We had an interesting question from a swim parent last week that we thought we would share with you. His son is a 14 year old freshman who came out of our local summer league at the end of his season 16 months ago. He had raced 50’s and the 100 IM and that was it. His older brother swims at USC and is a national level swimmer who also started a little late in our program.
The Dad asked, “What does my son need to do to keep improving? What is the most important thing for him right now?” He appreciates the level of stroke instruction hi son receives in our pre-senior group and the coaching is really impressive there, which he also acknowledges. The parents want to give him the opportunity to excel, to see where he might go in swimming. We should also mention the swimmer really is into the team and training. This is not one of those situations where the parents are pushing an unwilling participant.
Our response was pretty simple. “Keep getting him to the meets our team signs up for.” We elaborated a bit from there. A swimmer who goes to training but not meets has no idea if they are progressing. We mean getting faster but also how are they constructing their swims, what is their technique like in races and how do they respond to the various stimuli of competition?
We are a competitive swim team and so how we handle competition is important. It is not the only factor in what we do but it is a very important one. We find that kids who go to workouts but rarely compete are more disconnected to the entire process – the team building, character development etc. Conversely we find that kids who go to meets regularly come to more workouts and get more out of the program as a whole. They develop a keen appreciation for the correlation between effort extended and results obtained. This “connecting the dots” is a critical life skill that our sport teaches. But without the racing the lesson falls way short of the mark.
So, we encouraged the parents to keep making the sacrifices required to get their son to the meets. We race approximately once or twice a month, maybe three times in an 8 week period. There are many significant planning issues around a young high school age swimmer to make all this happen. Not the least of which is school work. That one always comes before swimming.
You wouldn’t send your youngster to a school that doesn’t do some sort of testing. The same holds true for our sport. To get the full reward you need to race on a regular basis. It is the only way to hone your competitive skills.