This section will address many of the miscellaneous issues and questions parents and swimmers have had over the years that may not get answered if they weren't brought up to a staff member or administrator. Since it is a brand new addition to the site, it will be a work-in-progress while we develop categories and accumulate topics of interest. We ask that members feel free to share their experiences to this section by mentioning issues to Coach Paul or Liz. Whether you are brand new to the program and the sport or a veteran of many swimmers and seasons, everyone has some questions they'd like answered so they can enjoy and understand the whole Flyers experience!
Why hasn't my swimmer been moved up to the next group? What do they need to do to be moved up? My child is faster than all the others in his group so why is he still in this group?
First and foremost, the swimmer must demonstrate the ability to stay "comfortable" while performing all swims and drills. This is something we look for in tryouts. Being very tense and tight in the water results from having little technique, which also reinforces fear and no confidence, besides adding to fatigue very quickly. We can't have swimmers concerned more about making it to the other end of the pool rather than feeling a correct movement or placement as a drill is supposed to be done. The coach starts the swimmers practicing relaxing body positions and smaller movements that offer less resistance so that they don't need to be concerned about just "making it."
The other issue is speed. Some swimmers just want to be the first one finished and then they feel they must be the best. If all you want to do is go fast, this isn't the program for you. You'll naturally go faster after you learn the right skills. There is no other activity or sport where the participant is attempting to perform specific movements surrounded by a mass, being liquid. If those movements are not precise and in rythem, and with a body position of optimal streamline, the swimmer will be slowed and expend unnecessary energy. When we tire our movements become eroded and sloppy, to the point of mental fatigue. The coach will emphasize and reiterate that all drills of specific skills must be done deliberately and slowly in order to individualize and feel the desired movement. What we are trying to achieve, ultimately, is for the swimmer to realize EFFICIENCY with every movement. Not resistence, drag, feeling uncomfortable, or even speed initially. Take a stoke and a kick and feel as much relaxed movement through the water as possible. Imagine taking as few full strokes as possible for a length of the pool and not even breathing hard at the end. Now do it for twenty lengths!
We want to develop efficient and well-skilled swimmers, in all strokes and in all aspects of competitive swimming. It takes time, concentration, and practice. The plan and work is methodical and repetitive. As the swimmer becomes more efficient, they can swim longer which allows for better opportunity to "feel" drills and correct movements and make positive adjustments. Your child will move up to the next group when they can demonstrate EFFICIENCY, thus have the ability to take on longer and more challenging swims without struggling to make it rather than constantly improving.
We encourage parents to talk to the coaches before or after practices and ask questions about their swimmer's development. Certainly, the more you know the more you can support your swimmer and follow their progress.
My child isn't very competitive. Does she have to go to swim meets?
The Flyers mission is to offer opportunity and experience, and develop competitive swimming skills. Although we will encourage our swimmers to experience competition when they feel confident in their skills, it is not a requirement of membership. In fact, on average, just half of the swimmers during a season will regularly compete in swim meets. Normally, announcements are made about upcoming meets with informational sheets available for interested swimmers and members can choose to participate by submitting pre-printed entry forms. Many of our swimmers simply enjoy coming to practices and activities, learning to swim better, and having fun with friends.
During the fall/winter seasons there is a requirement that swimmers wishing to participate in either of two district championship meets in March must have competed in a minimum of two regular USA Swimming invitational meets during the season.
In most swim meets, automatic electronic timing systems are connected to computer programs that create compatible races of submitted times for each event. Thus, swimmers will be competing against other swimmers with similar times and abilities. When announcing meets we often emphasize the importance of submitting entry forms containing correct race tmes for the swimmer so that they are placed with similar swimmers. We encourage all of our swimmers and parents to start and maintain a swimmer's log book of race times for all of the events they swim, starting with our intra-squad meets. Swimmers can also go to their coaches any time and request to be timed for a distance and stroke so that they can use it as an entry time for a swim meet. The personal log books also help the swimmer follow their progress, learn different times for different strokes, and develop personal short-term and long-term goals. The Flyers club often has log books for sale, or swimmers can make their own.
What happens at a swim meet?
A typical USA Swimming invitational swim meet attracts 10-15 teams and 300 swimmers covering all the age groups from 8-and-unders to 15-18. The meet is normally broken up into two 4-hour sessions with each session containing certain age groups. When arriving at a meet, look around. Find locker rooms, the pool, where spectators sit, the concession stand. Sometimes there is a "campout" area, perhaps in a nearby gym or large room, where families can place chairs and blankets to rest during events. Parents should purchase a meet program which will list all of the races, heats, and lanes with swimmers' names. Highlight all of the Flyers names so you know when to cheer, and use a marker to write your swimmer's event, heat, and lane numbers on the back of their hand so they know when and where to go to the starting blocks for their race. This should be done BEFORE they come out on deck to see their team and coach. This is the swimmer's responsibility, not the coach's. The coach will pick a spot on deck for the swimmers to meet before the designated warm-up time. Once the swimmer gets changed in the locker room, they should come out on deck and look for the coach. They should not bring their whole swim bag on deck, just a towel, cap, goggles, footwear, and warmups if they are wearing any. It's recommended they wear footwear, and they should have some type of clothing to keep them warm between races. The swimmers can leave the deck and see their family, but we like for the swimmers to spend as much time as possible with their teammates and coach on deck during the meet.
The team will do a warm-up swim before the races begin under the direction of the coach. Once the races begin, it is the swimmer's responsibility to be aware of when their race is about to begin. This is why they should be on deck because the coach looks for the swimmers a couple of events prior to their race and reminds them to get ready and may offer reminders about their swimming. When the swimmer goes up to the starting blocks for their race, there may be lots of other kids at the starting end of the pool. It's important for the swimmer to go directly to their assigned lane and ask the other swimmers standing behind that block what their heat number is so that they get in the right order. Once they are nearer their time to race, they should tell one of the adult timers at their block their name (if they haven't been asked already) so their name can be checked off. We have had swimmers think they are in the right lane or the parent wrote the wrong lane on their hand and because they didn't bother to tell the adult at the block who they were, they missed their race. The referee will not hold up the race if someone doesn't show up at their assigned block! If the swimmer makes sure he or she is in the right lane BEFORE their heat is called up on the block, they can be directed to the right lane if it was initially wrong.
Normally, USA meets use "flyover starts," which allows the meet to run faster. When a heat or race is finished, the swimmers in that heat simply stay in the water and press themselves against the finish wall while the next race of swimmers are called to the blocks and started and those swimmers dive in, over the kids that just finished. Then, the last race can get out of the water. After their race, we ask that our swimmers walk back to their coach and teammates for high-fives and so the coach can go over anything they saw in their race, then, the swimmer can go see family members.
A beginner's first meet is scary, confusing, and long. As much as parents want to be there at every step of the way, it's important that they allow the swimmer to be with, and follow their teammates, and allow the coach to take care of them. It's ok to remind the coach that it is the swimmer's first meet and both of you are very nervous. The coach will pay special attention to them and reinforce procedures and will probably take them by the hand and lead them to where they are supposed to be. (Parents are not allowed on deck during a meet unless they are timing.) And, the coach will remind them that they can leave the deck to see their family.
Some meets have relay races at the end of each session. The coaches will create the team relays from the swimmers who have entered and the names will be posted on the Flyers bulletin board before the day of the meet. We must have at least four swimmers attending in the specific age groups that have relay events. All swimmers should check to see if they are on a relay so they are aware they would need to stay after they finish all of their individual events. Relays are normally formed from using the four fastest times of the swimmers attending.
We encourage our swimmers to enjoy themselves, relax, and have fun with their teammates. Take in all of the excitement and swim their best. We want our swimmers to have goals of improvement, whether it's beating their best time, doing a challenging event for the first time, or simply doing good turns. There will be disappointments and disqualifications - all opportunities to learn and improve. As much as some may care about winning a ribbon or beating everyone else in their race, this is not what we strive for. Those winning moments will come, but we strive to make other moments just as important and just as exciting. We have seen those defining moments in every swimmer's career - Coach Paul calls them "transformation" moments - when a swimmer goes from beginner/recreation swimming to competitor. We see the determination, the effort, the focus to do the best they can, from start to finish. They'll swim that perfect race, doing all of those things we've been working on in practices. It'll all come together, and despite what place they finish, they have come a long way by their own effort. It's always a work-in-progress, and it takes time, But, when it comes, the swimmer knows it and the coach sees it, and it's a great feeling of accomplishment and success, and getting a ribbon has nothing to do with it. We want our swimmers to swim for accomplishments. All the little things add up. We don't want the kids to care about where they placed and we don't want parents to make that a priority. Results of races are normally posted on walls for everyone to see, and, we will have copies of Flyers results at Liz's table at practice after each meet so that times can be recorded in swimmers' log books. We are a teaching and developmental program. Our expectations have nothing to do with trophies and awards. WE MAKE EXCELLENT SWIMMERS! If any of them have natural talent and strength to go along with the skills they've learned and practiced, then let their accolades fall into place. During a season in the past, a family decided to stop swimming and leave the program because their children were consistently finishing in the bottom portion of their race results. We don't want swimmers and parents to compare themselves to others. Let's concentrate on what we need to do to be better swimmers, and along the way, let's enjoy the experiences together without worrying about everybody else! Remember the moments of small accomplishments, and there will be that moment of "transition!"
TEAM APPAREL & EQUIPMENT
Do we have to purchase team suits or other clothing or equipment?
We make recommendations, not requirements. No, members do not have to buy any team apparel or equipment. We do place team orders for bathing suits, team shirts, swim fins, and hand paddles. We've also ordered swim bags, sweat suits, and towels in the past. We also have on hand, for sale, team bathing caps and goggles. New swimmers somtimes come to tryouts with cut-off shorts and two-piece suits. We do recommend that boys have, at the very least, swim trunks that tie, and girls wear a one-piece suit. Girls should also tie their hair back if they don't wear a bathing cap. All swimmers should have swim goggles, and not swim masks. The suits should be tight-fitting so they don't fill with water or are too baggy where the swimmer is constantly adjusting it while they swim. We actually offer two different kinds of suits - a basic one-piece for girls and a jammer-type for the boys, both with our team logo. The other is a higher-tech suit for those who intend to compete on a regular basis - it's made of a fabric that lets the water slip off, and it's tighter. Parents, remember not to buy a suit your child will "grow into." For a swimmer on a team, and especially for competition, a suit should be snug, so be prepared to buy one each year. We do like to see some uniformity at a swim meet, as many other teams have, if not with suits, then with our team caps. We don't require the swimmers to wear caps, but a cap does make a difference in races, especially for those kids with a fair amount of hair. With experience, you'll see that most swimmers at swim meets wear caps.
As far as other equipment, we do recommend swimmers purchase their own training fins that we order as a team in the winter. All of our groups use fins in practices, otherwise swimmers will need to wear regular swim fins provided by the school. The regular fins are large and are for recreational use, not for competitive training. The training fins we've chosen are smaller and they allow the swimmer to kick at a required faster pace without interrupting drills or strokes, and there will be less chance the kids will develop leg and foot cramps. The larger fins will overload swimmers' legs for the amount of swimming they'll do. Hand paddles are recommended more for the Red & Gold groups to develop a feel for the pull and build arm strength. The White swimmers will not be using paddles, while the Blue group may use them infrequently. The school does have a few available.