Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham
Dear Swim Mom,
I am hoping to get advice on when it’s the right time to have my child start morning practice. My daughter is 12 years old and I notice that some of her friends on another team have morning practices twice a week. I talked to our coach about it and wanted to know when we were going to start morning practice, too. He said not for another year or two. I’m wondering if my daughter will be able to keep up if she isn’t swimming as many practices a week as her friends.
Do you have any suggestions on whether I should ask the coach again if she could start morning practice? Should I explain that her friends are already doing this?
Early Bird Mom
Dear Early Bird Mom,
I would follow your coach’s lead and let your daughter enjoy her sleep. There is plenty of time for her to begin morning practices as she gets older. The early mornings can be hard and it’s more important for your daughter to enjoy swimming and not burn out. There’s a study by the National Alliance for Youth Sports that says 70 percent of kids drop out of organized sports by age 13. The number one reason why they quit is “it’s just not fun anymore.” You don’t want your child to be in that group.
It sounds like you may want to talk with your coach more about his thoughts on morning practice. It might help you to better understand his reasons for waiting until the kids are older. Also, don’t worry about how your child is performing compared to her friends. At ages 13 through 17, things can change rapidly due to growth, strength, passion and dedication.
As kids get older into their teens, their workouts will intensify. You don’t want to start that too soon. The result can be burnout, injury, fatigue and not having fun. Sleep is so important for the development of our kids. According to a policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics called School Start Times for Adolescents, they recommend that the optimal amount of sleep is 8.5 to 9.5 hours for middle school and high school students. They say that chronic sleep loss affects physical and mental health, safety, academic performance and quality of life. In California, the governor signed into law legislation that mandates the start times will be pushed back to no earlier than 8 a.m. for middle schools and 8:30 a.m. for high schools to help with the lack of sleep our kids experience.
Different coaches and teams have their own beliefs on morning practice. Some teams and coaches don’t have morning practices at all. The important thing is to keep our kids excited about going to practice and to enjoy each step along the way.
What advice do you have for Early Bird Mom about swimming doubles?
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.