The Parent’s Survival Guide for Dealing with a Taper

by Olivier Poirier-Leroy. You can join his weekly motivational newsletter for competitive swimmers by clicking here.

The role of swimmer parent is a rich and diverse challenge that requires a vast and evolving skill set; from scheduling car pool, fundraising planning, officiating and much, much more.

During the period of the taper, a several week long period of equally intense bouts of doubt and confidence, the parent also becomes psychologist, hostage negotiator, and counselor.

To better understand how to cope with your athlete, here is a breakdown of the 7 most common stages of the tapering swimmer, along with suggestions for how to help your swimmer and you get through the taper with sanity intact:

1. The Second-Guesser. The swimmer will become inundated with thoughts of regret battered with panic, of wishing they hadn’t missed that one morning workout three months ago, and now, because they had, all those hundreds of other workouts are completely for naught. If only!

Remedy: Remind the athlete of all the work they did put in. If they have a log book, sit down with them and go over all of the practices, all of those nightmarish main sets that they whooped. Remind them that at this point, one more practice is merely a drop in the bucket of all the hard work already done.

2. The Phantom Pain Menace. Whereas a few weeks ago in the midst of 5k+ two-a-days there was barely a mention of aches and pains, now your swimmer is over-analyzing every soreness, acheyness and oh-my-god-is-that-a-headache-what-could-that-be-from? Anything that might remotely feel like an injury is given the complete House treatment. General panic and disorder ensues.

Remedy: Limit their Googling; the swimmer will look up their aches and pains and be terrified by a long list of diagnoses. Achey shoulder? Irreparable shoulder injury. Fatigue? Sounds like mono. General soreness? Definitely mono.

3. The Bouncy Ball. The taper is a magical thing in that everyone responds a little differently. For some, they are initially more fatigued than they were during hard training, while for others it is go time. With a nearly limitless surplus of energy this athlete can be found careening through rooms in the house, picking up new interests such as cleaning (?!), and also seeking out new activities outside of the pool to drain their energy.

Remedy: Put that kid to work! Just kidding. Very often swimmers will look for ways to burn this energy off, from playing hoops to going on Ultra-marathons. Try to limit the latter as to not completely decimate the swimmer’s taper.

4. The Hulk. On edge and irritable this athlete is frustrated with everything; how the taper isn’t going as well as it could, how they don’t feel as good as they’d like in the water, and how the big meet is two time-zones away. Two time-zones! The Hulk, well, smash.

Remedy: Food. More sleep. A couple Disney movies. Not thinking about swimming.

5. Lost & Bewildered. This swimmer comes home from practice with a stricken, mildly confused look across their face. As though stepping into another dimension, they aren’t sure if they have fully crossed over into the tapering phase, or they are in the pre-taper phase still, or even if they are in a pre-taper recovery-power phase. Sorry, where am I?

Remedy: Seek clarification about an exact date, hour and minute that the taper officially began with coach and placate athlete.

6. Mr. Feel Good. With the yardage down, and the rest up, a tapering swimmer is likely to feel rather, well, fantastic. So much so that it would behoove them to get another workout in. If it feels good, do it, right? Nope!

Remedy: Don’t support them scratching this itch. It’s a normal part of the tapering process. Hide goggles, running shoes and/or any surgical tubing laying around the house.

7. The Emotional Pile Up. For the entire season this athlete has stoically pounded out everything his or her coach dished out. They performed at the in-season meets, posted some hellishly fast get up swims in practice, and invested every last ounce of energy into swimming their pants off come championship season. However, with taper in full effect this athlete’s stoic facade promptly collapses. Wild and unpredictable mood swings varying from a calm depression to an hysteric giddiness leaving all those in their wake to wonder, “Now, what was that?”

Remedy: Remind your swimmer that the taper is a leap of faith, it’s a process, and that no matter how un-awesome they feel at the time, to trust that their body will show up ready to slay some best times on race day.

ABOUT OLIVIER POIRIER-LEROY

Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer. He’s the publisher of YourSwimBook, a ten-month log book for competitive swimmers.

Conquer the Pool Mental Training Book for SwimmersHe’s also the author of the recently published mental training workbook for competitive swimmers, Conquer the Pool: The Swimmer’s Ultimate Guide to a High Performance Mindset.

It combines sport psychology research, worksheets, and anecdotes and examples of Olympians past and present to give swimmers everything they need to conquer the mental side of the sport.

Ready to take your mindset to the next level?

Click here to learn more about Conquer the Pool.

COACHES & CLUBS: Yuppers–we do team orders of “Conquer the Pool” which includes a team discount as well as complimentary branding (your club logo on the cover of the book) at no additional charge.

Want more details? Click here for a free estimate on a team order of CTP.

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bobo gigi
7 years ago

How many lists like that do you have in your possession?
It’s impressive!

Talking about taper and swimming parents, Peter Andrew doesn’t have that kind of problems with his son Michael. 🙂

PsychoDad
Reply to  bobo gigi
7 years ago

Yes, and soon you will see Michael breaking more AG records and never winning any meaningful title when counts because tapered kids will be faster.

bad parent
Reply to  PsychoDad
6 years ago

How hard of a run do you want to make at a 15 year old kid? Is this really nessesary? This kid is like 2 years older than your kid – how would you feel about your kid getting comments like this?

There have been a billion kids that have trained “traditional” methods that have been amazing age group swimmers – only to fizzle out as they got older. We all know this….why does MA have to hold up the entire philosophy? He is killing right now….he is SOOOOO freaking fast. His METER 100 br time is sick…like big boy sick.

You need to avoid this subject.

Bigly
Reply to  PsychoDad
4 years ago

Jealousy is very unbecoming.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  PsychoDad
2 years ago

Well, this didn’t age well.

Mr Piano
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
2 years ago

Neither will any of your comments when Dressel goes 46 in the 100 free 😉

Coach Josh
Reply to  PsychoDad
2 years ago

This comment from Psychodad didn’t age well 😂

bobo gigi
7 years ago

And I don’t know if taper has really begun at NCAP. :mrgreen:
Andrew Gemmell has shared on his Twitter some training indiscretions with Katie Ledecky from the past few days.
https://twitter.com/ADGemmell

Adam
7 years ago

I remember the first time I tapered for a meet. I was so hyped the day before the meet that I went to the gym and maxed out on bench press. The older guys convinced me that I had to cover myself with tape as well and use nair on my arm pits… I was very naive and very much in agony.

PsychoDad
7 years ago

Would like to hear from coaches here how they taper 12 year old boys. Our son is so skinny his taper is two hour sleep and a plate of spinach pasta. But there are 12 year olds that look like grown men. How do you taper them all? Unless they have serious muscles, taper is mostly tapering their mind into thing they are ready, imo.

swimmer
Reply to  PsychoDad
7 years ago

12 yr old son should not need to taper. Unless you are training like an Olympian taper is a word that gets thrown around to much. How do you taper someone (the 12 yr old) that should not be swimming more than 4-5000 yds 3-4 times a week? Senior groups swimming 6-9 times a week need to taper…not a 12 yr old.

newswim
Reply to  PsychoDad
6 years ago

Taper for young age grouper? It’s called more sleep and more emphasis on race mechanics.

wowo
Reply to  PsychoDad
6 years ago

Bill sweetenham says that taper is completely individual. More muscle= more rest. I’m the case of your boy I’d say no more than 5-7 days rest of just doing race rehearsal. Depending on his level of swimming of course. If he is in the water 3/4 times a week, then you back off maybe 2 days before the meet. If it’s 5 days a week, pulling doubles on 3 of those days then I always do 5-7 days for the smaller athletes, 14-16 for more developed

Austinpoolboy
Reply to  wowo
4 years ago

As a 58 year old masters swimmer I start my “taper” weeks out. First week of taper means I stop using paddles and fins, and start to drop volume/intensity of dry land. Learned this through many years of trial and error. Probably means older swimmers take longer to recover from muscle abuse.

2nd week skip some work outs altogether. more easy yoga. Get a massage or two. Workouts start to gravitate to more warm up and a race pace test set or two. For example if I am shooting for a 2:18 200 free I will do a set of 4×50 with descending rest. Interval starts at 50 sec, then 45, then 40. If I can hold 35’s, during… Read more »

anonymous
Reply to  Austinpoolboy
2 years ago

This is true for masters swimmers. I skipped a day or two and when I did swim 2 days before the meet. I only swam 400 yards. I’m 62 years old. Its very different for older adults than teenagers.

mcmflyguy
Reply to  PsychoDad
6 years ago

you know how we tapered summer league kids when I was the coach. talkin ages between 6-18, well the highschoolers would get maybe a week of “taper”, but younger than highschool, a week out we would start to incorporate relays into practice instead of sets. and starts from the blocks, get out walk around. and finally my favorite, sharks and minnows. being that young, they don’t need a taper like you’d think. they just need to have fun and not be pushed so hard. just relax he is only 12, unless he has the drive like Michael Andrew just let him have fun man.

swiimer
7 years ago

I dread taper. I love the rest but I hate always having to sit down to pee rather than waste precious leg muscles..

Adam
7 years ago

Psycho Daddio,

That is the most loaded question I have seen on this web site. Each kid is his or her own circumstance. How many sessions have they made? What was their training volume? Which events are they training for? Maturity level? How do they perform under pressure? Etc. there are 1000s of things to consider.

PsychoDad
Reply to  Adam
7 years ago

Right. But how do you taper if you have say 20 of them. You do not taper individually, you taper the entire group. How? Based on the strongest kid? or, based on some fixed rules you have? I do not think any coach considers all those reasons you listed, in practice.

Swim mom
Reply to  PsychoDad
6 years ago

Psychodad, my kid’s coach would break down the training group further and segment them into different taper groups, depending on what meets and events they were swimming and other factors.

newswim
6 years ago

Once taper hits it reminds me of when our kids first learned to walk. Way back in those days we needed “safe proof” the living areas so that toddlers couldn’t pull things down on themselves. Now we need to safe proof the living areas from our 17 year old to avoid damage from careening balls that range in size from tennis balls to stability balls.

We never ask our kids how they “feel” during taper. It’s asking for trouble. They tell us anyway and our response is always “that’s good”. and/or “you don’t have to feel good to swim fast.”

Poolside
Reply to  newswim
4 years ago

Our swimmer now in his 20’s still never fails to injure himself… Jammed fingers, stubbed toes, knife cuts, basketball or med ball injuries, twisted ankles. He needs a padded room!

CoachGB
6 years ago

Taper is overated and it’s usage is the great scapegoat for just plain performing poorly. ” we didn’t taper right”. The word should be eliminated. Swimmers should swim fast more often.

Reply to  CoachGB
6 years ago

We never use the word anymore… we talk about ‘race prep’ for most and some of the bigger, close to men dudes we talk about ‘rest’… taper is a stupid word.

About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 he was thrown in the water at the local pool for swim lessons and since then has never wanted to get out. A nationally top ranked age grouper as both a …

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