5 Ways Swimming Has Changed For Our Kids

by SwimSwam Contributors 3

February 06th, 2017 Lifestyle, Opinion

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

Parents who are former swimmers have an advantage over us, non-swimming parents. They understand first hand about the hard work and effort that goes into swimming on a daily basis. Their history gives them knowledge about how swimming has evolved through the years in terms of training, technique and equipment.

Ive been talking with coaches, swimmers and officials to piece together a bit of history for our LSC. Ive talked with many interesting people including icons Jim Montrella, Jill Sterkel, Chuck Riggs and Mark Schubert. Ive learned surprising facts about how things used to be”  in the swimming world that I never knew before.

Here are five ways swimming has changed dramatically for our children:



According to Phil Scott (RIP), head coach of the San Pedro YMCA in the 50s and 60s, boys swam naked at practice and girls werent allowed in the YMCA. When girls were finally allowed to join the swim team, Phil had to find suits for the boys. Back then, suits for girls were big, bulky and some were made of wool and had skirts!



Mark Schubert said when he first began coaching, swimmers didnt wear goggles and they couldnt stay in the water for more than 3,000 yards without their eyes burning. The introduction of goggles radically changed training and swimmers in the 70s swam 20,000 yards and more. Chuck Riggs said his swimmers tried to get in 30,000 a day over a Christmas break but didnt quite make it. Today, we havent come full circle but the yardage has dropped significantly for our children.



Bonnie Adair, head coach of Loyola Marymount University and founder of SCAQ Masters, said there were very few collegiate programs for women in her day. Her freshman year, she stayed home, commuted to college and trained with her club team. Her senior group on her club team was mostly women because the guys left to swim at college. Now with Title IX, women have more college swim programs, but at a cost of losing many mens programs.



Our kids swim in 25-yard or 50-meter pools in USA Swimming. I was surprised to learn that there were many different sizes and shapes of pools years ago. Some pools were 30 yards, 40 yards, 50 meters and everything in between. Coach Bonnie Adair said her parents purposefully drove her to meets at different sizes of pools so she could capture many of her 35 NAG records.



Many of the swim coaches I spoke with were divers. There was a time when most swimmers competed in diving, too. One of the scariest things I heard was that divers and swimmers practiced at the same timein the same pool. Yes, some terrible accidents happened. To read more swim history, check out socalswimhistory.com.
What are some of the dramatic changes youve seen in swimming throughout the years? How has swimming changed for your children?

Elizabeth 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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Cristina Perera
5 years ago

I swam in the 60’s, studied Marine Biologist and dive.

5 years ago

I swam in the early 80’s in SoCal. My USAS team regularly swam 5 (5-7am) mornings, 5 (3:30-6:00) afternoons and at least one Saturday practice a week. Things have changed for the better these days as I don’t think most teams swim every single morning (kids need sleep) and yardage isn’t the main focus anymore.

cynthia curran
5 years ago

I swam novice meets in 1969 at Bellflower which was a 33 1/3 yard pool. There were swimmers that swam more than 3,000 yards without googles but it bother you after a while. The googles came into most practices in late 1971. Swim suits were ok in the 1960’s and 1970’s but maybe not so much in the 1950’s. Also, caps were not that great fit in the 1960’s, so most elite swimmers from 1960 to 1072 women swimmers wore short hair. Once the caps got better many women that preferred long hair could have it if they were an age grouper to elite swimmer.