam who never sat in on your class," he said.
With that said, Urbanchek and former Olympic coach Jack Nelson, the head coach of the Fort Lauderdale Swim Team, provided Splash with a few general guidelines that coaches might want to consider when designing their own taper.
- Communicate with your swimmers daily. Nelson suggests, among other things, simply asking each swimmer how he or she feels on a scale of 1 to 10, and working with their mind and body accordingly.
"Each swimmer has individual needs, as well as team-togetherness needs," Nelson said. "The swimmers must have complete trust in their coach and be willing to communicate on a daily basis. It is important for coaches to know their swimmers and make sure they communicate with you and know where you are coming from."
- Resist the urge to overwork your swimmers. "As you drop in yardage, you go up in speed," Nelson said. "The biggest mistake is to keep on proving how ready you are by proving it in practice. An old saying goes, 'Don't leave your race in the practice pool. I've always said, 'It takes guts to taper.' Stick with your plan."
- Don't neglect the mental preparation. At Michigan, Urbanchek and his swimmers visualize and sharpen different aspects of their race, such as starts, turns, pacing, breathing patterns, kicks, finishes and relay take-offs.
"It's like a rehearsal, so when you get up on the block, it's not the first time you are doing it," Urbanchek said. "You've done it so many times."
Nelson adds some inspirational Olympic tapes for his athletes to listen to while relaxing in their team room.
"They are already psyched up, so you have to choose the different moves you make according to where they seem to be physically and mentally," Nelson said.
- Stay cool. Taper can be a challenging time.
"The swimmers become more excited as they come down in yardage and tend to test the nerves of the coach," Nelson said, "So stay cool and have a nice, comfortable and great taper."
Teaching Technique - What We Know, What We Think We Know, and What We Do
By John Leonard
One of the more common questions that parents have, is when/how the coach teaches the technical aspects of swimming to the athletes. First of all, we know that swimming is a "technique limited" sport. Which means that without good technical strokes, starts and turns, effort and hard work will only carry you a very limited way.....the fact that water becomes more resistant as you go faster, means that perfect technique is rewarded and impaired technique is punished with less speed for more effort. This is age old wisdom that is accepted by all experienced coaches and athletes.
We think we know, that we can teach good technique. Coaches spend countless hours learning not only WHAT a swimmer should do, but HOW to teach them to do it. It appears, in non-scientific terms, that when coaches spend time teaching technique, technique improves. We hope that means there is a direct correlation between our teaching and the athletes learning. It's a reasonable belief.
Our friend Dr. K. Anders Ericsson at Florida State University, is the world's leading authority on "becoming an expert" in any domain. Part of his research, written about in popular literature, is that it requires 10,000 hours of dedicated practice (which he terms "Purposeful practice") in order to acquire "expert" status in any domain. Interestingly, if the ordinary swimmer begins practice at age 8 and follows a normal curve of increasing practice hours each year to age 17-18, they will have put in approximately 10,000 hours......which is a nice coincidence with the long held "truth" among coaches that it takes 10 years to "make a swimmer." Science meets experience right in the middle, and both are validated.
Now "purposeful practice" is time that is focused on specifics and exacting detail in performance. It has constant and realistic and expert feedback from the teacher, and feedback again from the athlete to the teacher. The entire effort is hard work, not much fun, and mentally focused and exhausting effort.
Is that what we do in swimming? Not for most of us. When swim coaches teach technique, it is typically "to the team" or a group of the team, almost never in a sustained 30-60 minute burst of one on one teaching. (essentially a private lesson.) My friend Guy Edson, who edits and distributes this newsletter, describes it as working to "get in the same neighborhood" as a good stroke, with most of his novice swimmers. Not necessarily in the right house, much less in the right chair in the living room....just getting in the neighborhood. Swim Teams, by their very nature, of being "A TEAM", do not allow much one on one teaching....or what Dr. Ericsson would call "deliberate, or purposeful practice."
Of course, years of successful age group swimming would tell us that we're being successful "somehow". Perhaps at certain ages, "getting in the neighborhood" of a great stroke is enough. As the child matures, additional purposeful practice gets the athlete more finely tuned, and eventually, if they are purposeful and studious enough to warrant a lot of one on one attention from a coach, they will have the opportunity to personalize that perfect stroke for them....deliberate and purposeful practice at its best.
To be successful in swimming, we need to not only learn, but also to improve our physical state...training. Both are needed for top performance at all ages. So those 10,000 hours of practice we put in may not all be "purposeful and directed learning", but many of them qualify as contributing to our eventual expertise.
The question for coaches? How to incorporate more of that deliberate and specific practice to improve strokes? And the question for parents and athletes? How to best apply the "training time" to swim the strokes in the patterns that have been taught by the coaches.....so they become habit and ingrained skill.
Improving the quality of our practices will improve the speed of our performances.
The Taper Chase
By T.J Liston
Many times senior swimmers get to the end of the season and look for great swims and great time drops due to the "Magic of The Taper." Often, swimmers expect these things to materialize because they have in the past, because other swimmers on the team have done well, because it is an important meet, or because they just want it to. But in reality, the reason why swimmers swim fast is because they have prepared to. Good performance is preceded by good preparation. To swim fast, swimmers must train hard and must swim fast in practice.
The coach lays out a season plan before the season even begins. The season is divided into several different training cycles. These macro cycles are then divided into smaller mini cycles. These all add up to a season's training. Each mini cycle must be swum with effort and focus or a key part of the swimmer's training will be missed. Each cycle is in itself very important and each mini cycle sets up and enhances the next training cycle. The successful athlete approaches each cycle with great effort and focus realizing that every cycle, indeed every practice, is dependent upon the one before it.
As coaches, we are often able to detect strengths and weaknesses in an individual's training by how well they are able to hold on to a taper or by their endurance and ability to go from one race to the next with equal success. To perform well, it is important that early season training is successfully challenged. To put together smart races and have good splits, the successful athlete will need a strong and focused middle part of the season. Good fine tuning in later cycles will help the swimmers set up their races correctly and have the necessary speed to race. Every cycle in a season is important to the success of the next cycle. Successfully challenging and completing each cycle helps swimmers perform faster and to be able to meet the demands of even more challenging sets at practice. Swimmers who are able to perform during physically demanding practices, the ones whose repeats hurt, are the swimmers who are preparing for success at the end of the season.
We establish guidelines for what we expect and want at practices for each cycle. We may make some minor adjustments to intervals and sets, but we don't make changes to the performance parameters of the cycle's focus. Many times we use key individuals as markers to determine the effects of the overall training. These individuals are the ones that best represent the work offered and the groups' expectations and abilities. These swimmers have near perfect attendance and have fulfilled the challenges of the workouts we have given. These athletes understand that the training curve is well ahead of the performance curve, and that practice efforts from weeks before the championship meet are impacting the swimmer's ability to race. The season's results are dependent on the season's efforts. The taper will highlight the work done during the season, and the swimmer whose efforts and attendance have been consistent is usually the swimmer who performs well at the championship meet.
So, before swimmers expect "Taper Magic," it is important that they put in the work during the early months of training and all the way through the season. Their attendance needs to be as near to perfect as health allows. Their efforts and focus have to be 100% every day. They have to eat, sleep, and hydrate properly throughout the season and all the way through their big meet. They should not gain weight on their taper. They should not use up all their extra energy that begins to emerge as they are tapering by staying up late, spending all day playing in the sun, etc.. What they do away from the pool is as important as what is happening at practices. Rest, rest, and more rest are in order. Save up that energy. Save it for racing. Successful swimming is not magic. Successful swimming is part of the plan.
Training Aids:Legitimate Tools Or Frivolous Fads?
If you talk to parents of swimmers from other teams, if you read swim publications, or if you watch swimmers during warm ups at swim meets, you will notice a variety of training aids that swimmers lug around. Let's see, there are kick boards in every size and shape imaginable; there are tire tubes; there are paddles -- boy are there paddles!, round ones, rectangular ones, contoured ones, ones with holes, incredibly large ones, ones that cover the forearms, ones that inflate around the whole lower arm, etc, etc.; there are webbed gloves made out of lycra or latex rubber; there are fins - standard department store types, expensive scuba shop types, short stubby ones, monofins, and fins cut in a variety of shapes; there are ankle weights, wrist weights, and even head weights; there are fiberglass rods velcroed to the legs; there are suits with pockets in them; there are plain old sneakers used on kick sets; there are plain old t-shirts; there are plain old, really old, swim suits - two or three or four worn at the same time; there is tubing; there are stretch cords; there are short pull buoys, long pull buoys, and pull buoys that can be filled with water; and on and on and on.
When you notice a 10 year old star swimmer from another team lugging around a training bag with surgical tubing exploding from the torn end of the bag, you ask, "Could this be the reason she always wins?" Do you want to go out and buy surgical tubing for your young swimmer?
Or, between long course and short course season you are contemplating your child's swimming successes and short comings of the past season while you read an ad about a "revolutionary new" buoyancy device. Do you want to equip your child with it in time for the start of the season?
Who invents these things? What things really work and what things are commercial contrivances of questionable value? Can some of these devices do more harm than good? Should your child use some of these devices?
Most training aids are invented by coaches. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of training aids invented by coaches but only a few make it to commercial production. Most coaches do not invent a training aid for the profit potential but rather they are invented for the sake of improving an individual's or team's strength, speed, endurance, and/or technique.
Many coaches would add that training aids can do more than improve strength, endurance, and/or technique. They also add variety to a workout and help motivate swimmers.
What things really work? There are very few published independent studies done on specific training aids to test their effectiveness in speed, strength, endurance, or technique enhancing qualities. (Actually, I could not find any published independent studies -- but there might be some out there.)
But good coaches do not need studies to know that some things really do work. Most coaches use kickboards. Most coaches use pull buoys. Many coaches, but I'm not sure most coaches, use paddles. Same for fins. Fewer coaches use surgical tubing. Almost all coaches try nearly every training aid at least once but almost no one uses all the training aids all the time.
So what things really work? The answer is: most training aids, whether commercially produced or coach/home made, are effective to some degree when the coach and swimmer properly use them with respect to the developmental age of the swimmer, the psychological needs of the swimmer, the appropriate time during workout, and the appropriate time during the season. The answer also is: no training aid will work if not used properly.
Can some of these devices do more harm than good? The answer is a definite yes. No training aid is safe when improperly used. Most training aids are designed to increase resistance or to increase training speed. Excessive workloads with training aids can lead to overuse syndromes and injuries especially in younger children not physically mature.
Should your child use some of these devices? Who decides IF they should use training aids and if so, which aids to use? Questions like these are the reasons you and your Board of Directors hire a qualified professional coach. The coach makes these decisions based upon his or her experience and coaching education. If your coach is having your child use a training aid and you are concerned that use of that training aid may cause an injury, then speak directly to the coach about the extent and intensity of use for that training aid. If your coach is not using various training aids that you've seen or heard about and you are curious about, then once again speak with the coach.
When speaking with the coach keep these things in mind:
- Approach the coach after practice or during office hours quietly and sincerely with an attitude of "Could you help me understand...". Many of the communication problems between coach and parent arise from abrupt challenges to coaches judgment calls.
- Coaches have selected favorite training aids and don't like to be told they should be using additional or different methods. There is more than one way to accomplish a desired training effect and it is the coaches area of responsibility and authority to select that method.
- There is a limited amount of workout time in the water and a coach must make decisions about the type of training aids to use and the amount of work using training aids. These things must fit in with an overall daily, weekly, and seasonal workout plan.
- Smart coaches are not quick to jump on the bandwagon when a revolutionary new training device comes along. They want to speak with other coaches, observe its use, perhaps try it themselves, begin using it on a limited trial basis, and evaluate its effectiveness before using it on a regular basis with the whole team.
- One of the great strengths of American Swimming is in the diversity of approaches coaches use to develop young swimmers. From this diversity comes great new ideas. Your coach may be a future Olympic coach and her use, limited use, or lack of use of a training device is her special approach to training your young swimmer.
- Many training aids are not designed for young age groupers to use. Coaches like to introduce various training aids in a progression following the swimmer's developmental age and ability to handle greater workloads.
- Some training aids have a dual purpose, they can be used at low resistance for stroke development, and they can be used at high intensity for speed, strength, and endurance development. A coach may use this type of training aid primarily for skill development with younger ages and gradually use it for more intense work as the swimmer grows.
- Motivation is a large factor in the use of training aids. If a swimmer gets to use all the "toys" at an early age they will become bored in years to come as they keep using the same "toys". Smart coaches use this as a reason for the gradual introduction of training aids.
These are not easy issues for coaches, athletes, and parents. Questions about "how much", "how hard", and "what type" are part of the sport. Coaches will make decisions based on firsthand experience, information from other coaches, and published reports. Whatever the decisions are, one thing stands out, there are no quick answers and no short cuts. A new super duper revolutionary training aid will not transform your age group swimmer into a superstar. And even if there was such a thing, what would it mean? In age group swimming we want steady growth, a sound aerobic base, excellent stroke development, and an appreciation for the relationship between day to day effort and the realization of goals.
Training Versus Learning
By John Leonard
Last week I was speaking to a young coach who had just taken a new job.
His specific problem was that the coach that was there before he was, had everyone "training hard" and had done a great job of selling that concept. Everyone from 8 and unders to seniors was pounding the yardage daily.
The new coach wanted to spend 6 weeks or so concentrating on skills development, because in the first few days on the job, he noticed that many of the swimmers were deficient in the types of stroke, turn and start skills that would support them as they aged into older swimmers in the program.
He'd laid out that plan to his parent group, including cutting back practices from 2 and one half hours per day to just 90 minutes for the older swimmers and 60 minutes for the middle groups and 45 minutes for the youngest swimmers. This, consistent with today's best advice to dedicate oneself to "purposeful practice" of new skills if you hoped for optimum learning....shorter periods of intense concentration, with little to interfere with the concentration process.
He immediately faced rebellion.
Moms and a few Dads, called him to complain that important swim meets were coming up and their little darling needed to "train" in order to be successful. Interestingly, more than 70% of the calls came from the parents of younger children. The coach asked my advice on how to educate the parents on this issue.
Here's my answer.
"Long practices, with high training volumes will make all swimmers VERY good at what they are doing. Repetition builds habit. Habit stands up beautifully under the pressure of competition...when in fact, nothing else does....as the pain of competition effort removes all traces of thought from the brain.....it becomes habit that the swimmer relies upon to get him home to the finish.
"Unfortunately, if they are practicing poor technique, that will be learned and habituated, just as well as good technique. And poor technique makes you biomechanically inefficient at the time of greatest stress. Hence you struggle more, go slower and your stroke collapses at the end of races.
"This makes swimming a technique limited sport. Your child will be severely limited by the degree with which they can perform the strokes with good habits, instead of poor habits.
"Lots of training with poor habits will make a very poor swimmer. A little training with good habits, will result in a good swimmer and one that is "unlimited" in their future.
"Which one do you want for your child?
HINT: Get the strokes right FIRST instead of purposefully practicing mistakes.
All the Best for Great Swimming Experiences!
Watching Your Child at Swim Practice
By Guy Edson
For many years I watched my daughter swim under the direction of other coaches. I have also watched her at basketball practice and games, and dance, and figure skating. I know the joy of watching her in these activities. I also know and understand the overwhelming desire to direct, correct, encourage, and sometimes scold her at practice. But these are not proper parental behaviors once I have released her into the care of a coach or teacher. As a parent, I am not to interfere with the practice or attempt to talk to my child during the practice session.
At swim practice coaches want the children's attention focused on the coach and the tasks at hand. Occasionally children miss an instruction, or have a goggle problem, or are involved in some other distraction, or are simply playing and having fun - which are all normal behaviors for young children. Coaches view these little difficulties as opportunities for the children to develop good listening skills, ability to reason, and self discipline. Sometimes we allow failure on purpose -- a missed instruction leaving the child confused often results in the child learning to pay better attention the next time. We endeavor to provide an environment for the children to develop these skills. A well-intentioned and over-enthusiastic mom or dad sometimes has difficulty allowing their child to miss something and wants to interfere. It's understandable.
We know it is common in many other youth sports for parents to stand at the sidelines and shout instructions or encouragements and sometimes admonishments to their children. However, at swim practice coaches ask parents not to signal them to swim faster, or to tell them to try a certain technique, or to offer to fix a goggle problem, or to move away from some other "menacing" swimmer, or even to remind them to listen to the coach. In fact, just as you would never interrupt a school classroom to talk your child, you should not interrupt a swim practice by attempting to communicate directly with your child.
What's wrong with encouraging your child during practice? There are two issues. First we want your 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 and swimming faster may be the exact opposite of what the coach is trying to accomplish. In most stroke skill development practices we first slow the swimmers down so that they can think through the stroke motions. Save encouragements and praise for after the practice session! This is the time when you have your child's full attention to tell them how proud you are of them.
What's wrong with shouting or signaling instructions to your children? When I watched my old daughter play in a basketball league I felt an overwhelming desire to shout instructions to my child and so I understand the feelings that most parents have. But those instructions might be different from the coach's instructions and then you end up with a confused child. Sometimes you might think the child did not hear the coach's instruction and you want to help. Most of us do not want to see our own kids make a mistake. 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.
As parents, many of us want our children protected from discomfort and adversity and we will attempt to create or place them in an environment free from distress. So, what's wrong with helping your child fix their goggles during practice time? Quite simply, we want to encourage the children to become self-reliant and learn to take care of and be responsible for themselves and their own equipment. Swimming practice is a terrific place to learn these life skills. Yes, even beginning at age 6 or 7.
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 water. If you need to speak to the coach for other reasons please wait until the end of practice.
Thanks for bringing your children to swim practice. Every swim coach I know coaches each child with care for their safety and concern for their social, physical, learning skills, and life skills development.
Dealing With Adversity:
The Swim Coach: