The start of a season is a good time to review some of the basics. And the first one is the role of a swimming parent. I should warn you here that I’ll be repeating some points I made in a similar post almost exactly one year ago.
Before I start, I should point out that swim parents are actually pretty good when it comes to interacting their kid’s competitors, officials and coaches, at least in comparison with other sports. In fact, swimming didn’t show up in any of the top 10 list I could find for worst sports parents. And this makes sense. Swimmers can’t hear parents during competitions, when the worst behaviours come out. And we don’t have an official that controls the course of the competition the way so many other sports do.
But just because we don’t see baseball/hockey parent type physical attacks in the stands, or hear vicious verbal abuse of officials, coaches and opposition, doesn’t mean that swimming parents aren’t a problem. Ask pretty much any coach and they’ll tell you that parents are the worst part of their job.
Here are 6 basic rules / suggestions that can help a parent become an asset to their team, and a positive force in their child’s life. The first two are directly from USA Swimming.
1) Be your child’s biggest fan, no matter what. Be positive and supportive, and help them feel better about themselves, especially after a poor swim.
Your swimmer will feel enough pressure from their coach, their peers, and especially themselves that they don’t need more pressure from their parents. In fact, swimmers perform best when they are relaxed. The perfect scenario is when they know that they can mess up in a race, and they will still be loved, supported and encouraged afterwards.
2) Don’t coach.
Our first Swimming 101 session is scheduled for September 24 at 7:00 PM in the Optimist Room at the Milton Sport Centre. In this session Rick, the Head Coach, will answer parents and swimmers questions, and will also explain the different programs offered by the team. Everybody is invited, specially those new to the team, as this will be a
Very early last year I wrote a blog post about the above topic. Specifically, that research at the time showed some pretty bad effects on kids, and especially teens, of not getting enough sleep. You can read that blog post here.
Basically, it referred to many studies that say teens need between 8.5 and 9+ hours of sleep each night. Other studies show that adolescent brains are still developing, with a side effect that teens are more alert at 10 pm than they are during the day. Combine that with getting up at 5:00 am or earlier many times a week for morning practice. Now, do that for 40+ weeks of the year and you get chronic sleep deprivation.
So what? Everybody is sleep deprived. What’s the harm? Well, new research has been done in the last year that shows sleep deprivation can be much more harmful than we thought.
We already knew that, among other things, not getting enough sleep was strongly correlated with lower school marks, reduces the body’s ability to recover for the next practice, and if chronic, can even lead to increased chances of overtraining.
Since then there has been a LOT of new research on chronic and even short-term sleep deprivation, to the point where the results are hitting mainstream news. Here are some of the highlights of sleep research in the last year:
- CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta discussed sleep deprivation on students in his August 2014 show, and how it’s linked to problems with concentration, and higher incidents of obesity, depression and even car accidents
- March, 2014 Forbe’s Magazine published the article “Lack of Sleep Kills Brain Cells” in which they discuss a study of mice showed that getting 4-5 hours of sleep a night for just 3 nights caused a significant loss of certain brain cells used for
How many hours of training should we put our youngest swimmers through? How intense should training be? When should we ask them to give up other sports and specialize in swimming? These are questions that have been around for a long, long time. And while the swimming world claims to divided on this topic, in practice there is little divisiveness.
On the one hand, we have hard and very visible evidence that elite swimmers started very early. Michael Phelps is a perfect example. He started swimming at age 7, and was world champion and world record holder at 15. To test how consistent this is among elite swimmers, I came up with a list of 20 random swimming superstars, and was able to find out the age they started formalized swimming for 11 of them. The average starting age for these 11? 6.8 years of age.
This early starting age for the superstars has lead to a huge and possibly subconscious movement in swimming to have swimmers start young, and then to have them specialized young. This is why we hear of teams where 10&Unders have multiple morning practices a week, and training camps involving two a day and sometimes three a day practices. Or we hear of competition swims that are truly mind-blowing. Three new girl’s 10&Under Long Course USA records have been set this year: 36.13 for 50 Breaststroke, 1:17.74 for 100 Breaststroke, and 1:08.67 for 100 Butterfly. Incredible!
But this is the problem. You don’t get this fast this young without some serious training behind you. And the data shows that these early results don’t really translate to later success. In fact, quite the opposite.
An oft-quoted ASCA study on this very issue reports the following:
Now, look at that table again and think about what this means.