Parent's Corner

What is Talent - John Leonard
This question has been asked as long as sport/athletics have existed. It's a fine and engrossing mystery. Here is my "best explanation," I hope it will help parents think about this.

The Australian Hall of Fame Coach Bill Sweetenham has offered the best description I have ever heard: "It's the fast responders." (Brevity does matter!)

Now, what does it mean? When an athlete is "stimulated" by an increased amount of workload demanded, they respond (or IMPROVE) the fastest of the group. What can constitute that stimulation? Any number of things:

1. More training hours per week, month, (or day!)
2. More VOLUME of training. Swimming more. (once they have good strokes)
3. More INTENSITY of training. Swimming faster per unit of time in practice.
4. More strength training out of the water.
5. More strength training in the water...cords or buckets.
6. Training with FASTER friends/competitors.
7. Training more days per week.
8. Training two practices per day.
and about 1,000 other "stimulation."

The point is, when an athlete is stimulated, there is a period of adaptation for everyone using resulting in some fatigue, etc. This can last for minutes, hours, days, weeks. Then comes improvement. How SOON and how FAST and dramatic that improvement is, shows the "talent" level of the athlete. Fast ADAPTATION to the new stress in a positive way.

Lots of times we don't see "talent" until a certain level of "work" has been achieved. Then its an eye opener and a "WOW" moment! Quite exciting. First, though, EVERYONE needs to learn good strokes because if you take too many BAD strokes, its close to impossible to reverse. First we LEARN, then we TRAIN.  All the best, JL


Every Swim Meet is the Olympics If You Haven't Been There Before - John Leonard
Axiomatic in coaching is the idea that at your "first Olympics" you are likely to not deo very well because of the "wow, this is the OLYMPICS!" factor. Otherwise, known as the deer in the headlights look. You know what it looks like. You've all been there.

What is less obvious, but equally true is that any level of swim meet that you have not been to before, leads to the same syndrome...you are in awe of the entire experience, it seems overwhelming, confusing, and difficult just to get to the starting blocks and you totally and completely forget everything you have learned...survival becomes the ONLY goal.

This is true at the FIRST swim meet you attend in your career, the first "A" level meet, the first Junior Olympic Level meet, the first Regional or Sectional Level meet, the first Junior National level meet, the first SENIOR national meet, the first Olympic Trials and yes, your first Olympics.
It will also be true in your first interview for college, job interview, first date, etc. etc. etc.

Its just human nateure. First experiences are a challenge. Conversely, time in place and opportunities to repeat the experience reduce the WOW factor, you focus on the important things, and you "remember how you got here" and actually can perform well.

Incidentally, Mom and Dad's first swim meet with a child is EQUALLY difficult as you don't know what to expect, what you are expected to DO (which is sit and relax) and "how to support my child" (which is called "let them figure it out for themselves.") Mistakes will be made. Chill.
That's the learning process in action. No one, not coaches, parents or swimmers should get too nervous, much less freak out, by the experience of the swim meet. IT IS JUST A SWIM MEET!

In the overall swimming experience it's a tiny little thing, to test what you have learned in practice, that's all. Its NOT an indication of a child's life success skills, nor of your parenting, nor really of teh coaching your child receives. The first meet (or two or three) is all about learning to enjoy the experience and learn to ignore distractions and FOCUS. Some people get it in two swim meets, some in 20 swim meets. Eventually, everyone involved learns to relax and focus.

The coach will speak with your child before their events, assuming the child remembers to come talk to the coach. (again, LET THE CHILD DO IT, they don't need escorts.) Most children remember 1 tenth of 1 percent of what the coach said for their first race. Chill. After 10-15 races, the child will learn to listen and follow directions. Revisit "mistakes will be made."

If you want to interact with your child about their races, DON't. If you can't help yourself, the best comment is "what did your coach say abuot your race?" If the answer is non-existant, it means the child either A) Can't remember, in which case you might tell your coach that next time you see them and remember... or B) they don't want to talk to their parent about the feedback. If that's the case, respect that. The smart child talks to the parent about life and their coach about swimming items. If your child is that smarat, REJOICE!

What happens over time? As we all become "familiar" with things, set our routines, and relax, we learn to focus on "why we came to the meet" and test what we have been learning in practice.

And as in the famous movie Hoosiers, when the coach asks "how high is the rim?" in this fancy gym..."ten feet"... and how high is the rim in our dinkie gym at home? "ten feet" the venue soon loses its Awe factor and the athlete becomes more "at home" and comfortable.
Also, remember, when you DO want great performances, go to the meet FIRST to experience and acclimatize and "get used to it," then when its your turn to compete, you're close to "ready."

And yes, that's a life lesson.
All the Best and THANK YOU for sharing your children's maturation experiences with us at coaches. - John Leonard
published in American Swimming Magazine, 2019 Edition, Issue 2


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