Monday, December 11, 2017


Experiencing worry, unease, or nervousness, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome…wanting something very much, typically with a feeling of unease
While in Iowa City at the Winter Junior Nationals we had an “ah-ha” moment. The air in the natatorium was decent but not perfect. Several swimmers had some difficulties breathing, especially as the days went by. Many had little or no irritation. It was difficult to say exactly who was affected and who wasn’t. For sure some were not, or figured out how to deal with the air. Several meet records were broken and even 2 or 3 pool records were set. It was a very fast meet, for many events.
And yet there was this “static” in the background about the air. One of our swimmers came up before an event on the last day with a rather panicked look saying, “I don’t think I can swim.” The statement was made because the swimmer had been around several other competitors who were coughing and complaining about how hard it is to breathe. Long story short, our swimmer swam 2 events that day and managed to deal with it. But it wasn’t easy by any means. Fears and doubts needed to be overcome and “group think” had to be put aside.
In talking about this with two other coaches later that session one of them said he worked and taught in the field of mental health. He said today’s youngsters have much higher levels of anxiety and even depression than was evident in a generation or two gone by. He said it was because today kids are not taught how to figure out rather common causes of “fears”. This can even lead to more general levels of depression. His take was that since parents today don’t let their kids learn how to deal with normal stresses they – the kids – learn how to become anxious thus creating a situation where the parent will intervene to make everything ok.
We thought about this a while and concluded that our parents never, ever, said all they wanted was for us to be happy. In fact we couldn’t ever remember hearing that phrase. Yet today we can easily recall parents saying, “All I want is for her to be happy”. Or “I just want him to be ok”.
When stressors make life difficult, kids need to figure out how to deal with the bumps in the road and make adjustments, without simply saying “I’m having a panic attack” so as to call in the reinforcements.
In the case in Iowa, there were several options everyday…an athlete’s lounge with excellent air; a leisure pool adjacent to the main pool with air noticeably better, an open gym above the main pool with sight lines to the pool and scoreboard so you could see exactly which heat was in the water. There were options. Many figured that out and chose those options and while yes, being bothered by the air, they weren’t thrown into a state of “paralysis” by it.
We – parents and coaches – need to let the kids know we are standing by as a safety net. And yet, we cannot, nor should we, solve all of life’s challenges for them.

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