Swim Mom: Three Reasons Why Kids Need Morning Practice

by SwimSwam Contributors 36

July 31st, 2018 Swim Mom

Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham

What do Mozart, Benjamin Franklin, Tim Cook and Oprah Winfrey have in common with our swimmers? They were or are early risers—getting up before dawn—just like our kids wake up for morning practice.

Leaving the house in the dark at 5 a.m. to drive kids to the pool doesn’t make my list of favorite moments as a swim mom. Fortunately, I shared the duty with other parents and eventually, the kids got old enough to drive themselves. With numerous studies stating that teens need more sleep and school start times should be shifted later to accommodate their body clocks, are we harming our kids with morning practices? If you look at the benefits of morning practice, in my opinion, no. If practices are limited to two or three mornings a week, they can actually help our children.

In addition to improving their swimming, here are three ways kids benefit with morning practice:

ONE

Organizational skills. Our kids need to be in their suits with swim bags packed with gear, towel, shampoo and conditioner way before 6 a.m. Plus, school backpacks must be ready to go with homework, books, lunches and school clothes. Preparation has to start the night before. Most likely this will keep them from becoming a kid who prints out an essay minutes before school only to fight with a printer jam or discover it’s out of ink. They’ll want to get homework done and not procrastinate so they can fall into bed early.

TWO

Early riser habit. Many successful people are early risers from CEOs to artists. They find early mornings to be conducive to quiet time to think, be creative and to get work done without interruption. Our kids benefit by being introduced to early mornings as teens, which may become a habit throughout their swim careers and beyond.

THREE

Accomplishment. Our kids have tasted success before the sun rises. They fought against a desire to stay in bed and won. They’ve finished a demanding workout all while their classmates are still under the covers. This feeling of accomplishment feeds into their earned self-esteem. Yes, they may be tired, but they’ll feel confident and empowered.

What are your experiences—pro or con—with morning practices?

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.

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Maria Suez
3 years ago

Are there companion articles on “Why kids need to sleep?”, “How swim affects the Family Dynamic?”…

sven
Reply to  Maria Suez
3 years ago

There have been a few articles over the past couple years debating the merits and tradeoffs of morning practice. Several took a stance where sleep should be priority for growing kids.

SwimGeek
3 years ago

This idea of a 6 or 7am workout is nice, but not reality for many of us. We’re at a team where kids are supposed to be on deck at 4:15AM for 4:30-6:00AM workout (so they can get home and catch 7:00AM school buses). Being on deck at 4:15AM means an alarm going off during the *3-o’clock hour*. For my daughter to get the 9-10 hours of sleep her 12-yr-old body naturally seeks, she will have to go to bed at 6PM. I can’t think of a better way to drive my child away from swimming than to give her a 3:50AM wake-up call 5x/week. We’re going to stick with afternoons.

Taa
Reply to  SwimGeek
3 years ago

no one should do that to a 12year old unless you want a zombie child

Betty
Reply to  SwimGeek
3 years ago

I agree with these two comments. There have been several studies that suggest that the sleep disruption does more harm to swimmers than any good that the early morning practices achieve. I don’t know how to post an embedded link, but here is one: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/254229090_Sleep_or_swim_Early-morning_training_severely_restricts_the_amount_of_sleep_obtained_by_elite_swimmers

Brian M
Reply to  SwimGeek
3 years ago

Waking a 12 year old child at 3:30/3:45am for swim practice is borderline child abuse. The fact that a team would even offer a practice time this early for such young athletes is nothing less than shocking. Even the “turbo” teams in my area that wear their high yardage programs like a badge of honor would not allow this.

Admin
Reply to  Brian M
3 years ago

Yeah…if you’re waking 12 year olds at 3:30 AM for practice, might as well get them involved in another sport now, because they’re going to quit sooner-or-later.

Brian M
Reply to  Braden Keith
3 years ago

ha ha…yeah you nailed that one.

Yabo
Reply to  SwimGeek
3 years ago

I like morning practices, great way to start the day and gets me primed for an after school nap, but 415 practice is really freaking early.

Noflykick
3 years ago

Sleep is waaaaaay under-rated in US society. Learning doesn’t happen when we are awake, gathering information happens when we are awake. Learning happens when we are sleeping. By getting up before completing a full night’s sleep, your child (and you) are shortchanging their intellectual development. Take a look at the sleep recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics:
https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/sleep/Pages/Healthy-Sleep-Habits-How-Many-Hours-Does-Your-Child-Need.aspx
Keep in mind that a kid who exercises vigorously every day is going to need to be at the high end of the recommended range. Now suppose you want to get up in time for morning practice. When does you kid need to fall asleep in order to get the recommended… Read more »

EmorySwimMom2018
Reply to  Noflykick
3 years ago

My son just graduated as a Five time National Champion, Four time All-American and Two time Scholar All-American. And he came to college as probably one of the only ones who did not do mornings ever!! Yes his Freshman year was a wake-up call (literally and figuratively )but he persevered and I think him NOT doing mornings made it so that he did not burn out as many of his fellow “faster” swimmers did. I remember move-in day and listening to all the swim parents talk about their kid’s swim practices before coming to college and thinking my kid is so screwed because his practices seemed so “mickey-mouse” compared to theirs. However, as tough as his college workouts proved to… Read more »

PVSFree
Reply to  EmorySwimMom2018
3 years ago

Cool to see Andrew Wilson’s mom on SwimSwam

EmorySwimMom2018
Reply to  PVSFree
3 years ago

I am not Andrew’s mom but my son swam with Andrew….what a great young man he is!! And his Mom and Dad are just the nicest and sweetest people. My son was two years behind Andrew but we first met Andrew when he showed my son around on his recruit trip…and right after that trip my son committed to Emory and never looked back. Andrew was one of my son’s biggest supporters. Both he and Andrew were voted by the team as Most Improved Swimmer (my son actually received the award two years in a row 🙂 ) My son was part of the team that won DIII Nationals …..truly the “Dream Team”! Last year at Nationals Andrew’s sister was… Read more »

Thirteenthwind
3 years ago

Ugh.

Clearly the importance of sleep and the detriment of missing it means nothing to you (either for yourself or your kids).

Kids don’t NEED morning practice. There are some (minute) potential benefits in terms of swim conditioning, but your other reasons have no scientific base. Hell – you even acknowledge that you’re aware of studies about biological clocks and you still think cutting a developing child’s sleep short is a good idea?

To your theee points:

1) Organization is a learned behavior. If you’re part of a family that is organized you have the opportunity to learn how to be. If you aren’t, just waking up before the sun doesn’t mean that you will be. In… Read more »

Schwim
Reply to  Thirteenthwind
3 years ago

While I agree with your emphasis the importance of sleep, realistically sleep deprivation is not an issue for children who simply go to bed early enough. Morning practice at 6am? Go to sleep at 8. Nobody said swimming doesn’t require sacrifices, and, believe it or not, proper time management (another skill exercised with doubles) makes doubles and enough sleep possible.

dmswim
Reply to  Schwim
3 years ago

If I kid is doing doubles, they swim at 6, go to school at 8, get off of school at 3:30, have practice from 4-6 or 7 depending on whether they have dryland/weights, and then get home by 7:30. They’re supposed to shower, eat dinner, and do homework in 30 minutes so they can get to bed by 8? Good luck with that.

swimmermama
Reply to  Schwim
3 years ago

This might be possible if you have a middle school student or younger, but is very unrealistic for a high school student. My high school students have at least 2 hours of homework daily. Add in pool practice every afternoon, dryland at a training center 3 times a week and the commute time, it is impossible to be in bed that early. Most nights they are not even home by 8. Then add in high school meets that go until 9pm. Fortunately, our program does not have morning practices and still has produced state champions, NCAA division 1 swimmers and Olympic trials qualifiers.

I also swam in college and went in never having doubled during the school year. I… Read more »

TXSwimMom
Reply to  swimmermama
2 years ago

2 hours of homework on a GOOD night!

Thirteenthwind
Reply to  Schwim
3 years ago

Schwim –
“Simply go to bed early enough” is not an answer. As another commentator pointed out on here, actually going to bed vs being asleep is a waaaay différent animal. It doesn’t matter if you’re in bed by 8 if you’re not biologically hardwired to be asleep until 1.

Teenagers experience a jump in circadian rhythm as a relic of an “escaping the herd” mechanism left over from when Homo sapiens lived wild and free. Young children have a hardwired rhythm of sleep around 8-9 PM. Adults are more like 10-11. Teens swing far beyond that into the 12-2 AM range – a time hardwired into them to allow greater freedom without entirely abandoning the safety of… Read more »

Schwim
Reply to  Thirteenthwind
3 years ago

I see your point. However, it is my opinion (and experience) that biological hardware and circadian rhythm have less than nothing on a heavily training teen. Even non-active teens are known for falling asleep in a busy, lighted classroom in the middle of the day.

Believe me, if you’re training heavily for 5-6 hours a day, there isn’t a teen on the planet that will have any problem falling asleep.

HKSwim
Reply to  Thirteenthwind
2 years ago

I agree with you completely. Why We Sleep is on my reading list already, but heard the highlights from a friend. In our house, academics > swimming. How can kids be expected to achieve in the classroom if they are not getting enough sleep? I could go on, but thanks for your comments as they help confirm my conviction of no morning practice during the school year.

SwimObserver
Reply to  HKSwim
2 years ago

Which is all you came here for, right? To find someone who agrees with you to validate the opinions that you already came up with on your own? Same reason why you’re reading Why We Sleep?

Google “cognitive dissonance.” It will blow your mind.

HKSwim
Reply to  SwimObserver
2 years ago

For sure. Mind blown. Hope that makes you feel better! Enjoy your day.

HappyFan
3 years ago

For age group swimming our swimmers only did morning practices during the summer, when they didn’t need to be in school. They could come home, eat a second breakfast, take a nap and then head back to the pool for the second afternoon practice. During the school year, they only did once a day and that was in the afternoon. Of course, once high school came then morning practices before class and afternoon after class during season became the norm (we live in a state where if you swim high school you can’t swim club, so no crazy trying to do both!) and then once high school season over, back to once a day after school.

Now in college swimming… Read more »

Tall Paul
3 years ago

I live by the saying early to bed early to rise makes a person Healthy, Wealthy and Wise.

Yabo
3 years ago

Regarding point one, I remember waking up at three am to write the last five pages of my junior research paper before my 530 prszctice. Basically, procrastinators gonna procrastinate.

not important
3 years ago

there’s no way morning practice ISN’T correlated with depression