This question is one that pops up now and then when we think about our swimmers and their ENTIRE career. Are swimmers interested in what the final years of their career will look like or is it all about what is happening now?
We just returned from Federal Way, site of the US Junior Nationals, featuring most of the fastest 18 & unders in the nation. We can tell you there are indeed many very fast young swimmers. Watching them in their moments of racing and well-earned glory was exciting and truly invigorating. Many of the meet records were broken and a few were shattered. We were sitting with a college coach and remarking that we couldn’t place where and what was happening with some of the former record holders. As we looked over the various names we found that many of them were now in their second or even third year of college – and haven’t yet swum that fast again…really.
On the plane ride home it got us to thinking about the question posed above. Here are some facts: - and we are assuming all the usual “stuff” here - athletes are stronger when they are older; they are more experienced when they are older; they are better equipped to handle the ups and downs when they are older; the list goes on. What is constant is the “when they are older” part.
If you are a swimmer (any athlete for that matter) remember that very few of your peers who are super-fast today will be that way all the way to the end of their racing career. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. He was a fabulous college player but he was an all-world player in his late 20’s and early 30’s.
Emma, one of our swimmers, remarked this last weekend that she believed Natalie Coughlin was one of a very few number of swimmers who maintained her high level throughout her career. There are a few others as well. Yet the vast majority of those scoring at NCAA’s (all 3 divisions) and making the Olympic Team are not the super stars of the age group ranks.
The message here is twofold: if you love swimming and racing, keep at it since you are far from the end (unless you are in your 80’s –really); secondly, if you are a young phenom – good for you…keep balance and perspective in your life and in your swimming; why? Because you are a long, long way from the end…and that is indeed a wonderful thing.