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.

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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
1 year 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.

Reply to  pete kennedy
1 year 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 »