3 Tips to Help Swim Parents Deal with the Dreaded Plateau

by SwimSwam 30

December 30th, 2017 Club, Lifestyle, Opinion

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

The ever-dreaded plateau. It’s almost as bad as the “shank” in golf. I shanked every iron shot for months. I felt frightened every time I stood over the ball.

The plateau for a swimmer also can be a scary time. No matter what your swimmer does, he or she doesn’t drop time. One of my swimmers was stuck at 1:00 on her 100 free for what seemed to be a lifetime. In reality, she was 13 and it lasted for more than a year.

Coaches and parents of older swimmers told me it’s normal. Plateaus can happen to anyone — 13-14 year olds, high school swimmers or college students. If swimmers stay in the pool, they will break through it. But, it can be very discouraging and some give up.

As a parent, here are three tips to help your swimmer make it through a plateau:

TIP ONE:

Don’t freak out. Your anxiety will be felt by your swimmer. You need to trust the process and your athlete’s coach.

TIP TWO:

Reassure your swimmer that his or her coach has gotten many swimmers through plateaus. It’s not our job to coach our kid through a plateau. It’s our job to encourage and reassure.

TIP THREE:

Keep the swimming atmosphere fun. Have teammates over to hang out, like a Saturday after-practice breakfast. Team fun and bonding will help swimmers through tough plateaus.

Here’s what our coaches did: they had swimmers compete in off events at meets. Swimmers may see success and get best times in events they rarely swim. Also, they worked on specific things in practice like underwaters or breakouts. When swimmers focus on improving technique, their times will eventually get faster.

Swimming is a process. Trust in it.

I’ll never forget watching my daughter break 1:00 for her first time at the Belmont Pool in Southern California. She swam a 57. Her coach asked, “What happened to 58 and 59?” She said, “They are highly over-rated.”

Elizabeth WickhamElizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog: http://bleuwater.me/.

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SwimMom
6 years ago

Thank you! We are going through that process right now with my 12 year old. She’s mostly gaining in some of her best times. Will always keep these in mind.

SwimFL
Reply to  SwimMom
6 years ago

Remember that your daughter has not hit full maturity biologically. She will improve again! And girls develop so much differently than boys! It’s a real struggle when girls start comparing themselves to others! Just keep her positive, focused on her own improvement (small and large in the pool and in any land training done) and hopefully her coach is mixing things up in practice and in land training to help her improve in her weaker areas!

Anderson
Reply to  SwimFL
3 years ago

What if she is 13 and HAS hit full biological maturity? My daughter has bone age of 15 y.

GoldenB
6 years ago

Serious question! What if your child swims in a new program, with a new coach who was not a competitive swimmer? Is there something wrong with them watching videos, say of the Race Club, and the parent working with them? If the swimmer asks for it? In any other sport, this would be fine, and even encouraged! I really want thoughts.

Elizabeth Wickham
Reply to  GoldenB
6 years ago

I think watching videos is a great idea. My daughter watched Lindsay Benko’s Swim Fast freestyle video over and over when she was younger. In the video, Lindsay talks about her plateau all through high school. It’s available on YouTube through USA Swimming.

Jill
Reply to  Elizabeth Wickham
3 years ago

Hi! I was trying to find a video and could not… watched Swim fast freestyle with Lindsay but there is nothing about her plateau. Could you share a link, please? Thanks!

morrow3
Reply to  GoldenB
6 years ago

Be careful – what message are you sending your child? Why did you take your child to that program? The message you seem to be sending is that you don’t trust the experience of the coach. Which can undermine the entire process of a coach trying to help your swimmer. Be sure to communicate with the coach. And only watch videos if it comes from your swimmer.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with watching videos at home, but you chose this program for some reason. If you don’t feel confident in the coach, you should find a program where you do. Kids can hit plateaus because they are trying to please everyone and they get muddled up. Be… Read more »

Elizabeth Wickham
Reply to  morrow3
6 years ago

So true. The Lindsay Benko video was my daughter’s idea and the coach loved it. Also, the question above asked about a parent working with a kid. I say no to that one. Again, communicate with the coach.

SwimMom1130
6 years ago

My daughter did the same thing with her 50 free and 100 free… when she broke 100 free, she skipped 59 & 58. But her coach kept telling her that’s what is going to happen. Now that she’s 14, she’s going thru another plateau. Breaks my heart watching her going thru it but I learned to leace her alone and hope she gained some wisdom to overcome it this time.

mumsupport
6 years ago

wish I had seen this last year, 18 months ago my 7 year old got a 44in 50free and has only just beaten it, thankfully we had a great coach who said it would come back

Reply to  mumsupport
6 years ago

Yes, the dreaded 7 year old wall… some kids never get over it.

PsychoDad
Reply to  Hulk Swim
6 years ago

That has to be a joke, right Mumsupport? If not, I am changing my screen name. I do not deserve it..

bad parent
Reply to  PsychoDad
6 years ago

Psychodad – you deserve it. No joke.

joeMomma
Reply to  PsychoDad
6 years ago

Psychodad, the +1 wasn’t meant for the clown who said you deserve the hate; it was meant for Hulk Swim’s post.

joemomma
Reply to  Hulk Swim
6 years ago

+1

PsychoDad
6 years ago

There should never be a plateau for 14 & Under (even older boys) if you do not let your kids “specialize” in one or two strokes. Switch focus on other strokes/event and time cuts will come. Use perceived plateau to work on technique.

love2swim
Reply to  PsychoDad
6 years ago

All kids develop and grow differently. Yes some do plateau, then get faster. Others have straight line improvement. Some (parents) think the straight line will never end…until they finally realize their kid will be Faster than Phelps or Franklin if they drop time every.single.race.

swimfan
Reply to  love2swim
6 years ago

Let me guess…PsychoDad does think that his kid will be faster than Phelps. After all, Michael Andrew broke Phelps records and didn’t hit plateaus, therefore this is true for ALL 14/Under Boys.

bad parent
Reply to  PsychoDad
6 years ago

Psychodad,

In your vast knowledge of paying attention to your own children and judging others – where do you get this logic? If you switch focus on other strokes it does not negate the time plateau – it just shifts focus away from the plateau.

Also, shouldn’t we always be working on technique? Or are you saying use this time to take your own kids to the local pool and teach them things their club can not – like you do?

Varsity Swimmer
6 years ago

OR.. THE PARENT COULD JUST LEAVE THE SWIMMER ALONE ABOUT TIMES!!!!!!

Coach
6 years ago

Can you write an article for my team? “3 tips to help swim parents whose swimmer keeps improving but it’s not enough improvement”?

completelyconquered
Reply to  Coach
6 years ago

I’ve had meetings with parents about this before. Their swimmers improved but it wasn’t as much of an improvement as another swimmer on another team.

Varsity Swimmer
Reply to  Coach
6 years ago

EXACTLY.

Coach
6 years ago

One more article for my team please… “3 tips for swim parents on why 11 year olds in 11 year old bodies aren’t going to beat most 12 year olds in 14 year old bodies.”