Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham
Every year, tens of millions of kids sign up for sports in the United States. Several studies say that 70 percent of these kids will quit playing sports by age 13—and never play again. I wonder what the numbers are for swimming? And worldwide? I doubt it’s much better. Take a look at your swim team. You may notice less swimmers in their last years of high school than in younger age groups.
Why do kids quit swimming? The number one reason: “It’s no longer fun.” Kids would rather do something else. A former coach told me he lost many high school swimmers once they started dating or got a car.
Here are six parent tips on why kids think swimming is no longer fun:
Kids want to be with their friends.
If they don’t have a few close friends on their team, it can be hard. Maybe their close friends moved or switched teams. Teammates can help make practice fun. Hopefully, team bonding is encouraged and there are fun activities that bring teammates together.
Too much parental pressure—or not enough!
Parenting is a balancing act. We cannot be overly, emotionally invested in our kids’ performance. Yet, we have to be interested enough to get our kids to practice and meets and watch once in awhile. I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum and either one can take the fun out of swimming for your child.
The drive home.
I’ve read countless articles that say the ride home from a competition can be the reason why kids quit. Parents may rehash what their children did well and what they need to work on. They might criticize the coach or officials and blame them for less than stellar results. Experts recommend letting your kids have some time to let their own thoughts sink in. You may want to say something like, “I love watching you swim,” or “What did you like about today?” What worked for us was blasting our kids’ favorite music all the way home and inviting their friends for the drive, too.
Not getting any better.
If your swimmer is comparing themselves with teammates, he or she may feel they aren’t good enough. It’s only natural that kids will compare. They are in the lanes with their teammates and competing with them at meets. Kids are all different and they improve at different ages. But, it’s hard for your swimmers to stay passionate if they don’t believe in themselves.
Too much homework.
Not all kids can handle four to five hours of homework or more per night, practice every afternoon, plus a.m. practice. Some kids thrive with a demanding schedule, but it’s not for everyone. It all depends on the child. I enjoyed teachers who understood kids have busy lives and did all their work in class. Too bad there aren’t more teachers with that attitude.
Your kids may lose a coach they connected with. Or, your swimmers may think their coach has favorites and they aren’t one of them. Coaches can lead the way to success and help your swimmer improve, but as one of my kids’ coaches explained, “You swim because you love it. You cannot let a coach determine how you feel about swimming.”
At some point, our kids will decide if swimming is their passion, and if it is, nothing will keep them out of the pool.
Why do you think swimmers quit at age 13 or older?
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.