Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham
“Why isn’t my child dropping as much time as so and so?” I hear that all the time—and I’ve felt those thoughts, too. It can be frustrating when your kid is putting in tons of hard work, never misses practice, and other swimmers are dropping time when your child isn’t. One of the hardest things is not to compare our swimmers with other kids at practice and meets. It’s nearly impossible not to.
Here are several things to think about when we wonder why our children aren’t improving, but others around them are:
You are going to notice.
Acknowledge that in a sport where the stopwatch spells out in black and white who is faster and who is slower, you’ll notice. The key is not to obsess about how your child is doing during a meet. There are so many factors that can determine a child’s success in a race. Have they just had a growth spurt? Are they swimming tired from hard workouts? Maybe another swimmer has just experienced a major breakout swim. Or the coach has your swimmer working on a new technique or strategy that will pay off in the long term. It may be your child’s turn to shine at another meet.
The fastest eight-year-old may not be the fastest 13 or 17-year-old.
A record-breaking eight or nine-year-old could be faster than their peers, but statistics show that the majority of fast youngsters may not be the fastest in the pool by their teenage years. The accomplishments of an eight-year-old aren’t a strong predictor of future success.
Compare swimmers to themselves—where they were a year ago.
Rather than worry in November or December that swimmers aren’t getting personal best times, take a look at how our swimmers did one year ago to date. Extend that range out to two to four years and see if there is a trend of improvement throughout the years.
Our swimmers can’t control who else is in the pool.
Even when our kids get their best times, it doesn’t mean there won’t be faster swimmers in the pool. We can encourage them to try their best and compliment effort. They can’t control what others are doing or who they’re racing—they can only control their own actions.
Kids grow and develop at different times.
We’ve all seen 12-year-old boys and girls who look like they’re years older standing on the blocks next to kids who may be developmentally behind for their age. Swimming is an individual sport and our kids are all unique. Hard work will pay off in the end if swimmers have the desire and passion to stick with it through the ups, downs and plateaus.
“They only get to swim fast a couple times a year.”
I remember hearing those words of advice from a long-time ref whose daughter held numerous records at the club and collegiate levels. It took me a little bit of time to figure out that after a certain age, kids won’t drop time at every meet but only when they’re shaved, tapered and wearing a fast suit. Of course, there are swimmers who can drop time at any meet, but it wasn’t that way with my kids.
Ask the coach.
If you’re truly concerned that your swimmer isn’t improving, ask their coach for a meeting. Hopefully, you’ll have a better understanding of your child’s progress and what they’re working on.
What do you think about if your swimmer isn’t improving as much as their teammates?
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.