PROBLEMS, POTENTIAL AND KINETIC
UNEQUAL Justice for all? Sometimes parents ask, “Why don‟t you treat the kids equally, with one standard for all?” For the same reason that most parents don‟t treat their own children exactly the same: because kids have different capabilities, personalities, and motivations, and what works for one
child doesn‟t work for all. Second, because with talent comes responsibility. When a very fast swimmer, whom the others look up to and follow, messes around in practice, he drags the whole group down with him. This will not be tolerated. Higher expectations accompanying talent should be taken as a compliment.
THE wisdom of Solomon. Coaches make many decisions. You won‟t agree with them all. For instance, relays. As a general rule, every parent thinks his child should be on the “A” relay. But only four swimmers can be on the relay team. The coaches will choose the four kids whom they think will do the best job today. That is not always the four with the top four “best times.” Sometimes it includes a swimmer who has been very impressive in practices, or someone who is on fire at this meet, or someone who hasn‟t swum the event in a meet in a while and so hasn‟t officially made a fast time but who has let the coaches know by practice performance and otherwise that he deserves to be in the relay. Trust the coaches to act in what they consider the best interests of the team as a whole, and understand that this sometimes conflicts with what you see as the best interests of your child at this moment.
MEDDLING isn’t coaching. A lot of coaches, especially younger ones, will “over coach” as a rule, especially at meets. “Over coaches” are in the kids‟ faces all the time, giving them twenty thousand instructions before they race, timing them incessantly during the warm-ups of a championship meet, controlling every little thing. Many parents are impressed by this show of active coaching. However, over coaching is destructive, at practice, and at meets. At practice, swimmers need instruction — that is agreed. But they also need to be allowed to try things, to find out what works and what doesn‟t, to watch other swimmers, with perhaps a few leading questions from the coach. You don‟t teach an infant how to walk; he watches you, he tries it, he falls, he falls again and again, and in no time he is charging around the house making mischief. And when you get to a meet, the general rule should be, the less said the better. In a stressful environment, the more information you try to force into a kid‟s head at the last minute, the more likely you are to jam his circuits entirely (similar to “cramming” for an exam in school). He will head to the blocks not knowing which way is up.
TALK to the coach. Communicate any concerns about the program or your child‟s progress within it with the coach, not with your child. Never complain about a coach to a child. The last thing a ten-year-old need is to be caught in the middle between two adult authority figures. Further, when you have a problem or concern, please do not head to other parents to complain, head to the coach to discuss. There is nothing guaranteed to destroy a program faster, and to send good (even great) coaches running for the door quicker, than a group of parents sitting together every day in the stands comparing notes about the things they don‟t like.
SEMPER FIDELIS. Don‟t criticize the team to outsiders, don‟t criticize the coach to outsiders, don‟t criticize other parents to outsiders, don‟t criticize your own swimmers to outsiders, don‟t criticize others‟ swimmers to outsiders. If you can‟t find anything good to say, don‟t say anything at
LEAVE this campsite cleaner than you found it. Before you complain about any component of a swim program, ask yourself: what am I doing, positively and actively, to help the team function better?
DON’T try to be a swimming expert. With the internet rage, the amount of really bad information available at the click of a mouse is overwhelming. And not being a coach, not being immersed in the sport twenty-four hours a day, not having much historical perspective on technique and training, and
generally not knowing where the website you just stumbled onto fits in the jigsaw puzzle of the sport, you are in no position to judge what you find critically.
THERE are no “age group parents” and “senior parents.” There are only swimming parents. Once a portion of the team‟s parents begins to think of itself as having a different interest from that of the group as a whole, the team has begun to rip itself apart. The rosebud is not distinct from the rose
in full flowering; they are the same things at different stages of development, with identical interests.
SWIMMING is a mystery. Most of the time only God really knows why a swimmer did so well or so poorly. Coaches can point to the easy answers, superficial indices (stroke count, stroke rate, splits, etc.), which are probably more often effects than they are causes. Sometimes hard work isn‟t
rewarded with good performances. Sometimes lazing around and skipping practices is. This is hard for coaches, swimmers, and parents to accept. Not everything in life makes sense, and not everything in life is fair. It doesn‟t take a reflective coach very long to figure out that he isn‟t in total control here. Ponder the Greek tragedies.
A work in progress. These recommendations/suggestions may sound set in stone. But my thinking on most of these subjects is evolving, since these subjects are complicated and since kids are, too. These are topics that we should all consider as open to discussion. Being a good coach is just as difficult as being a good parent, and it involves thinking through and judging correctly about the same issues. Most parents are confused at least part of the time about whether or not they are doing the right things with their kids. And most coaches are equally uncertain about whether the methods that worked for one swimmer will work with another.
3rd edition, revised