10 Things Swimming Parents Do That Coaches Can’t Stand
A close friend and one of the giants of world swimming coaching has a saying:
“My idea of coaching heaven is to have a ten lane, world-class swimming facility, with a fully equipped, professional quality gymnasium and a state of the art recovery centre built right alongside the world’s biggest orphanage.”
Why would someone with Olympic Gold medal, world record and world championship level coaching credentials feel so strongly about the challenges of working with swimming parents?
It should be relatively straightforward: coaches coach; swimmers swim, parents parent. Not that all that complicated really. This is not a thesis on thermodynamics – it’s just three groups of people working together to achieve a common goal – to help a swimmer realise their full potential.
So why is it that so many coaches will tell you that their biggest problem – the greatest challenge they face – is not finding pool space or identifying talented swimmers or battling bad weather or being able to buy the latest and greatest swimming training equipment: it’s working with difficult and sometimes destructive swimming parents?
Maybe this might explain it:
10 Things Swimming Parents Do That Coaches Can’t Stand
1. Doing it all for their kids.
Confidence is the essential ingredient in all great swimming success stories. Confidence comes from knowing: i.e. knowing you can do it. Swimming parents think they’re helping by doing all the little things for their kids but the parents who pack their child’s swimming bag, empty it for them, make their breakfast, carry their swim gear, fill their water bottles etc. are doing the exact opposite. They are creating dependent swimmers – instead of independent young people and that’s not going to result in developing teenagers who possess a strong sense of confidence, self-belief, resilience and self-reliance.
2. Insist on coaching their kids in technical areas.
Coaches coach. Parents parent. That’s it. It’s that simple. Coaches help swimmers develop things like physical skills, technical skills, turns, dives, starts, finishes, kicking, pulling – all that stuff. Swimming parents help their children learn values and virtues and help their children to develop the positive character traits that will sustain them throughout their lives. If everyone stays focused on doing their job well – everyone wins – particularly the swimmer.
3. Listen to other parents talk about technical issues.
Swimming parents listening to other swimming parents about technical issues really annoys coaches. For example: “My friend, Susie, whose child swims at another program told me that they do a lot more breaststroke than we do. Can we start doing a lot more breaststroke?” Coaches spend years learning how to write programs, how to enhance swimming skills, how to improve stroke technique and how to build an effective training environment. Unless “Susie” has the same skills, experience, knowledge and commitment to coaching, it is unlikely her opinions on technical matters are as valid as the coaches. Sitting on the side of another pool, watching training from a distance (and let’s face it – parents only really watch their own child anyway), then making assumptions to apply to all swimmers at all pools is so ludicrous it is incredible that it happens at all. Yet – for some reason – some swimming parents find it necessary to listen to the views of people who have no idea what they’re talking about rather than have faith and trust in their child’s highly trained and experienced professional coach.
Want to know why swimming parents are banned from so many pools around the world – Gossip. Coaches hate those little groups of swimming parents who sit together comparing “John’s freestyle technique” to “Mary’s freestyle technique” and then criticise the coach because neither child swims as fast as Michael Phelps, even though they’re only six years old and train once a month. Got a problem with the coach – go to the source and talk to the coach – not to other swimming parents.
5. Talk swimming all the time to their kids.
We all love this sport. But it’s just a sport. There are movies, art, music, politics, literature, theatre, other sports, rest time, going to the beach, hiking, learning another language…..the world is full of millions of wonderful experiences and children need the opportunity to be exposed to as many of them as possible. There is no need to talk swimming all the time. All it will do it increase the likelihood that the child will walk away from the sport in their mid-teens and frankly – this “teenage retirement” syndrome is a worldwide swimming epidemic that we all have to work together and try to stop.
6. Expect PRs every time their child swims.
No one swims PRs every time they swim. No one. Re-read this line ten times. No one. Coaches cringe when swimming parents approach them saying “Steve didn’t do a PR in his butterfly today – what’s wrong? What’s the problem?” The child might have done a PR is seven other events, have done five football practices through the week and sat for four school exams but because they didn’t do a PR in one event, there’s a problem?! Trust in the coach to do his or her job.
7. Demand accelerated development.
Coaches design and develop their program structures with a lot of thought, research and experience behind it. This long-term development pathway concept has its roots in mainstream education. For example, children aged 5 are introduced to basic mathematics at school. When they turn 8 years of age, they are exposed to long division. When they’re 15 they can do trigonometry, calculus and advanced geometry. Similarly, there’s a logical, purposeful process of developing athletes from learning to swim their first stroke to being able to win a national swimming title. Swimming parents who try to force coaches to push their kids ahead to the next level of development before they’re ready, are not helping the child (or the coach).
8. Give race instructions to their kids.
Just don’t do it. No need to comment further on this – just don’t.
9. Treat their children according to their child’s swimming performances.
This happens everywhere in the world and for some reason, some swimming parents just don’t get it. Child wins – love them with all your heart. Child loses – love them with all your heart. Child does ten PRs – love and support them unconditionally. Child doesn’t do a PR for six months – love and support them unconditionally. How fast a child swims should have no bearing on how they are treated, spoken to or loved. When it comes to loving and supporting your child – particularly in public– winning and losing make no difference.
10. Try to talk to the coach on deck during workouts.
There’s a really good reason why coaches don’t like this. Safety. If a coach turns their head to talk to a swimming parent about “Billy’s backstroke turns” or “Jenny’s butterfly splits” and there’s a safety issue in the pool, the coach is legally responsible and liable. Put it another way, if another swimming parent was talking with the coach on deck during workout and that meant your own child’s safety was compromised, how would you feel?
When coaches, swimmers and swimming parents work together as partners in performance – 100% committed and focused on helping the swimmer to realise their full potential, amazing – incredible things are not only possible – but inevitable.
A positive, constructive, successful swimming program is very possible when swimmers, coaches and swimming parents work together honestly, respectfully and with integrity.
Diet and Nutrition for Competitive Swimmers
Forget trying to outswim a bad diet – achieve the performance you deserve by thinking smart with your eating. Here we explain how.
You put in the hours in the pool, work hard and stick to your training plan, but if it all goes wrong in the kitchen, you could be selling yourself short. Don’t let a poor diet ruin your hard work and training. Instead, maximise your performance by feeding your body with all the nutrients and energy-giving food it needs.
Every swimmer’s needs and training plans are different, so determine the food and diet approach that work for you (assessing your energy levels is a good way to start). A pre-race Big Mac may be elite swimmer Tyler Clary’s go-to meal before a meet, but it’s unlikely to work for the rest of us!
How often to eat
Swimming competitively demands high-energy exertion, so eating smaller, nutritionally rich meals is important – this should satisfy your appetite, keep your blood sugar balanced and your energy levels high and free from dips. Opt for this approach over three larger meals a day, which may leave you feeling lethargic in training and when competing.
Complex carbohydrates and protein
A diet rich in complex carbohydrates (wholegrain breads and pasta, green veg, beans and sweet potatoes, for example) and protein will provide the energy you need to perform at your best. Aim for carbohydrates to make up half of your meal and ensure that you include protein (to aid muscle repair after a swim) at every sitting, along with vegetables and good fats such as avocado, cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds and coconut flesh.
Eating carbohydrate and protein-rich foods such as eggs, wholemeal bread, pasta, beans and chicken around 2-3 hours before a swim, is recommended.
Before and after training
Pre- and post-training session snacks and meals are important to help keep blood sugar levels balanced, particularly immediately after a swim. Aim to refuel your body within 20-30 minutes of training with a mix of muscle-repairing protein and glycogen-restoring carbohydrates.
Avoid fatty foods which put extra demands on your digestive system and cut all nutritionally empty food from your diet. Instead, opt for healthy, light snacks such as fresh fruit, smoothies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, protein shakes and cereal bars.
Dehydration can affect your energy levels and performance, so take a water bottle with you to the poolside and drink plenty before, during and after your training.
My child has made the finals at a gala, but I don’t understand the lane order - can you explain?
The lane order in finals is decided from times achieved in the heats. In a six-lane pool for example, the fastest qualifier will swim in lane 3, second fastest in lane 4, third in lane 2, fourth in lane 5, fifth in lane 1 and sixth in lane 6. In theory, this creates a spearhead formation in the race.
Lane order may also follow this format during heats.
I have heard reference to short course and long course. What is it?
Short course galas/competitions are held in a 25m pool (like Bradford Grammar, Aireborough and Shipley). Long course events are held in a 50m pool and these events will be either graded or Open meets. Most open competitions will required entry times to be submitted.
Short course times will always be faster than long course times because a swimmer will complete more turns and can take advantage of the push off the wall. Where you require a conversion time between long and short course times, please see your coach.
What is a Graded Meet?
A graded meet is specifically designed for club swimmers. These galas have specified times set before the gala. If you can swim faster than this time, you are not eligible to swim in the gala.
Myths about volunteering
People are often put off volunteering because they believe they would not have the skills or time to give to the role. Read on and see if we can dispel some of these myths.
“I want to help out, but I can’t because I don’t know anything about the sport!”
You can volunteer regardless of how much you know about aquatics – suitable roles can be found depending on your level of experience and your existing skills. If you are not sure what a role might entail you can work shadow someone for a while or at an event to get more of an idea whether you would be interested.
“If I want to be involved I have to commit to volunteering every week”
There will be roles to suit different levels of time commitment. Some roles will require a weekly commitment, whereas some could be for a single event. We will be grateful for any help you can offer, no matter how little or how much time you can contribute, and will help to find a role suited to your availability.
“Volunteering is just for older people”
Volunteering is for all ages, and we would encourage you to get involved no matter what your age or level of experience. Young volunteers can bring fresh new perspectives, energy and enthusiasm and have a positive influence on a club’s dynamics. It is healthy for a club to bring in new volunteers and it is important to consider who will be keeping the club running in the future. Combining volunteers of differing ages and levels of experience ensures that an effective club workforce is created. This also helps to bridge the gap between the younger swimmers and the older volunteers.
“I don’t know anyone at the club and I’m afraid it may be cliquey.”
From the outside it may seem difficult to penetrate what appears to be a cohesive group running the club. However, just ask how you can help and become involved and you will be welcomed with open arms.
“I need to have loads of experience.”
Not at all! Everyone has to start somewhere and often a fresh perspective on things without the politics of having been involved for a long time helps to look at things in a new way and start to make positive changes.
“I will need to organize and pay for my DBS check”
Some of the roles do not require a DBS check. However, if it does the club will organize this for you and it will be paid for by the club. You cannot transfer an existing DBS check from another organization outside of swimming as Swim England require you to be checked through BHSC.
How to Become a Winning Parent?
BY DR. ALAN GOLDBERG
is internationally-known expert in peak sports performance, Dr. Goldberg works with athletes and teams across all sports at every level, from professional and Olympic caliber right down to junior competitors. Dr. Goldberg specializes in helping athletes overcome fears & blocks, snap out of slumps, and perform to their potential.
If you want your child to come out of his youth sports experience a winner, (feeling good about himself and having a healthy attitude towards sports) then he needs your help! You are a vital and important part of the coach-athlete-parent team. If you do your job correctly and play YOUR position well, then your child will learn the sport faster, perform better, really have fun and have his self-esteem enhanced as a result. His sport experience will serve as a positive model for him to follow as he approaches other challenges and obstacles throughout life. If you "drop the ball" or run the wrong way with it, your child will stop learning, experience performance difficulties and blocks, and begin to really hate the sport. And that's the GOOD news! Further, your relationship with him will probably suffer significantly. As a result, he will come out of this experience burdened with feelings of failure, inadequacy and low self-esteem, feelings that will general¬ize to other areas in his life. Your child and his coach need you ON the team. They can't win without YOU! The following are a list of useful facts, guidelines and strategies for you to use to make you more skilled in the youth sport game. Remember, nowins unless everyone wins. We need you on the team!
1. When defined the RIGHT way, competition in youth sports is both good and healthy and teaches children a variety of important life skills. The word "compete" comes from the Latin words 'com" and "petere" which mean together and seeking respectively. The true definition of competition is a seeking TOGETHER where your opponent is your partner, NOT the enemy! The better he performs, the more chance you have of having a peak performance. Sport is about learning to deal with challenges and ob¬stacles. Without a worthy opponent, without any challenges sport is not so much fun. The more the challenge the better the opportunity you have to go beyond your limits. World records are consistently broken and set at the Olympics because the best athletes in the world are "seeking together", challenging each other to enhanced performance. Your child should NEVER be taught to view his opponent as the "bad guy", the enemy or someone to be hated and "destroyed". Do NOT model this attitude!! Instead, talk to and make friends with parents of your child's opponent. Root for great performances, good plays, NOT just for the winner!
2. ENCOURAGE YOUR CHILD TO COMPETE AGAINST HIMSELF. The ultimate goal of the sport experience is to challenge oneself and continually improve. Unfortunately, judging improvement by winning and losing is both an unfair and inaccurate measure. Winning in sports is about doing the best YOU can do, SEPARATE from the outcome or the play of your opponent. Children should be encouraged to compete against their own potential, i.e. Peter and Patty Potential. That is, the boys should focus on beating "Peter,” competing against themselves while the girls challenge "Patty.” When your child has this focus and plays to better himself instead of beating someone else, he will be more relaxed, have more fun and therefore perform better.
3. DO NOT DEFINE SUCCESS AND FAILURE IN TERMS OF WINNING AND LOSING. As a corollary to #2, one of the main purposes of the youth sports experience is skill acquisition and mastery. When a child performs to his potential and loses it is criminal to focus on the outcome and become critical. If a child plays his very best and loses, you need to help him feel like a winner! Similarly, when a child or team performs far below their potential but wins, this is NOT cause to feel like a winner. Help your child make this important separation between success and failure and winning and losing. Remember, if you define success and failure in terms of winning and losing, you're playing a losing game with your child!
4. BE SUPPORTIVE, DO NOT COACH! Your role on the parentcoach- athlete team is as a Support player with a capital S!! You need to be your child's best fan. UNCONDITIONALLY!!! Leave the coaching and instruction to the coach. Provide encouragement, support, empathy, transportation, money, help with fund-raisers, etc., BUT...DO NOT COACH! Most parents that get into trouble with their chil¬dren do so because they forget the important position that they play. Coaching interferes with your role as supporter and fan. The last thing your child needs and wants to hear from you after a disap¬pointing performance or loss is what they did technically or strategically wrong. Keep your role as a parent on the team separate from that as coach, and if, by necessity you actually get stuck in the almost no-win position of having to coach your child, try to maintain this separation of roles, ie. on the deck, field or court say, "'Now I'm talking to you as a coach", at home say, "'Now I'm talking to you as a parent". Don't parent when you coach and don't coach at home when you're supposed to be parenting.
5. HELP MAKE THE SPORT FUN FOR YOUR CHILD. It's a time proven principle of peak performance that the more fun an athlete is having, the more he will learn and the better he will per¬form. Fun MUST be present for peak performance to happen at EVERY level of sports from youth to world class
competitor! When a child stops having fun and begins to dread practice or competition, it's time for you as a parent to become concerned! When the sport or game becomes too serious, athletes have a ten-dency to burn out and become susceptible to repetitive performance problems. An easy rule of thumb:
IF YOUR CHILD IS NOT ENJOYING WHAT HE ARE DOING NOR LOVING THE HECK OUT OF IT, INVESTIGATE!! What is going on that's preventing him from having fun? Is it the coaching? The pressure? Is it YOU??! Keep in mind that being in a highly competitive program does NOT mean that there is no room for fun. The child that continues to play long after the fun is gone will soon become a drop out statistic.
6. WHOSE GOAL IS IT? #5 leads us to a very important question! Why is your child participating in the sport? Is she doing it because she wants to, for herself, or because of you. When an athlete has problems in her sport do you talk about them as "our" problems, "our jump isn't high enough", "we're having trouble with our flip turn,” etc. Are they playing because they don't want to disappoint you, because they know how important the sport is to you? Are they playing for rewards and "bonuses" that you give out? Are their goals and aspirations
YOURS or theirs? How invested are you in their success and failure? If they are competing to please you or for your vicarious glory they are in it for the wrong reasons! Further, if they stay involved for you, ultimately everyone loses. It is quite normal and healthy to want your child to excel and be as successful as possible. BUT, you cannot make this happen by pressuring her with your expectations or by using guilt or bribery to keep her involved. If they have their own reasons and own goals for participating, they will be FAR more motivated to excel and therefore far more successful.
7. YOUR CHILD IS NOT HIS PERFORMANCE. LOVE HIM UNCONDITONALLY. Do NOT equate your child's self-worth and lovability with his performance. The MOST tragic and damaging mistake I see parents continually make is punishing a child for a bad performance by withdrawing emotionally from him. A child loses a race, strikes out or misses an easy shot on goal and the parent responds with disgust, anger and withdrawal of love and approval. CAUTION: Only use this strategy if you want to damage your child emotionally and ruin your relationship with him. In the 88 Olympics, when Greg Louganis needed and got a perfect l0 on his last dive to overtake the Chinese diver for the gold medal, his last thought before he went was, "'If I don't make it, my mother will still love me".
8. REMEMBER THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-ESTEEM IN ALL OF YOUR INTERACTIONS WITH YOUR CHILD-ATHLETE. Athletes of all ages and levels perform in DIRECT relationship to how they feel about themselves. When your child is in an athletic environment that boosts his self-esteem, he will learn faster, enjoy himself more and perform better under competitive pressure. One thing we all want as children and NEVER stop wanting is to be loved and accepted, and to have our parents feel good about what we do. This is how self-esteem gets established. When your interactions with your child make him feel good about himself, he will, in turn, learn to treat himself this very same way. This does NOT mean that you have to incongruently compliment your child for a great effort after he has just performed miserably. In this situation being empathic and sensitive to his feelings is what'scalled for. Self-esteem makes the world go round. Make your child feel good about himself and you've given him a gift that lasts a lifetime. Do NOT interact with your child in a way that assaults his self-esteem by degrading, embarrassing or humiliating him. If you continually put your child down or minimize his accomplishments not only will he learn to do this to himself throughout his life, but he will also repeat YOUR mistake with HIS children!
9. GIVE YOUR CHILD THE GIFT OF FAILURE. If you really want your child to be as happy and as successful as possible in everything that he does, teach him how to fail! The most successful people in and out of sports do two things differently than everyone else. FIRST, they are more willing to take risks and therefore fail more frequently. SECOND, they use their failures in a positive way as a source of motivation and feedback to improve. Our society is generally negative and teaches us that failure is bad, a cause for humiliation and embarrassment and something to be avoided at all costs. Fear of failure or humiliation causes one to be tentative and non-active. In fact, most performance blocks and poor performances are a direct result of the athlete being preoccupied with failing or messing up. You can't learn to walk without falling enough times. Each time that you fall your body
gets valuable information on how to do it better. You can't be successful or have peak performances if you are concerned with losing or failing. Teach your child how to view setbacks, mistakes and risk-taking positively and you'll have given him the key to a lifetime of success. Failure is the PERFECT stepping stone to success.
10. CHALLENGE-DON'T THREATEN. Many parents directly or indirectly use guilt and threats as a way to "motivate" their child to perform better. Performance studies clearly indicate that while threats may provide short term results, the long term costs in terms of psychological health and performance are devastating. Using fear as a motivator is probably one of the worst dynamics you could set up with your child. Threats take the fun out of performance and directly lead to your child performing terribly. IMPLICIT in a threat, (do this or else!) is your OWN anxiety that you do not believe the child is capable. Communicating this lack of belief, even indirectly is further devastating to the child's performance. A challenge does not entail loss or negative consequences should the athlete fail. Further, implicit in a challenge is the empowering belief, “I think that you can do it".
11. STRESS PROCESS (skill acquisition, mastery and having fun), NOT OUTCOME. When athletes choke under pressure and perform far below their potential, a very common cause of this mis a focus on the outcome of the performance, i.e. win/lose, instead of the process. In any peak performance, the athlete is totally oblivious to the outcome and instead is completely absorbed in the here and now of the actual performance. An outcome focus will almost always distract and tighten up the athlete insuring a bad performance. Furthermore focusing on the outcome, which is completely out of the athlete's control will raise his anxiety to a performance inhibiting level. So IF you TRULY want your child to win, help get his focus AWAY from how important the contest is and have him focus on the task at hand. Supportive parents de-emphasize winning and instead stress learning the skills and playing the game.
12. AVOID COMPARISONS AND RESPECT DEVELOPMENTAL DIFFERENCES. Supportive parents do not use other athletes that their child competes against to compare and thus evaluate their child's progress. Comparisons are useless, inaccurate and destructive. Each child matures differently and the process of comparison ignores significant distorting effects of developmental differences. For example, two 12 year old boys may only have their age in common! One may physically have the build and perform like a 16 year old while the other, a late developer, may have the physical size and attribute of a 9 year old. Performance comparisons can prematurely turn offm otherwise talented athletes on their sport. The only value of comparisons is in teaching. If one child demonstrates proper technique, that child can be used comparatively as a model ONLY! For your child to do his very best he needs to learn to stay within himself. Worrying about how another athlete is doing interferes with him doing this.
13. TEACH YOUR CHILD TO HAVE A PERSPECTIVE ON THE SPORTS EXPERIENCE. The sports media in this country would like you to believe that sports and winning/losing are larger than life. The fact that it is just a game frequently gets lost in translation. This lack of perspective frequently trickles down to the youth sport level and young athletes often come away from competition with a dis¬torted view of themselves and how they performed. Parents need to help their children develop realistic expectations about themselves, their abilities and how they played, without robbing the child of his dreams. Swimming a lifetime best time and coming in dead last is a cause for celebration, not depression. Similarly, losing the conference championships does not mean that the sun will not rise tomorrow.
What Makes A Nightmare Sports Parent -- And What Makes A Great One
Hundreds of college athletes were asked to think back: "What is your worst memory from playing youth and high school sports?"
Their overwhelming response: "The ride home from games with my parents."
The informal survey lasted three decades, initiated by two former longtime coaches who over time became staunch advocates for the player, for the adolescent, for the child. Bruce E. Brown and Rob Miller of Proactive Coaching LLC are devoted to helping adults avoid becoming a nightmare sports parent, speaking at colleges, high schools and youth leagues to more than a million athletes, coaches and parents in the last 12 years.
Those same college athletes were asked what their parents said that made them feel great, that amplified their joy during and after a ballgame.
Their overwhelming response: "I love to watch you play."
There it is, from the mouths of babes who grew up to become college and professional athletes. Whether your child is just beginning T-ball or is a travel-team soccer all-star or survived the cuts for the high school varsity, parents take heed.
The vast majority of dads and moms that make rides home from games miserable for their children do so inadvertently. They aren't stereotypical horrendous sports parents, the ones who scream at referees, loudly second-guess coaches or berate their children. They are well-intentioned folks who can't help but initiate conversation about the contest before the sweat has dried on their child's uniform.
In the moments after a game, win or lose, kids desire distance. They make a rapid transition from athlete back to child. And they’d prefer if parents transitioned from spectator – or in many instances from coach – back to mom and dad. ASAP.
Brown a high school and youth coach near Seattle for more than 30 years, says his research shows young athletes especially enjoy having their grandparents watch them perform.
"Overall, grandparents are more content than parents to simply enjoy watching the child participate," he says. "Kids recognize that."
A grandparent is more likely to offer a smile and a hug, say "I love watching you play," and leave it at that.
Meanwhile a parent might blurt out …
“Why did you swing at that high pitch when we talked about laying off it?"
"Stay focused even when you are on the bench.”
"You didn’t hustle back to your position on defense.”
"You would have won if the ref would have called that obvious foul.”
"Your coach didn't have the best team on the field when it mattered most.”
And on and on.
Sure, an element of truth might be evident in the remarks. But the young athlete doesn’t want to hear it immediately after the game. Not from a parent. Comments that undermine teammates, the coach or even officials run counter to everything the young player is taught. And instructional feedback was likely already mentioned by the coach.
"Let your child bring the game to you if they want to,” Brown says.
Brown and Miller, a longtime coach and college administrator, don't consider themselves experts, but instead use their platform to convey to parents what three generations of young athletes have told them.
"Everything we teach came from me asking players questions," Brown says. "When you have a trusting relationship with kids, you get honest answers. When you listen to young people speak from their heart, they offer a perspective that really resonates.”
So what’s the takeaway for parents?
"Sports is one of few places in a child's life where a parent can say, 'This is your thing,’ ” Miller says. "Athletics is one of the best ways for young people to take risks and deal with failure because the consequences aren’t fatal, they aren’t permanent. We’re talking about a game. So they usually don’t want or need a parent to rescue them when something goes wrong.
"Once you as a parent are assured the team is a safe environment, release your child to the coach and to the game. That way all successes are theirs, all failures are theirs."
And discussion on the ride home can be about a song on the radio or where to stop for a bite to eat. By the time you pull into the driveway, the relationship ought to have transformed from keenly interested spectator and athlete back to parent and child:
"We loved watching you play. … Now, how about that homework?"
FIVE SIGNS OF A NIGHTMARE SPORTS PARENT
Nearly 75 percent of kids who play organized sports quit by age 13. Some find that their skill level hits a plateau and the game is no longer fun. Others simply discover other interests. But too many promising young athletes turn away from sports because their parents become insufferable.
Even professional athletes can behave inappropriately when it comes to their children. David Beckham was recently ejected from a youth soccer field for questioning an official. New Orleans radio host Bobby Hebert, a former NFL quarterback, publicly dressed down LSU football coach Les Miles after Alabama defeated LSU in the BCS title game last month. Hebert was hardly unbiased: His son had recently lost his starting position at LSU.
Mom or dad, so loving and rational at home, can transform into an ogre at a game. A lot of kids internally reach the conclusion that if they quit the sport, maybe they'll get their dad or mom back.
As a sports parent, this is what you don't want to become. This is what you want to avoid:
• Overemphasizing sports at the expense of sportsmanship: The best athletes keep their emotions in check and perform at an even keel, win or lose. Parents demonstrative in showing displeasure during a contest are sending the wrong message. Encouragement is crucial -- especially when things aren’t going well on the field.
• Having different goals than your child: Brown and Miller suggest jotting down a list of what you want for your child during their sport season. Your son or daughter can do the same. Vastly different lists are a red flag. Kids generally want to have fun, enjoy time with their friends, improve their skills and win. Parents who write down “getting a scholarship” or “making the All-Star team” probably need to adjust their goals. “Athletes say their parents believe their role on the team is larger than what the athlete knows it to be,” Miller says.
• Treating your child differently after a loss than a win: Almost all parents love their children the same regardless of the outcome of a game. Yet often their behavior conveys something else. "Many young athletes indicate that conversations with their parents after a game somehow make them feel as if their value as a person was tied to playing time or winning,” Brown says.
• Undermining the coach: Young athletes need a single instructional voice during games. That voice has to be the coach. Kids who listen to their parents yelling instruction from the stands or even glancing at their parents for approval from the field are distracted and can't perform at a peak level. Second-guessing the coach on the ride home is just as insidious.
• Living your own athletic dream through your child: A sure sign is the parent taking credit when the child has done well. “We worked on that shot for weeks in the driveway,” or “You did it just like I showed you” Another symptom is when the outcome of a game means more to a parent than to the child. If you as a parent are still depressed by a loss when the child is already off playing with friends, remind yourself that it’s not your career and you have zero control over the outcome.
FIVE SIGNS OF AN IDEAL SPORTS PARENT
Let’s hear it for the parents who do it right. In many respects, Brown and Miller say, it’s easier to be an ideal sports parent than a nightmare. “It takes less effort,” Miller says. “Sit back and enjoy.” Here’s what to do:
• Cheer everybody on the team, not just your child: Parents should attend as many games as possible and be supportive, yet allow young athletes to find their own solutions. Don’t feel the need to come to their rescue at every crisis. Continue to make positive comments even when the team is struggling.
• Model appropriate behavior: Contrary to the old saying, children do as you do, not as you say. When a parent projects poise, control and confidence, the young athlete is likely to do the same. And when a parent doesn’t dwell on a tough loss, the young athlete will be enormously appreciative.
• Know what is suitable to discuss with the coach: The mental and physical treatment of your child is absolutely appropriate. So is seeking advice on ways to help your child improve. And if you are concerned about your child’s behavior in the team setting, bring that up with the coach. Taboo topics: Playing time, team strategy, and discussing team members other than your child.
• Know your role: Everyone at a game is either a player, a coach, an official or a spectator. “It’s wise to choose only one of those roles at a time,” Brown says. “Some adults have the false impression that by being in a crowd, they become anonymous. People behaving poorly cannot hide.” Here’s a clue: If your child seems embarrassed by you, clean up your act.
• Be a good listener and a great encourager: When your child is ready to talk about a game or has a question about the sport, be all ears. Then provide answers while being mindful of avoiding becoming a nightmare sports parent. Above all, be positive. Be your child's biggest fan. "Good athletes learn better when they seek their own answers," Brown says.
And, of course, don’t be sparing with those magic words: "I love watching you play."
How good can I be? Do I have what it takes to be a great swimmer?
“How good you can be, has nothing to do with me. It’s up to you. I can write the workouts. I can help you improve your technique and skills. I can help you get faster, stronger, more flexible and more powerful…I can do all that stuff but in the end, greatness is a choice and success is a lifestyle. Your passion and your desire to succeed will determine how far you go in this sport. I will help you all I can, but in the end, it’s up to you”.
When should I specialise in the one event?
“There are rules about stroke specialisation – it’s not about age or sessions swum or how long your legs are….it’s about the three Ps:
What stroke suits you physically?
What stroke suits you psychologically?
What stroke are you passionate about in swimming?
Or if you like, your “special” stroke is the one which best suits your body, mind and spirit. As you grow, mature and develop, it will become pretty obvious what stroke is “yours” – and if you work hard at it every day, there are no limits to what you can achieve.