Just like your swimmers need to continually advance their understanding of the sport, parents also need to expand both their knowledge of the sport and how to interact with their children in the athletic environment.  Swimming, and athletics in general, can be one of the most rewarding activites that children and parents are involved in together.  It can also be one of the most damaging if both swimmer and parent don't go about it the right way.  Below are some articles that give information on how to grow and nurture the sport for your swimmer as well as yourself.  You can also check out USA Swimming's parent education page, which has articles on nutrition, parent-coach interaction, injury prevention, etc.

Do's and Don'ts For Sports Parents

Questions Parents Ask Part I: Training and Workout

Questions Parents Ask Part II: Training and Workout

Shoulder Injury Prevention

Energy Needs of the Growing Swimmer

What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents




Do for Yourself:

  • Get vicarious pleasure from your children's participation, but do not become overly ego-involved.
  • Try to enjoy yourself at competitions. Your unhappiness can cause your child to feel guilty.
  • Look relaxed, calm, positive and energized when watching your child compete. Your attitude influences how your child feels and performs.
  • Have a life of your own outside of your child's sports participation.  

Do with Other Parents:

  • Make friends with other parents at events. Socializing can make the event more fun for you.
  • Volunteer as much as you can. Youth sports depend upon the time and energy of involved parents.
  • Police your own ranks: Work with other parents to ensure that all parents behave appropriately at practices and competitions.  

Do with Coaches:

  • Leave the coaching to the coaches.
  • Give them any support they need to help them do their jobs better.
  • Communicate with them about your child. You can learn about your child from each other.
  • Inform them of relevant issues at home that might affect your child at practice.
  • Inquire about the progress of your children. You have a right to know.
  • Make the coaches your allies. 

Do for your Children:

  • Provide guidance for your children, but do not force or pressure them.
  • Assist them in setting realistic goals for participation.
  • Emphasize fun, skill development and other benefits of sports participation, e.g., cooperation, competition, self-discipline, commitment.
  • Show interest in their participation: help them get to practice, attend competitions, ask questions.
  • Provide a healthy perspective to help children understand success and failure.
  • Emphasize and reward effort rather than results.
  • Intervene if your child's behavior is unacceptable during practice or competitions.
  • Understand that your child may need a break from sports occasionally.
  • Give your child some space when need. Part of sports participation involves them figuring things out for themselves.
  • Keep a sense of humor. If you are having fun and laughing, so will your child
  • Provide regular encouragement.
  • Be a healthy role model for your child by being positive and relaxed at competitions and by having balance in your life.
    WIN OR LOSE!!! 

Don’t for Yourself:

  • Base your self-esteem and ego on the success of your child's sports participation.
  • Care too much about how your child performs.
  • Lose perspective about the importance of your child's sports participation.  

Don’t with Other Parents:

  • Make enemies of other parents.
  • Talk about others in the sports community. Talk to them. It is more constructive. 

Don’t with Coaches:

  • Interfere with their coaching during practice or competitions.
  • Work at cross purposes with them. Make sure you agree philosophically and practically on why your child is playing sports and what he or she may get out of sports. 

Don’t with Your Children

  • Expect your children to get anything more from their sports than a good time, physical fitness, mastery and love of a lifetime sport and transferable life skills.
  • Ignore your child's bad behavior in practice or competitions.
  • Ask the child to talk with you immediately after a competition.
  • Show negative emotions while watching them perform.
  • Make your child feel guilty for the time, energy and money you are spending and the sacrifices you are making.
  • Think of your child's sports participation as an investment for which you expect a return.
  • Live out your own dreams through your child's sports participation.
  • Compare your child's progress with that of other children.
  • Badger, harass, use sarcasm, threaten or use fear to motivate your child. It only demeans them and causes them to dislike you.
  • Expect anything from your child except their best effort.


You can help your child become a strong competitor by...

  • Emphasizing and rewarding effort rather than outcome.
  • Understanding that your child may need a break from sports occasionally.
  • Encouraging and guiding your child, not forcing or pressuring them to compete.
  • Emphasizing the importance of learning and transferring life skills such as hard work,
  • Self-discipline, teamwork, and commitment.
  • Emphasizing the importance of having fun, learning new skills, and developing skills. 
  • Showing interest in their participation in sports, asking questions.
  • Giving your child some space when needed. Allow children to figure things out for themselves.
  • Keeping a sense of humor. If you are having fun, so will your child.
  • Giving unconditional love and support to your child, regardless of the outcome of the day's competition.
  • Enjoying yourself at competitions. Make friends with other parents, socialize, and have fun.
  • Looking relaxed, calm, and positive when watching your child compete.
  • Realizing that your attitude and behaviors influences your child's performance.
  • Having a balanced life of your own outside sports. 


Don’t ...

  • Think of your child's sport participation as an investment for which you want a return.
  • Live out your dreams through your child.
  • Do anything that will cause your child to be embarrassed.
  • Feel that you need to motivate your child. This is the child's and coach's responsibility.
  • Ignore your child's behavior when it is inappropriate, deal with it constructively so that it does not happen again.
  • Compare your child's performance to that of other children.
  • Show negative emotions while you are watching your child at a competition.
  • Expect your child to talk with you when they are upset. Give them some time.
  • Base your self-esteem on the success of your child's sport participation.
  • Care too much about how your child performs.
  • Make enemies with other children's parents or the coach.
  • Interfere, in any way, with coaching during competition or practice.
  • Try to coach your child. Leave this to the coach. 


About the Author:

Michael A. Taylor an Instructor for the Stanford

University based Positive Coaching Alliance, a long-time member of the United States Elite Coaches Association and a former gym owner.


1. Sometimes my child doesn’t want to go to practice. He wants to play with his friends. Should I force him to go?


You should not force your child; you want his participation to be his decision. Reinforce the choices and decisions he has made to start his sport. For example, your son chose to go to practice on Tuesday and Thursdays, on other days he has the freedom to do other activities. As a parent, explain your expectation that he fulfill the commitment he made by joining the team. You don't want to force your child into a sport that he does not enjoy, yet you want your child to be involved in a 'lifetime sport', to learn about making and keeping a commitment and to interact with peers So, what are you to do?


Instead of allowing your child to make a daily decision about going to practice, allow him to decide whether or not he wants to participate for the season. Once the decision is made to participate, he is making a commitment to the team and needs to follow through on it by attending practice on a regular basis. A haphazard schedule is detrimental to the athlete’s overall development.


Interestingly, when asked to reflect on the role of their parents in their swimming, athletes from a recent USA Swimming World Championship team talked about being pushed to swim by their parents on a weekly basis but knowing they could quit if they stopped having fun with swimming.


2. My child has a lot of interests and activities so he only attends about half of his practices. What will happen to his competition results?


Children involved in other activities can benefit in the areas of coordination and balance, as well as improved social and intellectual development. Specialized training in one activity does not necessarily need to take place at this stage of development. Will your son’s teammate who makes all practices have better results? Probably he will because his teammate is working solely on developing one sport skills. It is up to you to explain to your child that making the choice to participate in other activities can have its consequences. Tell your son that he should not compare his results to that of his teammate, but to focus on the fact that he is benefiting from and enjoying other sports.


3. It looks like my child is having a lot of fun at practice. Shouldn’t she be working harder?

Be happy that your child is having fun! According to a recent study conducted by USA Swimming children who experience fun while participating stay in sports longer (Tuffey, Gould, & Medbery, 1998). At this stage of the game, the most important aspect of development is the mastery of skills, which means learning the proper technique. Fundamentals must be established prior to true “training” taking place. And, if she is having fun in the process of learning, she is more likely to continue to the sport.


4. It looks like all they do at practice is drills. Shouldn’t they be training more?


Your child needs to develop a solid foundation in mechanics. Drills and drill sets serve the specific purpose of teaching skills and fundamentals. Drills develop motor coordination, motor skills, and balance. In fact, your child’s coach may prescribe a particular drill, just for your child, in order to improve an aspect of her technique. In addition, she may actually be experiencing a “training” benefit from drills. Drills require concentration and aerobic energy to do them correctly.


5. My daughter’s coach sometimes makes her “sit out” for disciplinary reasons. Isn’t that a waste of her time?


The coach has set up expectations of proper behavior. Hopefully, your child is aware of the consequences of testing these boundaries. Obviously the coach is reinforcing what is expected of the children at practice. We encourage you to reinforce the coach's practice expectations by discussing your child’s behavior and the consequences of that behavior. Hopefully, this “time out” begins to reinforce self-discipline, accountability and respect for others.


6. My son complains that some of the kids cheat in practice. What should I tell him?


Praise him first for completing the workout the coach offers. Remind him that he is there to improve himself and he can’t control what his teammates do. Tell him however, that his best course of action is to continue to do things right and others may actually be influenced by his good example. By committing to do his best at all times, over the long haul he will reap the benefits of his hard work.


7. My daughter just moved up to the Senior Group. Now the coach wants her to train twice a day. Is this really necessary?


Your child has established proper technique and fundamentals by progressing through the levels of the team. It is appropriate at this stage of your daughter’s career development to increase the training loads. This includes adding the two mornings per week. Although morning practices come extra early, most coaches feel that this level of commitment is necessary for your daughter to reach the next level of her career.


Training for competitive sports is demanding on young athletes. As athletes develop, they need to understand the upcoming time demands. One specific principle of training that applies is the progressive overload principle. A person must be stressed slightly more each day over time to continue to improve. In order to do that, the coach must plan additional time. The addition of morning workouts often becomes necessary for the coach to develop young athletes to their maximum potential.


8. What type of commitment is needed for higher levels of competition?


While an athlete’s performance is influenced by numerous factors, there are three that exert the greatest influence: physical, technical and mental. As athletes progress, a greater commitment, of both time and energy, is needed to enable an athlete to address all of these factors.


Additionally, the athlete is asked to take more responsibility for and ownership of his practice and competition performance. One way of doing this is by accepting responsibility for leading a lifestyle conducive to performance, i.e., proper nutrition, adequate sleep, time management and managing extra-curricular activities.


9. Is my teenager sacrificing too much to train?


What you may consider a sacrifice, such as missing a school dance, football game or simply going out with friends, your child many not consider a sacrifice at all! Instead, your child has chosen to commit to his sport. By doing so, he realizes that a certain level of training is necessary for him to achieve greater goals and does not look at these activities as missed opportunities. Keep in mind that your child realizes missing a workout is like missing sleep, it cannot be made up. If, however, your child is expressing sentiments that he is missing these chances, then it is time to re-evaluate the balance in his activities.


10. What does the coach mean when she says that my teenaged daughter controls 80% of her own training?


At this stage it is important for the athlete to take full responsibility for her sport. Your coach is just reinforcing this concept. Having a good attitude, developing proper time management, and demonstrating a strong work ethic are important both in and out of the practice and competition. What your child’s coach is referring to is what we call “hidden training factors.” She is in control of what she eats, how much sleep she gets, her practice attendance, and even her effort on practice sets. This may really add up to even more than 80%.


11. My child used to compete in all of the events, but now her coach has her focusing on only a few.


Prior to now, your child needed to acquire a wide range of skills and the aerobic development necessary to allow for this specialization. At this point in her career, her physical development allows her to train for specific events. Children at this stage have reached the physical maturity necessary to specialize in particular events for which they are best suited.


12. I notice the coach having meetings with the older athletes at the beginning of the season. What are they talking about? Is he asking for input?


Typically the coach likes to share his seasonal plan with the group prior to the start of the season, as well as reviewing the previous season’s strengths and weaknesses. This plan highlights the major competition, tapering and the overall training plan. By presenting the athletes with information, the coach is making the athlete part of the process. This meeting may also be a prelude to individual goal setting sessions and an opportunity to begin to build team unity.


13. My child was very successful as very young child. How can I help her reach the next level?


When your daughter is making the transition, she needs to realize that she is participating at a higher level. Improvements are in tenths and hundredths, rather than seconds, due to biological and physiological factors.


Throughout her career, you have been very supportive. This support is still needed but it may have to be a little different than in the past. It is a good time to discuss with your daughter what she needs from you. Do not be afraid to ask her “How can I support you in your sport?” While you are an important part of her support network, realize your daughter, at this level, should be taking on more ownership of her athletic career.


14. I want my son to qualify for Nationals so badly, but he keeps just missing. What can I do to help?


It is important for you to acknowledge that this is your child’s goal, not yours. Your expectations may actually be putting undue pressure on his performances. There are two types of goals that athletes can set. Outcome Goals focus on the end result of performance such as “win" or "make finals.” Process Goals relate to the process of performance. Examples are “great technique" or "strong finish.”


Athletes have much more control over Process Goals. Outcome Goals are uncontrollable since they also involve the performance of other competitors. Athletes and coaches should concentrate on Process Goals since they involve aspects an athlete can control. Focusing on a time is outcome driven. Although you want what’s best for your son, encourage him to talk to his coach to clearly identify Process Goals to achieve improvement.


Shoulder Injury Prevention


Presented by USA Swimming and the Network Task Force on Injury Prevention. (April 2002)


Introduction by Scott Rodeo, MD // Chair of the USA Swimming Sports Medicine/Science Committee and Team Physician for the NFL’s NY Giants  


A Series of Exercises for the Un-injured Athlete




Pain in the shoulder is common in swimmers. Shoulder function is highly dependent on the coordinated function of many muscle groups. These include the muscles around the shoulder, those that control the scapula or shoulder blade, muscles in the upper and lower back, as well as abdominal and pelvic muscles.

Since the shoulder is an inherently unstable joint, muscle forces are critical for maintaining stability, proper motion, and painless function. The repetitive overhead activity of the swimming stroke can result in fatigue of these muscles. This in turn can lead to distinct changes in the function of the shoulder, resulting in the pain that is commonly known as “swimmer’s shoulder.”





One of the major factors causing shoulder pain is overuse and subsequent fatigue of the rotator cuff muscles, scapular muscles, and muscles of the upper and lower back. Consequently, this fatigue can lead to shoulder instability and predispose a swimmer to shoulder pain. The risk of injury and pain is especially true for swimmers who swim with poor technique.

It is well-established that a comprehensive program to develop strength, endurance, balance, and flexibility of the muscles is the most important way to prevent “swimmer’s shoulder". The exercises described in this review were chosen to develop these characteristics based on a sound knowledge of the muscles that are most important for optimal shoulder function.

The Exercises

These exercises were chosen and reviewed by a panel of physicians, therapists, biomechanists, trainers, and coaches from USA Swimming’s Sports Medicine Society. These exercises have been proven to be effective in improving shoulder function for swimmers. These exercises address the three important areas:

1) the rotator cuff,
2) the muscles that stabilize the shoulder blade, and
3) the muscles of the low back, abdominal, and pelvis that make up the “core” of the body – the abdominal and lower back muscles.

It is important to note that these exercises should only be performed by the uninjured athlete. Injured athletes may need to modify the exercises in duration and/ or range of motion depending on the level of pain or impairment the athlete is experiencing.

In doing these exercises, keep in mind that the shoulder does not act by itself when you swim. You use your back, trunk and even your legs to help stabilize the body and help in the pulling movement. You will use many of these same muscle groups as you perform these exercises.

Also, these exercises should be performed AFTER practice or several hours before you practice. DO NOT do these exercises right before your workout since you do not want to fatigue these muscles before you swim.

Practical Tips

1) While it is beneficial to complete each of the exercises presented in this review each week, it is unlikely that the athlete will complete all of them every day, due to the amount of time it would take. If time is an issue, try the “Light Version” by alternating days with the different groups of exercises. For example, complete the three Rotator Cuff exercises on Monday, the Shoulder Blade Stabilizing exercises on Tuesday, the Core Strength exercises on Wednesday and the Stretching exercises on Thursday. Then start the cycle from the beginning.
2) While it is best not to perform these exercises before practice, we realize that for some programs this may be the only time your group is together. If this is the case, it will not hurt to complete the exercises before the water workout, but realize that in doing so the athlete may experience some degree of fatigue in the targeted muscles during practice.



Primary Rotator Cuff Exercises

The first group of exercises we want to describe is designed to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder. The rotator cuff is made up of four small muscles deep in your shoulder. When these muscles contract they cause the shoulder to:


Rotate the arm away from the body. This movement is called external rotation.

Rotate the arm towards the body. This movement is called internal rotation.

Lift the arm away from the body. This movement is called shoulder abduction.

Text Box: Rotate the arm towards the body.  This movement is called internal rotation.

Exercise #1 - External Rotation


Equipment: To perform this exercise you will need a light to moderate resistance Theraband or surgical tubing. How do you determine what strength Theraband is right for you? Pull on it and if it feels like the resistance is too light – you probably have the right level of resistance. You will be performing many repetitions so a resistance that feels too easy will probably be just right as you start to fatigue.


The Movement: The External Rotation exercise focuses on strengthening the muscles that externally rotate the shoulders. The muscles that perform this motion usually are weak in swimmers. You are going to strengthen both sides of your body in this exercise.

Start by cutting the Theraband and tying it into a loop. The loop should be big enough so that your hands are 6-8 inches apart when your elbows are at your sides and your forearms are parallel to the floor.

Stand up straight with good posture. Do not hunch your shoulders forward. Lift your sternum and your chest towards the ceiling to help set your shoulder blades in the proper position.

Your elbows should be at your sides and should be bent 90 degrees so your forearms are parallel to the floor and your thumbs are pointing towards the sky. Perform the exercise by trying to rotate your hands away from your body like you are pulling taffy apart. The figures to the left show the correct start and finish positions.

Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together before you start this exercise. Feel this squeeze through the ENTIRE exercise. If you do not focus on squeezing the shoulder blades you will be exercising the wrong muscles.

You should take about two seconds to complete each repetition – 1 second as the muscles contract and you externally rotate the shoulders. Then take 1 second as you return to the starting position. Count 1-and-2-and, 1-and-2-and as you perform the exercise to get the correct timing.

You should perform 3 sets of this exercise, resting 30 seconds between each set. Each set should end after 2 minutes or when you are no longer able to maintain correct form. It is time to end the set if:

  • the shoulders start to roll forward,
  • you use you upper body or wrists to help the motion or,
  • you are unable to keep your shoulder blades squeezed together.

It is okay if you are only able to complete a few repetitions at first, but strive for completing 3 sets of 2 minutes. When you can do this, move up to a higher resistance Theraband.



Exercise #2 – Full Can Scaption/ Full Can Straight Arm Lifts


Equipment: You do not need equipment to perform this exercise, but as you get stronger, you can use some very light weights. You can make your own weights by filling two small water bottles with sand.

The Movement: The Full Can Scaption Exercise gets its name because performing it is like lifting a can without spilling its contents. The exercise strengthens the part of your rotator cuff that lifts the arm. Start this exercise using no weight. As you progress and get stronger you can use very light weights with this exercise, but even the strongest athletes should not lift more than 5 extra pounds.


Stand upright with your feet shoulder width apart and do not allow the shoulders to slump forward. Lift your chest towards the ceiling to help set the shoulder blades in the proper position. Focus on pinching your shoulder blades together and you should feel tension in these muscles for the entire exercise. The figures to the left show the proper posture and starting position.

Raise your arms so that they extend straight out to your sides. Move your hands forward about 1-2 feet so they are now slightly ahead of your shoulders to get in the proper exercise position. This will actually allow you to perform the movement in the same plane of the shoulder blade. Keep your thumbs turned up so they are facing the sky. (See figures to the right).

Lower your hands to your side and then lift them up again so your hands end up level with the top of your head (See the figures showing the start and finish positions for the exercise to the left).

Maintain a steady cadence – Take 1 second to lift your hands to head level and one second to lower the hands back to your sides. As you raise and lower your hands, count slowly 1-up-2-up, 1-down-2-down… Remember to keep your hands and arms ahead of your shoulders and keep your shoulder blades together.

Continue this exercise for 2 minutes or until you are unable to lift your arms while keeping your shoulder blades pinched together. Perform 3 sets in this way taking 30 seconds rest between each set.



Exercise #3 - Ball on the Wall


Equipment: One tennis ball or light medicine ball.

The Movement: The Ball on the Wall exercise is designed to strengthen the muscles that stabilize the shoulder blasé (scapula) as well as those that internally and externally rotate the shoulder. You will need a tennis ball or a light medicine ball to perform this exercise.


Facing the wall, stand up straight with one arm extended in from of you so that your palm almost touches the wall. Keeping the elbow straight, “pin” the ball between your hand and the wall. Pinch your shoulder blades together and feel that contraction through the entire exercise.


Roll the ball in small circles in a counter-clockwise motion for 15 seconds. Each circle should take about 1 second to complete. Without stopping, switch directions and make small circles in a clockwise direction.


Control the cadence so that you make one circle each second. Continue this exercise, switching between making clockwise and counter-clockwise circles, until you become fatigued, or 2 minutes, which ever comes first.

You know you are fatigued if you can not keep your shoulder blades squeezed together, if you hunch your shoulders, or if you can not hold the ball against the wall. Perform 3 sets, but do not go longer than 2 minutes for each set.

Repeat this procedure for the other arm.

Primary Shoulder Blade Stabilizing Exercises


The second group of exercises, the Shoulder Blade Stabilizers, is designed to strengthen the muscles that control how your shoulder blades move. These muscles are found in the middle of your upper back and along your sides. When these muscles contract, they cause your shoulder blades to rotate or slide across your back. They work in coordination with the rotator cuff muscles to control the movement of the shoulder. If these muscles are weak, you can put too much stress on the rotator cuff when you swim.

Exercise #4 – Theraband Rowing


Equipment: One moderate resistance Theraband.

The Movement: Theraband rowing strengthens the muscles that hold your shoulder blades in place. These muscles are important in helping your shoulder joint to move when you swim.


First, make a loop with the Theraband and tie the ends together. The loop should be about 2 feet long. Attach the loop to a doorknob or some other stationary object that will not move when you pull on the Theraband. Sit on a bench or at the edge of a chair. Position the chair so that when your arms are extended in front of you the Theraband is just taut.

Sit with an upright posture, and lift the chest to help set the shoulder blades in the proper position. Do not hunch the upper back or shoulders.

Pull your hands toward your body. Keep your elbows in and pull your hands to a point between your belly button and your rib cage. Make sure you lead the pull with your elbows. Your palms should be facing upward when you pull towards your chest. See the figure below for proper start, middle and finish positions.




Remember to focus on squeezing the shoulder blades together with each row and maintaining this contraction for the entire exercise.

Maintain a comfortable cadence, completing 1 complete repetition every 2 seconds. Count to yourself 1-and-2-and, 1-and-2-and taking one second for the contraction and 1 second as you return to the starting position. Perform 3 sets of this exercise. Each set should end when you become fatigued or reach 2 minutes of exercise. Take 30 seconds rest between sets and strive for completing 3 sets of 2 minutes each. Like the other exercises, fatigue is indicated when your posture slumps, or you cannot keep your shoulder blades pinched together.

Exercise #5 – Hitch Hiker


Equipment: No equipment is needed for this exercise, but as you get stronger, you can use some very light weights. You can make your own weights by filling two small water bottles with sand. These should weigh less than 2 pounds, even for the strongest swimmers.

The Movement: The Hitch Hiker exercise strengthens the muscles that control your shoulder blades as well as your rotator cuff muscles. You can exercise both sides of body at the same time, or choose to do one arm at a time.


Lay on your stomach on the floor. Relax your head and keep it in line with your spine. Put your arms straight out to your sides with your thumbs pointing to the ceiling (It looks like you are hitch-hiking).

While squeezing your shoulder blades together, lift your hands up off the floor and move them slightly towards your head. Use both arms at the same time. You should end up in a position that looks like a “Y” at the end of the exercise. Hold this position for 1-2 seconds and then relax to the starting position. Repeat.

Try to perform this exercise for 2 minutes. If you cannot continue the exercise for 2 minutes, that’s okay. When you become fatigued and can no longer maintain your form, rest for 30 seconds. Perform your second and third sets the same way.

If you reach the point where you can complete 3 sets of 2 minutes, perform the exercise while holding some small weights (less than 2 pounds) in your hands. Remember, you can make your own weights by filling small water bottles with sand, and you can also perform this exercise with one arm at a time.

Exercise #6 – Push Ups with a Plus

Equipment: None.


The Movement: This push up exercise strengthens your chest muscles like a normal push up, but there is an added motion at the end that strengthens one of the muscles that stabilizes your shoulder blades. There is a progression to this exercise, which means you will first perform the exercise against a wall while standing. As you get more advanced you can do this exercise while on your knees and then finally in a traditional push-up position.


To start this exercise, stand at arms length away from a flat wall. When you stand up straight your palms should touch the wall. The hands should be shoulder-width, or slightly wider than shoulder-width, apart.

Allow your chest to move towards the wall, as you would into a normal push up position. Once you are in the “down position” push away from the wall. It is important to do this slowly so your hands never lose contact with the wall.

When you reach the normal ending position for a push up you want to keep going. This is where the extra action comes in. Continue pushing so that your shoulders rotate forward a bit. It should feel like the center of your back is farther away from the wall than your shoulders, as if you are raising your back like an angry cat. This is the extra motion that strengthens the stabilizers of your shoulder blade.

Hold this position for 2 seconds and repeat the action. Continue each set until you fatigue and start to lose form or until you reach 2 minutes, which ever comes first. Complete 3 sets, resting 30 seconds between each set.


As you become stronger, perform the same exercise when kneeling on the floor.


And eventually you will be able to perform normal push-ups with the extra motion.



Primary Core Strength Development

The third series of exercises focuses on developing strength in your abdominal and lower back muscles. These are some of the core muscles of your body. The muscles in the core of your body are essential for helping you maintain balance in the water when you swim. Balance is one of the most important skills you can develop. With weak abdominal and lower back muscles you will not be able to achieve a sufficient level of balance using your core. If you are like most swimmers, you will then try to achieve balance by changing your arm position or your stroke pattern. This places added stress on the shoulder and can lead to shoulder problems. There are many abdominal and lower back exercises you can do to strengthen these muscles. We will show you two of these exercises.


Exercise #7 – Dead Bug

Equipment: None.

The Movement: The Dead Bug exercise strengthens your abdominal muscles and gets its name because if you do it correctly you will look like a bug that is flipped over on its back waving its legs in the air.

Lay on the floor and put your hands under your tailbone.

Tighten up your lower abdominal muscles by trying to pull your belly-button in towards your spine. This will help you avoid excessive arching in your lower back. It is important to keep your back FLAT on the floor at all times.

Lift your legs off the floor and perform a light “flutter kick.” Continue this movement for 2 minutes or until you can no longer keep your lower back flat. See the figures below for proper positioning.

When you master this technique, you can remove your hands from under your tailbone and perform a flutter kicking like movement with your straight arms.

This form of the exercise (using the arms) is more difficult. You must make sure you do not allow the lower back to arch very much to avoid injury and work the appropriate muscles.







Exercise #8 – Quadruped


Equipment: None.

The Movement: It’s called the Quadruped exercise because initially you resemble an animal walking on all fours. When performing this exercise you will strengthen muscles in the lower back and abdominal region and foster strength development between the two sides of your body.


Start this exercise with your hands and knees on the floor. Get into a “table-top” position by flattening out your back.
There should not be an arch in your back, nor should there be a dip. This will require tightening up your abdominal and lower back muscles. Think about pulling your belly-button in towards your spine.

Once you’ve achieved the proper starting posture, simultaneously lift your left arm and right leg – straightening them out so they are parallel to the floor. Hold in this position for a second making sure you maintain a flat back.


Slowly bring the hand and knee back to the floor. Repeat the action lifting the right arm and left leg.


Alternate in this fashion for 2 minutes or until you become fatigued. You are fatigued if you cannot lift the arm or leg parallel to the floor or if you are not able to maintain your flat back posture. Perform 3 sets with 30 seconds rest between each set.

As you become more experienced, try performing the exercise while closing your eyes. This will force you to use your postural muscles to a greater level while developing balance and stability.

We have talked a lot about strengthening muscles so far. However, stretching is also important to make certain you can use your newfound strength.


Strengthening + Stretching = Function.

By combining the strengthening and stretching exercises, you will help reduce the likelihood of shoulder injury when you swim.






Exercise #9 - Hamstrings Stretch

Equipment: Towel


The Movement: The Hamstrings Stretch engages the group muscles in the back of your thigh. These muscles, the hamstrings, help you bend your knee and also are involved in straightening out your hip. They have a lot of control over the position of your pelvis and therefore impact your body position and balance in the water. You are much better able to control your balance in the water if your hamstrings are loose. This exercise is designed to help you stretch these muscles.



Lay flat on your back on the floor.


Keeping the leg that is not going to be stretched flat on the floor, loop the towel around the ball of your foot. Gently straighten your leg, and pull it towards your body. Do not lock your knee. A slight bend in the knee is necessary for safety reasons, but it should not be bent a lot.
Keep your pelvis on the floor and do not rotate you body to help you get your leg closer to your torso. Pull until you feel a moderate stretch in the back of your thigh and hold that position for 30 seconds.

Perform the stretch 2 times on each leg. You should not feel pain in this stretch or in any stretch. If you feel pain stop the stretch immediately.

Exercise #10 – Upper Back Stretch


Equipment: None.

The Movement: The Upper Back Stretch targets the trapezius (tra-peez-ee-us) muscle, which connects your neck and your middle back to your shoulder blades. Good flexibility is needed in this muscle in order for the shoulder blades to move normally. This exercise is designed to stretch the upper part of the trapezius muscle since it tends to get tight in swimmers, and a tight muscle may contribute to shoulder pain.


Stand up straight and push the palms of your hands together in front of your chest.

Push your hands straight away from your body while continuing to squeeze your palms together. Try to keep your shoulders from moving upward towards your ears by pushing straight away from the body. Continue to push your hands away from your body until you feel a moderate stretch in your upper back and between your shoulder blades. See the front, side and back views of the stretch below.


Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat after a 15-second rest. Be sure to breathe (do not hold your breath!) as you perform this exercise.

Exercise #11 – Neck Stretch


Equipment: None.

The Movement: The Neck Stretch is another way to stretch the muscles of your upper back. This stretch targets the upper trapezius muscle.




Stand up straight and do not roll or hunch the shoulders. Place one arm in the small of your back. The elbow should be bent so that the forearm is parallel to the floor. Press your arm into the small of your back to provide some stability for the movement, but you do not have to “grab on” to anything.

Place the other hand on the top of your head. Gently guide your head towards your shoulder, bending it to the side until you feel a moderate stretch on the opposite side of your neck. Remember, bring your head to your shoulder and do not raise the shoulder to meet the head.


Hold this position for 30 seconds. Rest 15 seconds, then repeat.




You can also stretch a different part of the muscle by looking at the armpit of the pulling arm.

Try both to stretch as much of the muscle as possible.

Perform the same stretch on the other side of your body.





We hope that you will find time to incorporate the exercises described above into your training routine.

If you have difficulty performing a specific exercise or if you have pain while doing an exercise, it is best to stop that exercise and seek advice and an evaluation from a medical professional who has expertise in this area. The USA Swimming web site lists medical practitioners in your area who have experience with shoulder problems in swimmers; this list is available under the Sports Medicine section of the web site. You may also directly contact USA Swimming for further information on referrals.

Good luck!


USA Swimming would like to thank the following professionals for their contributions to this program:

Scott Rodeo, MD

Murray Stephens

Chair Vice President
USA Swimming Sports Medicine Committee USA Swimming Technical Committees
Mahlon Bradley, MD Rick Eagleston, PT, ATC
George Edelman, PT Paul “Strib” Ellison, MD
Julie Gorman, PT Scott Heinlein, PT
Margaret Hunt, ATC Rick Laing, PT
Jim Johnson, MD Mike Leahy, Chiropractor
Joe Noel, PT Scott Riewald, PhD

Ed Ryan, ATC




Disclaimer: USA Swimming is not responsible for the misuse of information published in this review that could result in injury. No member of USA Swimming should pursue any of the exercises discussed in this review without the direct and immediate supervision of a qualified professional.

Energy Needs of the Growing Swimmer


Calories provide the energy your young swimmer needs for everyday activity, swim performance and growth.
With hints of calorie intakes in excess of 10,000 calories per day, Michael Phelps blew the competition away in 2008 and blew our minds with his over-the-top calorie consumption. And it produced the nagging question in parents’ minds, “How much does my young swimmer need to eat?”

Children aged 9–13 years need about 1,500-2,400 calories each day, depending on age and gender, to support the demands of normal growth and development. Add the energy burn of a regular two-hour swim practice, and the energy needs can skyrocket to the tune of 2,700 – 3,600 calories or more per day.


Martinez and colleagues (Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 2011) recently found that young, amateur swimmers on semiprofessional teams (year-round club teams) had low energy consumption compared to what they needed. They also found these young swimmers were overdoing protein and missing the mark on other important vitamins and minerals.

What happens if kids don’t get the calories they need? Fatigue, impaired focus and concentration, low physical performance and perhaps a delay in physical development (lag in muscle building, slowed height growth and/or delay in adult development) may occur when calorie intake is less than needed over time.

As parents, it‘s our job to make sure that kids get the energy they need, and from the proper food sources. Avoid the mistake of delivering high calorie, nutrient-poor foods from the fast food drive-through. Not only are they excessive in fat, salt and sugar and under-deliver important nutrients like iron, calcium and B vitamins, they set the tone for future food cravings and selections that won’t support good health when swimming is over.

Sound complicated? It’s not.

Here are some ways to assure your growing child gets the right amount and type of calories he needs as an active swimmer:

  • Stock your kitchen with good quality nutrition: whole foods in their natural state, such as low fat dairy products, lean meats and other protein sources, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats. These are the foods that should be a part of every healthy, growing child’s diet.
  • Make sure your child gets three nutritious meals a day. No skipping! A meal should include at least 3-4 of these foods: a protein source, dairy, fruit, vegetable, healthy fats and/or a whole grain food source.
  • Aim for two snacks each day that include a protein source. Meats, beans and bean dips, nuts and nut butters, cheeses, yogurt, milk or milk substitutes, and protein-rich whole grains such as quinoa are great sources of protein for the swimmer. Unsweetened cereal and milk; yogurt, fresh fruit and nuts; whole-wheat toast and peanut butter are all examples of a healthy protein-rich snack for your school-age athlete.
  • Timing is everything. Kids perform best in all aspects of life when they eat regularly. Try to provide a meal or snack every 3-4 hours, and avoid sending your swimmer to practice on an empty stomach.

With a little bit of planning, it’s easy to assure your young swimmer gets enough nutrition to cover all his needs. The benefits of that are worth it, keeping your swimmer healthy, growing and energized for performing in the pool.



What Teacher Really Want to Tell Parents

Editor's note: Ron Clark, author of "The End of Molasses Classes: Getting Our Kids Unstuck -- 101 Extraordinary Solutions for Parents and Teachers," has been named "American Teacher of the Year" by Disney and was Oprah Winfrey's pick as her "Phenomenal Man." He founded The Ron Clark Academy, which educators from around the world have visited to learn. This article's massive social media response inspired CNN to follow up with Facebook users. Some of the best comments were featured in a gallery.

(CNN) -- This summer, I met a principal who was recently named as the administrator of the year in her state. She was loved and adored by all, but she told me she was leaving the profession.

I screamed, "You can't leave us," and she quite bluntly replied, "Look, if I get an offer to lead a school system of orphans, I will be all over it, but I just can't deal with parents anymore; they are killing us."

Unfortunately, this sentiment seems to be becoming more and more prevalent. Today, new teachers remain in our profession an average of just 4.5 years, and many of them list "issues with parents" as one of their reasons for throwing in the towel. Word is spreading, and the more negativity teachers receive from parents, the harder it becomes to recruit the best and the brightest out of colleges.

So, what can we do to stem the tide? What do teachers really need parents to understand?

10 things parents and teachers want each other to know

For starters, we are educators, not nannies. We are educated professionals who work with kids every day and often see your child in a different light than you do. If we give you advice, don't fight it. Take it, and digest it in the same way you would consider advice from a doctor or lawyer. I have become used to some parents who just don't want to hear anything negative about their child, but sometimes if you're willing to take early warning advice to heart, it can help you head off an issue that could become much greater in the future.

Trust us. At times when I tell parents that their child has been a behavior problem, I can almost see the hairs rise on their backs. They are ready to fight and defend their child, and it is exhausting. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I tell a mom something her son did and she turns, looks at him and asks, "Is that true?" Well, of course it's true. I just told you. And please don't ask whether a classmate can confirm what happened or whether another teacher might have been present. It only demeans teachers and weakens the partnership between teacher and parent.

Please quit with all the excuses

The truth is, a lot of times it's the bad teachers who give the easiest grades, because they know by giving good grades everyone will leave them alone.
Ron Clark

And if you really want to help your children be successful, stop making excuses for them. I was talking with a parent and her son about his summer reading assignments. He told me he hadn't started, and I let him know I was extremely disappointed because school starts in two weeks.

His mother chimed in and told me that it had been a horrible summer for them because of family issues they'd been through in July. I said I was so sorry, but I couldn't help but point out that the assignments were given in May. She quickly added that she was allowing her child some "fun time" during the summer before getting back to work in July and that it wasn't his fault the work wasn't complete.

Can you feel my pain?

Some parents will make excuses regardless of the situation, and they are raising children who will grow into adults who turn toward excuses and do not create a strong work ethic. If you don't want your child to end up 25 and jobless, sitting on your couch eating potato chips, then stop making excuses for why they aren't succeeding. Instead, focus on finding solutions.

Teachers vs. parents: Round two

Parents, be a partner instead of a prosecutor

And parents, you know, it's OK for your child to get in trouble sometimes. It builds character and teaches life lessons. As teachers, we are vexed by those parents who stand in the way of those lessons; we call them helicopter parents because they want to swoop in and save their child every time something goes wrong. If we give a child a 79 on a project, then that is what the child deserves. Don't set up a time to meet with me to negotiate extra credit for an 80. It's a 79, regardless of whether you think it should be a B+.

This one may be hard to accept, but you shouldn't assume that because your child makes straight A's that he/she is getting a good education. The truth is, a lot of times it's the bad teachers who give the easiest grades, because they know by giving good grades everyone will leave them alone. Parents will say, "My child has a great teacher! He made all A's this year!"

Wow. Come on now. In all honesty, it's usually the best teachers who are giving the lowest grades, because they are raising expectations. Yet, when your children receive low scores you want to complain and head to the principal's office.

Please, take a step back and get a good look at the landscape. Before you challenge those low grades you feel the teacher has "given" your child, you might need to realize your child "earned" those grades and that the teacher you are complaining about is actually the one that is providing the best education.

And please, be a partner instead of a prosecutor. I had a child cheat on a test, and his parents threatened to call a lawyer because I was labeling him a criminal. I know that sounds crazy, but principals all across the country are telling me that more and more lawyers are accompanying parents for school meetings dealing with their children.

Teachers walking on eggshells

I feel so sorry for administrators and teachers these days whose hands are completely tied. In many ways, we live in fear of what will happen next. We walk on eggshells in a watered-down education system where teachers lack the courage to be honest and speak their minds. If they make a slight mistake, it can become a major disaster.

My mom just told me a child at a local school wrote on his face with a permanent marker. The teacher tried to get it off with a wash cloth, and it left a red mark on the side of his face. The parent called the media, and the teacher lost her job. My mom, my very own mother, said, "Can you believe that woman did that?"

I felt hit in the gut. I honestly would have probably tried to get the mark off as well. To think that we might lose our jobs over something so minor is scary. Why would anyone want to enter our profession? If our teachers continue to feel threatened and scared, you will rob our schools of our best and handcuff our efforts to recruit tomorrow's outstanding educators.

Finally, deal with negative situations in a professional manner.

If your child said something happened in the classroom that concerns you, ask to meet with the teacher and approach the situation by saying, "I wanted to let you know something my child said took place in your class, because I know that children can exaggerate and that there are always two sides to every story. I was hoping you could shed some light for me." If you aren't happy with the result, then take your concerns to the principal, but above all else, never talk negatively about a teacher in front of your child. If he knows you don't respect her, he won't either, and that will lead to a whole host of new problems.

We know you love your children. We love them, too. We just ask -- and beg of you -- to trust us, support us and work with the system, not against it. We need you to have our backs, and we need you to give us the respect we deserve. Lift us up and make us feel appreciated, and we will work even harder to give your child the best education possible.

That's a teacher's promise, from me to you.