Are We Alienating a Population of Could Be Swimmers?

by SwimSwam Contributors 81

January 10th, 2019 Club, Lifestyle

SwimSwam welcomes reader submissions about all topics aquatic, and if it’s well-written and well-thought, we might just post it under our “Shouts from the Stands” series. We don’t necessarily endorse the content of the Shouts from the Stands posts, and the opinions remain those of their authors. If you have thoughts to share, please send [email protected]

This “Shouts from the Stands” submission comes from
Allissa Keoughan, a former swimmer and current high school head coach

When I was a kid (quite long ago), summer swim team days were the best. Waking up at dawn, riding your bike to the pool, hanging out with fellow swimmer besties at your favorite summer spot, green hair, those swimmer tans….And who can forget those all day Saturday swim meets with jello jigglers and facing your swimming foes from neighboring towns.

So, of course, as soon as my kids got to the right age I was ecstatic to sign them up for our summer swim team. I was back!! Except…swimming is now a little different than it was when I was a kid. 10 year old’s swimming their 50 free in 26 seconds (oh ok….), I need to buy my daughter a knee suit that costs how much to match everyone else walking up to the block?? (I’m sorry that’s just ridiculous.) Also, you’re simply not a true swimmer unless you belong to a year round swim club that charges close to, or well over $1000 a season (no traveling fees included.)

Nevertheless, I loved the sport of swimming, and still do, so we were all in. Endless hours in the car driving to practice and meets, thousands of dollars on training fees and ridiculously expensive swim gear. It was all worth it to me to watch my kids practice their hearts out and show up at meets and get that PB, and heartbreaking when they had that really bad meet.

But now they are in their teens and guess what, they’re burnt out. They don’t want to spend all of their time in the car driving to swim practice every day after school. Do they still enjoy the sport? I think they do, but how fun is it to show up and get blown out of the water by kids who are practicing 2 times daily 6 days per week? There are also no programs (at least I haven’t found any) for those who want to just practice 2-3 times per week. Your option is to pay the enormous club fees and commit to several hours of volunteering. The all or nothing approach makes me really sad.

I respect those swim kids who are putting all of those hours in, it is tough work! But are we taking a sport that used to be the most fun sport around and turning it into a job? How many kids are we alienating that may be wanting to swim but don’t have the money or time to commit? Or just simply want to have fun and enjoy the great sport of swimming?

About Allissa Keoughan

I swam for my local swim team from the age of six until 18. I started coaching our summer swim team when my kids were little and have for the past eight years. I was assistant coach for the Newburgh Sea Creatures in Indiana for one season. Since my kids have drifted away from swimming I kind of have also but still enjoy going to watch all of my past swimmers and my nieces compete. I also take my kids to swim laps pretty regularly and I’m head coach for our small high school team, which primarily consists of my kids.

81
Leave a Reply

Subscribe
Notify of
81 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Meeeeee
2 years ago

Our club offers monetary assistance to needy families. We also offer levels of various groups so that one can commit to 20+ hours per week or much less than that.

JP input is too short
2 years ago

This is happening in *every* sport. Specialization early in the parents’ hopes of being the next superstar. It was not that long ago I was a kid, I at least tried out every sport the park district offered – heck, I didn’t even start competitive swimming until I was 10, and didn’t specialize in swimming until my senior year of high school. Now I have a friend with an elementary school aged daughter who shows some athletic promise, and he’s taking her to three different leagues worth of soccer games from late summer to early winter.

Honestly, I think swimming has made some strides away from this. The club team that my Masters group is attached to doesn’t have doubles… Read more »

Coach J
2 years ago

What I’m finding is that ALL sports are becoming year round, if you want to excel.

pete kennedy
Reply to  Coach J
2 years ago

Yes and that has become a problem. “excel”. Why do you have to excel at age 10, 11, 12 ?

(For what reason parental pride or is it the desire for that college scholarship/or now $$$$ sponsorship)

There are no longer what use to be known as “feeder programs.” Programs from which a star in the making
would suddenly join their high school team – some cases the college team (and wow – talent found – fresh body and fresh mind – not corrupted by over exposure nor worn out from parental and or coaching pressures.
It has destroyed the “feeder programs” of the past – example – Franke Bell’s YMCA program in Charlotte.

Mardo2044
Reply to  pete kennedy
2 years ago

I noticed the European model of “silo”-ing kids early in academics 35 years ago. I remember speaking to French High school students about how there was more ingenuity and creativity because we were not predetermined at 4th or 5th grade to be only mathematics or tracked for college or trade school. They were so envious and I felt privileged to have so much freedom to discover and try many things in my teens. US is now guilty of following this model in academics and athletics, I imagine the changes are to compete in a global economy but we are putting a TON of pressure on kids early. For those that really know what they want and don’t waiver, it works.… Read more »

Betty
2 years ago

Respectfully, I don’t agree completely with the first two comments that this phenomenon afflicts every sport. Let me rephrase that: it might be every sport, but in those sports, the intense practice frequency seems to be reserved for those at the highest level. But I get the sense that swimming is unique in that even the middling kids on our team swim at least 4 days a week. I know of a kid who was doing doubles over school breaks when she was in third grade, just months after turning 9. On the other hand, my nieces play relatively high-level competitive soccer, but only have two practices and one game a week, leaving them plenty of time for things like… Read more »

Swimgeek
Reply to  Betty
2 years ago

If they have 9-yr-olds doing doubles, then find a new club.

SwimMom
Reply to  Swimgeek
2 years ago

Exactly! Even the top teams in the country dont do that to 10 & U swimmers.

Ernie and Bert
2 years ago

Pool space is tight all all around the country. In order to grow the sport new pools need to be built and many old ones need to be replaced. Newer facilities attract new swimmers.

SwimMom
Reply to  Ernie and Bert
2 years ago

I agree completely. I know our Club has a wait list to join, and would love to find a way to have a space for every kind of swimmer. But space is tight, and they have plenty of committed athletes who are willing to put in the hours. I know for a fact that if there was more lane space they would love to have a “fitness/recreation” track for that type of swimmer.

When my kids played soccer, they didn’t NEED an actual soccer field for PRACTICE. Most of their practices were in a park or green space offered by a church, etc. where the coach would use cones, portable nets, etc. That type of ad hoc training is not… Read more »

Swimmer
2 years ago

I think people are forgetting that swimming is a little different from soccer or tennis,well at least in my opinion. You can play soccer twice a week and play just great in a game. With swimming you need to be in the pool almost everyday or you will lose the feel of the water. If you practice twice for a meet you Won’t have the best stroke and your lungs will definitely hurt. People practice several times a week to have a good meet to drop time because that’s what’s necessary to be great at swimming. You can’t practice three or two times a week and have a good meet which leads to the cherished and fun moments. I think… Read more »

Swimmom
Reply to  Swimmer
2 years ago

Definitely agree with you there, it’s just getting to be so much for the little ones. When you get to be high school age of course you are going to want that competitive edge, but 10,11,12 years olds already swimming doubles is just a bit much in my opinion.

LoveforSwim
Reply to  Swimmom
2 years ago

There are no year round teams in my area that allow under 12 to swim doubles.

swimmmmmer
Reply to  LoveforSwim
7 months ago

the only doubles my team offers for twelve year olds are for the ones that would be considered “elite” and practicing with the older kids. but even then they’re advised not to go.

Boomcobson
Reply to  Swimmer
2 years ago

Couldn’t agree more

James
Reply to  Swimmer
2 years ago

I see your point, and it is valid in terms of needing a feel to the water. But I think you are overlooking the fact that any sport requires nearly constant practice to compete at a high level. I have not swam competitively in over a decade, and get in the water 1-2 times per week. I could smoke 95% of the lap swimmers at my local gym, but that doesn’t mean I would even be able to hold a candle to actual competitive swimmers – even active Masters swimmers in my age group (35-40). I think the same would be said of good former Basketball, Soccer, etc. Put them up against Joe Public player and they will look beyond… Read more »

Swimgeek
Reply to  Swimmer
2 years ago

Twice a week is great for 8-unders. With steady progression

aquatiger
2 years ago

When I was younger sports like soccer were a fall sport. Maybe 3 months. Today, there is indoor soccer, outdoor soccer, club soccer, travel soccer, high school soccer, private soccer lessons. Post season games for one league overlap with preseason training for the next. And so each year we are basically cramming 16 months of soccer into 12 months, when we used to do 3. I see injuries in my office all the time, and the parents look at me like I’m crazy when I say “You need to rest. Stop. Take a month off between seasons. It wont hurt you.” This is for almost all sports in my area, and it keeps my office busy.

Swimming is no… Read more »

BGNole97
2 years ago

So because your kid doesn’t want to practice more than 3-4 days per week, they– or perhaps you–get bummed because they’re not beating the kids that practice 8-11 times per week. This is kinda how training works. That’s not a problem with the sport.

And because your kid isn’t practicing a lot, but is still swimming at the meets–which require a lot of volunteers to run–you feel like your volunteer requirement should be “pro-rated” in some way. That’s not a problem with the sport, that’s a problem with you apparently not understanding how much manpower it takes to run a proper and successful meet for ALL the kids, not just yours.

You want your kid to show up at a… Read more »

chlorine junkie
Reply to  BGNole97
2 years ago

I think you’re missing the point of the article – by the time most kids get to the age where they need to start training more seriously they are already burnt out from over training when they were too little. Also, it’s not really “summer league” anymore because the rec swimmers like to show up and outswim all of the “just summer swimmers”. (Or most parents just like to feel important to see their kids show up and kill everyone.)

BGNole97
Reply to  chlorine junkie
2 years ago

Our team has a policy that once you are in certain training groups either due to age or by skill level, you can’t do summer league specifically for this reason. If you’re swimming at Winter Juniors or Sectionals, you don’t need to be swimming at neighborhood rec leagues.

Certainly there’s no need for doubles when a kid is 10 years old. But if a kid wants to swim 5-6 days per week because they enjoy it, and the they like being with their friends and coaches–and improving–I don’t think it’s an indication that there’s something “wrong” with the sport.

Julie
Reply to  chlorine junkie
2 years ago

I agree, the article is talking about young swimmers, not high school swimmers. It’s great if your child is talented at a young age, but truthfully that is not when it matters. You want them to succeed in high school and college. I think part of the problem is parents wanting their child to get a full scholarship to college and start pushing their child at a young age. I have coached age group swimming both summer and winter and there are always parents who push their child and jump from one program to another looking for a coach to make their child great. Unfortunately many of those children burn out and quit the sport. It’s not just in swimming… Read more »

(G)olden Bear
Reply to  BGNole97
2 years ago

+1 for this ^.

Masters
Reply to  BGNole97
2 years ago

With all due respect, you sound like that crazy swim parent that none of the other swim parents want to be around lol….you’re ranting about things the author never even mentioned.

BGNole97
Reply to  Masters
2 years ago

Such as…?

She mentioned having to commit to “several hours” of volunteering. Several hours. Wow. What a hardship!

The other stuff I mentioned is illustrating why you can’t have a whole team of random shower-uppers. A couple here and there, maybe. But you shouldn’t ask a coach to commit to being at a pool at a certain time to coach a group of kids that may or may not show up, and you can’t waste money renting/heating water that may not get used. That’s not how other sports do it. If you’re on the team, you show up at the field/court/gym to practice when the rest of the team practices. That’s how “teams” work.

You can’t heat two lanes of… Read more »

Masters
Reply to  BGNole97
2 years ago

Well it mentioned that she had over 8 years of coaching experience so I’m pretty sure she knows what kind of work it takes, and as a coach I’m sure she worked PLENTY more than a few volunteer hours. That’s not what the article was about at all.

BGNole97
Reply to  Masters
2 years ago

Many coaches have no clue about the financials of the team. Most teams have a board that takes care of those things. And if they are an assistant coach they likely have less of a clue. As a high school coach she’s not likely having to pay to rent the school facility. If she’s summer league coach, the neighborhood association owns the pool, so they are not having to pay to rent it or heat it during the summer. And no, many assistant coaches have no clue about how much volunteer work goes on behind the scenes.

Masters
Reply to  BGNole97
2 years ago

In all my years of experience, I’m sorry, but you sound like the one who is a bit clueless. And as I said, sound like that crazy rude swim parent who runs all the normal ones off.

Guy
Reply to  Masters
2 years ago

Actually as a club, college and HS coach for over 20 years I can tell you that you Master’s, are the one who is clueless. I mean, with all due respect. He’s crazy and rude for NOT complaining about having to volunteer. I’ll take that crazy and rude any day I guess.