Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham
The big meet is coming up and your swimmer has been working hard and is ready. Then something unexpected happens. During a run, they sprain an ankle or their shoulder is causing them a lot of pain. Maybe they got hit in the head during warm-up or with a med ball and they have awful headaches that won’t go away.
As a swim parent, it’s time for us to take charge and help our swimmer through a very frustrating time. Now that I’m suffering from an injury myself and can’t swim Masters, I understand how discouraging it is when your normal level of activity is curtailed.
Here are six things parents can do to help their kids through rehab and recovery:
Find a great doctor.
It helps to see a doctor and get a diagnosis, rather than wait, wonder and be unsure of what’s going on. Of course, we want our children to have the best care available, so ask your coach, friends, and other doctors for recommendations.
Don’t dwell on the injury.
An injury is a big deal when your child loves swimming and their friendships are centered around their team. They may feel left out as well as hurt by not being in the pool. Try to find other things to think about and do. Take advantage of the time off and do activities there hasn’t been time for. Go to the movies, visit the zoo, or reconnect with friends they haven’t had time to hang out with.
Look at the big picture.
It’s really easy to get caught up in the meet coming up and you’ll want your swimmer to be able to compete. But, we need to look at the big picture. Will missing a meet mean that much several months or years from now? If your swimmer is consumed by the fact they can’t swim, remind them they’re not just a swimmer but a whole person.
Weigh advice from the doctor and coach.
Often you may get contradictory advice. Doctors may want your child out of the pool for weeks, while your child’s coach—and especially your swimmer—will want to get back into the pool sooner. As the parent, you get the final say so. It may be an opportunity for your child to work on weaker aspects of their stroke like kicking if their shoulder is hurting. Take advantage of this time and talk to their coach and doctor to develop a plan of action.
Get help for the mind as well as body.
If your swimmer is suffering from a recurring injury or can’t return to normal practice for a while, find a psychologist for their mental health. An injury can affect more than their physical well being.
Try not to be stressed out about your child’s injury. Your athlete is upset enough already and they’ll pick up on your anxiety. Showing a calm and patient attitude can help your child work through this unexpected and unfortunate time.
Has your swimmer had an injury? What did you do to help them through the frustration?
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: http://bleuwater.me/.