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:
Too many extracurricular activities
Some teachers consider it better to quit
Not enough time to play
Poor school results
Injuries and illnesses
Lack of understanding with the coach or team mates
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
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
• Laying reasonable and realistic goals
• Variety in the training sessions
• Short and enjoyable training sessions, specially with young swimmers
• Screening of motivational films
• Rewarding effort and good results
• Close relationship between swimmer and coach
• Explaining the reasons behind the training practices
• Personalizing the training sessions in accordance to the characteristics of the swimmer
• Relaxation techniques
• Correction of technical mistakes as soon as they are spotted
• Being patient and avoiding burning stages up too soon
• Goals planned in consensus
• Showing interest in the athlete
• Educating the athletes and their families to be responsible
• Teaching values
• Establishing realistic, logical and reachable goals
• Strengthening of secondary aspects of the swimmer
• Being positive
• Instilling enthusiasm
• Showing interest in the school results
• Showing respect
• Family support
• Helping to handle studies and sport practice simultaneously. They should go together
• 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 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.