Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham
My daughter was assigned a paper about how and where she learned ethical behavior. Like the great kid she is, she first gave credit to her mom and dad. She also mentioned church—and to my surprise—her club swim team.
Exactly what is meant by “ethics?” Here’s a short definition from Merriam-Webster: “rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good and bad.”
How do our kids get ethics from their swim team?
Who do they learn ethics from?
From an early age, our kids are watching us. They model our behavior. It’s a scary thought that someone is watching your every move, isn’t it? We may be passionate about how well they swim, but we need to find a balance. If our body language says that we’re upset, or we argue with coaches and officials, or berate our kid after a bad swim—we are showing our kids how to behave when facing disappointments—and not in a good way. Seriously, this is not the lesson we want to teach our kids. It’s our ethical obligation to be better role models.
Our coaches have a huge responsibility to teach our kids. They develop training regimens, teach technique plus ensure a safe and healthy environment. Kids are impressionable and coaches are more important to our kids than their school teachers. Not having favorites, showing respect to officials and teaching the importance of good sportsmanship are part of the ethical responsibilities of coaches. A great coach takes his job seriously and brings out the best in his swimmers, both as a person and as an athlete.
One of the major ethical problems written about in youth sports today is cheating. We are fortunate there aren’t a whole lot of ways to cheat in the pool like in other sports. With the exception of doping, there’s not much that swimmers can do to change the clock. In practice, swimmers know who leaves a few seconds early off the wall. Or, makes a trip to the bathroom during the tough fly set. A lot of ethical behavior gets sorted out during the long hours of practice.
What ethical lessons have your kids have learned from swimming? Work ethic, following rules, goal setting, sportsmanship and how to be a team member are what we hope our kids learn.
Do you have more to add to the list?
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.