On our team like all others we have swimmers who are doing their best to figure out this sport. All want to swim fast and want to have fun doing it at the same time. The issue is how to get both of these things while dealing with the training and time and effort it takes to do that training.
While not professing to have the absolute answer to this, I believe that fun changes over time depending on your age. What is fun for a 6 year old in this sport is not what is deemed as fun to a teenager….and that is the way it should be. 6 year old swimmers should be all about the joys of swimming with little to do with actual training other than learning the proper skills of the sport. We are lucky to have most coaches in our sport understand this and show the patience to allow the young swimmer to develop at the proper speed. Because of this the successful 6 to 8 year old swimmer will be the one with the most natural ability (plus having some size to them also helps).
But things begin to change as kids get into their middle age group years. Suddenly it becomes more important for the swimmer to train at a certain level in order to have success. Natural ability is still a piece of the pie, but a much smaller one than when the swimmer was younger. Those swimmers that never develop a training ethic have much trouble through this transition. They liked the days of showing up and having success with little investment. Without learning that ethic they will often leave the sport prematurely.
On our team we do what we can to help our swimmers through this transition. Our ultimate goal is to teach them the joys of challenging themselves in their training. I believe the education of how to do that has as much value as what you can often get in a classroom as learning to stretch yourself and the work ethic it teaches can last a lifetime. The added benefit is that through their work they have a better chance for “results” (although the work itself is a big part of the success). The reward of doing something that makes you happy even one that tests you daily keeps you coming back for more even when the results are not there.
Intrinsic rewards…a big part of a swimmer for life!
(Another gem from the pen of Ken…)