The parent of the introductory group swimmer has witnessed the improvement of the child during the learning period. The learning period varies among individuals and may cover several years. The parent must be reassured of the health and safety benefits of competitive swimming and the effects of training and competition in this early competitive phase.
The importance of parents in the development of a swimmer should never be underestimated. The parents help shape the swimmer’s attitudes, which can affect the ability to learn. They also provide home, nutritional, financial and emotional support.
Parents should expect from instructors to lead the way in making a strong relationship between them and their children. However, if a swimmer is finding the instructor’s environment too challenging for any reason and the instructor doesn’t notice that, the parent should communicate any concerns to the instructor. The well-being of each swimmer is of paramount importance to the parent and the instructor – it should be the overriding focus of all parties.
The transition from learn-to-swim and water safety to competitive swimming must be managed delicately to avoid unnecessary stress to both swimmer and parent. There are numerous cases of swimmers being lost to the sport during this phase of development, due to poor management of the process and unrealistic an unachievable expectations.
A sound way of minimizing stress is to invite the swimmers and their parents to attend introductory stroke development group sessions or advanced learn-to-swim group sessions to observe programs in action.
The swimmer’s progress is far more important when they are 6-12 years of age than at any other time in their development. Children progress at varying rates as they develop physically and emotionally.
They can reach plateaus, when improvement seems slow, and yet at other times advance quickly. At introductory stroke development group meetings, parents should expect from instructors to outline the factors influencing a swimmer’s development. A respected parent of a senior swimming team member could speak at such meetings, to encourage the hesitant parent and help the over-anxious parent take a reasonable, long-term, sensible approach to their child’s development.
The temptation for the parent is to expect the swimmer to win all the time. This is particularly so if the child is an early developer – the tall 12-year-old with the physique of a bodybuilder! The physiological advantages of the early onset of maturation, such as increased size and strength, of the make success easy and the swimmer seems to improve at every swimming competition. Re record books are full of outstanding 13 and 14-years-olds who were not swimming at all at 16 years. Success is ultimately determined by technique.
With all young swimmers it is important that technique is not compromised for early gains through extra training sessions, too much work at fast speeds and heavy weight training.
- provide emotional support
- help to supply training aids
- take swimmers to training
- be prepared to learn official duties
- be willing to take up a committee position for a club
- be willing to time-keep – at training or competition
- consider car pooling for early morning training
- be prepared to learn what is required of swimmer in the competitive environment
- encourage the child to supplement theirs swimming with home land drills or fitness work, if required for competition.
- help organize swimming entries for events
- be prepared to learn the rules of swimming
- helps the swimmer to achieve a good lifestyle balance – good nutrition an adequate rest, homework and recreation
- understand the level of commitment required for competition
- recognize that the child has a talent for swimming and provide opportunities for further development, if the child has the desire to take it further or just to have video analysis of its stroke (use www.swimmind.com where world and Olympic champions do the analysis.)
- contribute to a good lesson, training or club atmosphere, by forging links with other parents and becoming sociable.
Swimming could become part of the parents’ lives as well, for example through Masters swimming programs. (However, it is not recommended that parents swim in the same training group as their child).