25 Strategies To Keep Swimmers From Quitting The Sport

Courtesy of Agustín Artiles Grijalba 

A young swimmer wanders aimlessly by the edge of the pool. He’s devastated, his performance wasn’t as expected, and with disappointment in his face he moves away from his team mates, nobody can soothe his anguish. A few meters away, another swimmer, a girl, cries bitterly. She embraces her coach desperately, unable to understand how it is possible that her father has left in a rage because of her mark, leaving her when she needs him the most. Yet another one complains about his bad luck, he’s been disqualified in his favourite race and all the effort and work of the last term has gone down the drain. He can’t stop wondering if all the effort and work was worth it.

It’s the dark side of sports, the failure, and every athlete has suffered it at one time or another. It acts like a virus that infects you and make you vulnerable. Rage, desperation and apathy are some of its symptoms. Controlling and reducing its effects must be a priority in our preparation if we want to avoid giving up prematurely.

The reasons why kids start swimming are diverse: to learn how to swim, to make new friends, to practice sport and to be healthy, just for fun, to search for social status or simply in order to improve their physical abilities, also by medical suggestion. Knowing and understanding the reasons why many swimmers leave the pools, spotting it early and preventing its consequencies will be a priority and so it must be studied hereby.

Here are some of those reasons:

 Boredom
 Too many extracurricular activities
 Some teachers consider it better to quit
 Not enough time to play
 Poor school results
 Economic difficulties
 Injuries and illnesses
 Lack of understanding with the coach or team mates
 Early specialization
 Prioritizing fun
 Loss of motivation
 Ability for other activities that can be more attractive
 Lack of family support
 Family or competitive pressure
 Unreachable goals, unreal expectations
 Fear of failing
 Bad results, stalemates or performance plateaux
 Exhaustion and over-training
 Sport and love interests at odds
 Poor working environment
 Lack of abilities
 Lack of team work
 Timing incompatibility
 Too much or too little competitive activities
 Bad results or low performance
 Difficulties in changing group Fear of competitions
 Not enough or inadequate training materials
 Lack of support from the partner
 Difficulty in combining training and the university studies.

An approximate estimation of the most frequent factors of abandonment, by swimming categories and ages. By Agustín Artiles

Categories by age abandonment factors:

  • Benjamin up to 10-12 years old
  • • Too many extracurricular activities. Conflict of interests.
  • • Scarce time to play. Injuries, ilnesses
  • • Boredom
  • • Problems with the coach
  • • The teachers advise quiting the swimming activities
  • • Interest focused on other activities11 to 18 years old
  • • Fear of failure
  • • Conflict of interests.
  • Low performance.
  • • Unreal expectations
  • • Problems with coach or peers
  • • Stalemates or performance plateaux
  • • Family or competitive preassure
  • • Competitive emphasis

Young Absolute and Masters, 17 years old and older:

  • • Lack of coordination between the sports and academical organizations
    • University studies and training done simultaneously
    • Low performance
    • Competitive preassure
    • Problems with the coach
    • Lesiones Injuries

25 BASIC STRATEGIES TO PREVENT EARLY DESERTIONS

  1. • Laying reasonable and realistic goals
  2. • Variety in the training sessions
  3. • Short and enjoyable training sessions, specially with young swimmers
  4. • Screening of motivational films
  5. • Rewarding effort and good results
  6. • Close relationship between swimmer and coach
  7. • Explaining the reasons behind the training practices
  8. • Personalizing the training sessions in accordance to the characteristics of the swimmer
  9. • Encouragement
  10. • Relaxation techniques
  11. • Correction of technical mistakes as soon as they are spotted
  12. • Being patient and avoiding burning stages up too soon
  13. • Goals planned in consensus
  14. • Showing interest in the athlete
  15. • Educating the athletes and their families to be responsible
  16. • Teaching values
  17. • Establishing realistic, logical and reachable goals
  18. • Strengthening of secondary aspects of the swimmer
  19. • Being positive
  20. • Instilling enthusiasm
  21. • Showing interest in the school results
  22. • Showing respect
  23. • Family support
  24. • Helping to handle studies and sport practice simultaneously. They should go together
  25. • Treating the athlete as an adult

Training swimmers isn’t easy. Times have changed and swimmers expect a coach to teach them, direct them and pay them the attention they require. Many of them are young athletes, in the middle of their learning process, that need to the know the reasons behind the training practice, for whom the peers’ opinions weighs a lot, and who require the support of their families.

Knowing that they are not miniature adults, controlling their progress through adequate and efficient planning that covers their elemental needs and guarantees a logical learning process, respecting and taking advantage of those phases that are more convenient for the different working intensities, will be of a vital importance to prevent giving up prematurely.

Agustín Artiles GrijalbaAgustín Artiles Grijalba has more than 35 years of experience as the head coach of some of the most important Spanish swimming teams. He has been the coach of the Spanish Swimming Team from 2008 to 2012, and has trained the 50 breastroke Spanish National Record Holder, Hector Monteagudo Espinosa, from 2002 to 2013. Agustín has also trained several international swimmers from the Spanish National Team and europe, as well as paralympic athletes with world records in all different categories. In 2006 he was honored as the “Best Competition Swimming Coach” in Spain. You can read his blog here.

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Coach

I say let some quit. It’s not a tragedy if a kid finds another sport or activity that they are more passionate about. There are too many slackers and lack of committed athletes in the sport anyhow. Better they find one other thing to do they really like and put 100% into it then hang around swimming and put 50% into it. They learn nothing from putting 50% into swimming. They learn everything from putting 100% into something. Let’s stop coddling kids. We have a whole generation of weaker people that are not prepared for how tough life can be.

Sandra Cathey

I do agree about the parental coddling issues. I feel that any year round sport, swimming, tennis, gymnastics, etc, teaches an athlete so many lifelong lessons. Parentus interruptous negates all coping skills. I tell parents that swimming helps your child with these skills (please add your thoughts): 1. The ability to learn how to manage time with other life skills, such as school work, family time, social and/ or religious activities, 2. The swimmer learns how to emotionally cope with feelings of anxiety and competition, 3. The swimmer learns this very important set of life skills A. THE ABILITY TO COPE WITH SUCCESS WITH HUMILITY B. THE ABILITY TO COPE WITH FAILURE TO ACHIEVE A GOAL WITH DIGNITY AND FORESIGHT… Read more »

Mamma d

Amen to that comment about parental coddling Sandra Cathey! I once was absolutely flabbergasted when a mother approached me and stated: “I told my daughter: You were amazing!” and “I can’t believe you even got up there and dove in from that diving board!” PS: the daughter is a larger girl so mabye that comment was to encourage her and not coddle? All I could day was “Yeah!” “The kids do really well even we do not expect it sometimes!” I was trying to be nice…but really people!?!

Samantha Strable

As a swimmer myself I feel like yes, we do have far too many slackers, but at the same time, coaches aren’t doing their jobs. Coaching us to success does not mean merely stating what we’re to do, and leaving us to figure it out. The lack of enthusiasm is sure to abound. We need coaches that train, that work on not just difficulty, but techniques, that encourage us to be better and show us not only the wrong way to do something, but the right. Anyone can stand on deck and bark orders, but it takes a real coach to motivate. Swimming is a relentless sport, but that doesn’t mean we should, as swimmers, hate it. Swimming can be… Read more »

Coach

I agree. Too many coaches are terrible. But there are also a number doing a great job. Biggest problem is not challenging kids.

Agustín artiles Grijalba

True. There are marvellous coachs, who besides training, do an excellent job with your sportsmen(sportswomen) and who provide a high degree of motivation

Agustin asked us to reply for him. See here:

“True. There are marvelous coaches, who besides training, do an excellent job with your sportsmen(sportswomen) and who provide a high degree of motivation.”

Clubswim

Agree. Many coaches someone yet have kids and are immature adults who have little understanding of child development. Kids are not perfect.. They will come from all backgrounds and have different capabilities…. From the natural swimmer and early developer to the overweight swimmer who is improving him or herself… To A+ brilliant students to kids with learning disabilities. I have rarely seen a coach who really gets all the kids…. Most just want to focus on the natural ability superstars.

swim

Wouldn’t letting them quit be the definition of coddling?

Clubswim

Yes I agree. Letting them quit, without good rationale, would be coddling. Sometimes it is good to let the kid follow another passion. Or better to find another team than deal with abusive coach. But let’s remember all kids are different and try to understand what makes them tick and motivate them.

April

I will say I have 2 kids in year round swim. My son has excelled and even went to the fantasy camp last year, my daughter is average and continually compares herself to her brother all the time. The coaches she has I believe sometimes hold her to the same expectations and when she doesn’t live up to them there is disappointment. She had a coach tell her when she wanted to time trial to move up groups “it doesn’t matter because you are not going to make the times anyways”. That was the straw that broke the camels back for her. If your coach doesn’t believe in you and won’t let you see where you’re at that will tear… Read more »

Riley

I am a swimmer, the leader on my club team and my high school team, and I do lots of recruitment to both of them. Over the past years I’ve realized that while letting someone quit because of poor reasons is coddling, forcing someone to continue doing something they don’t want to do is the most miserable thing on the planet for both parties. I grew weary of driving my teammates to practices because I knew they wouldn’t give their best effort, and I would always have to fight them just to get them to go to practice. Letting go, and allowing them to quit improved my relationships with all my teammates, whom were becoming more and more resentful that… Read more »

Agustín artiles Grijalba

I agree with you. Swimmers always have to be ready to give their 100 % but sometimes trainers must look for other resources of motivation in order to obtain a better response. If ultimately, it is not possible, we will look for other alternatives or sports in which he(she) is more comfortable

Agustin asked us to reply for him: See here:

“I agree with you. Swimmers always have to be ready to give their 100 % but sometimes trainers must look for other resources of motivation in order to obtain a better response. If ultimately, it is not possible, we will look for other alternatives or sports in which he(she) is more comfortable.”

College Athlete

I completely disagree with you. This is not a case of coddling this is a case of the really lessons to be learned in life. Yes, learning life is tough is valuable and pushing through hard sets can help you push through obstacles in life and teach you that life isn’t fair. However, swimming even at the Division I is and should be fun. Life is not easy and people are cruel, but we do not need our sport to speak of that too. Swimming should be an escape from all that, not a part of it. In short, no I do not think coaches should go easy and put up with slackers but I do believe that there are… Read more »

Monica

What about keeping a kid who is passionate about swimming from giving up after a tong term injury? How do you convince them it’s ok to go back to training, even if his doctors and therapist only want him doing about half of what the other team members are doing, and just swim for fun until you can be competitive again

Coach

Read Dr. Sarno’s book…. “Mind Body Prescription”

Agustín artiles Grijalba

The first thing is the well-being of the swimmer and keeping in mind the advice of the sports doctor. I do not know the type of injury, but it is important to be patient. It is advisable to speak with the swimmer, make him aware of the situation and the fact that you support him or her and worry about his or her well-being. It would be a good idea to keep in good physical shape with other activities that do not worsen his or her condittion.

Agustin asked us to reply for him. See here:

“The first thing is the well-being of the swimmer and keeping in mind the advice of the sports doctor. I do not know the type of injury, but it is important to be patient. It is advisable to speak with the swimmer, make him aware of the situation and the fact that you support him or her and worry about his or her well-being. It would be a good idea to keep in good physical shape with other activities that do not worsen his or her condittion.”

Swimmer

I think the lack of motivation and poor results and coach issues all sort of flow together. On my team, we have a small senior group (2-5) swimmers in hs with a wide variety of ability. The rest of the team is 60-100 under 12 swimmers. With 2 coachs alternating training us in the senior group, we sometimes get contradictory instruction that screws up our strokes. ( for example out head coach has his own idea on breastroke versus our assistant who is determined that his way is faster). This leads to poor performance at meets, and btw we only go to c/b/a meets because of the large beginner population. In our 12 week season we had the opprotunity to… Read more »

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