Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham
“Why did my child add time in her best event?” I heard two parents say at a recent age group meet.
“What’s wrong? Why isn’t she swimming best times?” I was asked about my daughter, who is swimming in college.
Many parents complain or worry when their kids aren’t dropping time. I’ve explained to my fellow swim parents that if our kids dropped time, every single time they swam, they’d be in the Olympics already.
In my daughter’s case, she does well at her target meets, after a taper, shaved and wearing a fast suit. Before she became a teenager, she used to see best times randomly throughout the year. Some swimmers are close to their best times year round, but that’s not true for everyone.
Here’s another question I was asked, “What do these words mean—shaved and tapered?”
Wikipedia says: “The practice of reducing exercise in the days just before an important competition is called tapering. A final stage is often referred to as “shave and taper.” The swimmer shaves off all exposed hair for the sake of reducing drag and having a sleeker and more hydrodynamic feel in the water.”
It’s important for us parents not to focus on times. Yes, we want our kids’ hard work to pay off. We want them to succeed. Enjoy the process and the life skills your child is absorbing. Trust in your child’s coach and your child will, too. Best times are to be celebrated, but seriously I’m thrilled to see that my kids love swimming. The less we stress about best times, the more enjoyable swimming will be for our kids—and the more likely they’ll stick with it.
Here are six things to think about when you wonder, “Why isn’t my child dropping time?”
When your child is new to the sport or young, they may drop time at most meets as they improve and grow.
When kids are young or new, they may have enormous drops! Enjoy the 10 and 20-second drops while they last!
As they get faster and better with technique, the drops will get smaller and may not happen at each meet.
If they are really good at certain events, for example the 100 free, it may be harder for them to get a personal best in that event, because they’re already swimming it so fast.
It may be easier to get personal bests in events they don’t swim that often, or still have a lot of room for improvement.
When kids are in their later years of high school or in college, they may only see best times at meets where they are rested, tapered, and suited up. In college, that could be the mid-season, conference or NCAA meets. In high school, it’s their end-of-season championship meets.
What other tips do you have for swim parents about best times?
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.