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.
I’ve been talking with coaches, swimmers and officials to piece together a bit of history for our LSC. I’ve talked with many interesting people including icons Jim Montrella, Jill Sterkel, Chuck Riggs and Mark Schubert. I’ve 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 weren’t 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!
GOGGLES AND YARDAGE
Mark Schubert said when he first began coaching, swimmers didn’t wear goggles and they couldn’t 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 didn’t quite make it. Today, we haven’t come full circle but the yardage has dropped significantly for our children.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR WOMEN
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 men’s programs.
STANDARD POOL SIZES
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.
SWIMMERS AND DIVERS
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 time—in the same pool. Yes, some terrible accidents happened. To read more swim history, check out socalswimhistory.com.
What are some of the dramatic changes you’ve 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/.