Helping your child be a successful swimmer.
HINTS ON HELPING YOUR SWIMMER BE MORE SUCCESSFUL
Reprinted from the United States Swimming National Age Group Camp Handbook
Be Supportive. Both athlete and coach are likely to have a list of performance criticisms for his/her performance, no matter how good it might have been, so what the athlete needs from you is love and support. On the other hand, don't try to provide excuses for poor performances. As mentioned above, most athletes try to give their best performances in every competition, but sometimes the results are disappointing. When that happens, the less said, the better. The old adage, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all," would probably be a good one to follow. A swimmer is generally quite perceptive about his/her swims, and is, after all, the only one who really knows how much effort went into it. You and the coach only know what it looked like.
Leave Your Swimmer Alone. Your swimmer already has enough problems: trying to go fast, keep his/her start, stroke and turns legal, execute proper technique, impress his/her teammates, friends and/or enemies, place, improve his/her time, score points, please the coach, please him/herself, and so on.
Don't add additional pressure. Most athletes at all levels are already trying to reach their best performances in every competition, and do not really need you to remind them that you want them to do their best.
Avoid Criticism of the Coach in Front of Your Swimmer. The role of the coach is to provide a progressive training situation in which your swimmer can develop his/her skills and speed. Placing the obstacle of criticism between coach and swimmer creates an additional pressure on the swimmer, which can further impair performances. Your swimmer needs to trust his/her coach in order to get the most benefit from him or her. Your best bet if you don't like what the coach is doing is to make an appointment with him or her to discuss the situation. If you feel unable to talk with the coach, then perhaps you should consider a different approach.
Don't Try to Coach Your Swimmer. Regardless of how much you may know about swimming, you are not employed to coach your child. You are paying someone else to do it, so let him/her to do it. Your child needs you as a parent; he/she already has a coach. When your child is swimming is the time for him/her to be coached. When he/she is out of the water, he/she needs your support. Keep remembering how difficult it is just to grow up, and then figure how much additional pressure there is in a competitive sport. You can help your swimmer by not being the source of more pressure.
Do Not Jump From Team to Team. The water isn't necessarily bluer at the other team's pool. Every team has its own internal problems, even teams that build champions. Children who switch from team to team are often ostracized for a long, long time by the teammates they leave behind. Often times swimmers who do switch teams never do better than they did before they sought the bluer water.
Remember That Swimming Should Be Fun. As long as kids enjoy swimming, they will have a healthy, productive activity in which to be involved. When swimming becomes a negative experience, the swimmer is likely to want to stop. All athletes need motivation to attain their ultimate goals. When a swimmer fails to reach his/her goal, he should be encouraged to keep on trying, rather than discouraged by being shown how disappointed you are. When he achieves a goal, let him/her know how proud you are and stress the fun aspect of the sport. Whose Goals Are They, Anyway? Your swimmer's performance is not a reflection on you. (His manners may be, but not his/her swimming.)
Don't let your ego be caught up in your reaction to his/her swims. If your simmer eventually reaches national or international prominence, it will be because he/she has worked for it, not because his/her parents wanted the vicarious success.
Make Sure The Swimmer Has Goals Besides Winning. Giving an honest effort regardless of what the outcome is much more important than winning. One Olympian said, "My goal was to set a world record. Well, I did that, but someone else did it too, just a little faster than I did. I achieved my goal and I lost. This does not make me a failure, in fact, I am very proud of that swim."
Be Enthusiastic and Supportive. Remember that your child is the swimmer. Children need to establish their own goals and make their own progress towards them. Be careful not to impose your own standards and goals.
Do not over burden your child with winning and achieving best times. The most important part of your child's swimming experience is that he/she learns about him/herself while enjoying the sport. This healthy environment encourages learning and fun, which will develop a positive self-image within your child.
In the meantime, while your swimmer is working towards his/her goals, keep encouraging him/her to reach out and to strive towards excellence, and be sure to let him/her know you think he/she is pretty terrific!