CELEBRATING SWIMS AND SURVIVING DISAPPOINTMENTS

Olympic gold medalist Elizabeth Beisel once commented the very best thing her parents did was simply be her cheerleader when she was growing up., that they never tried to coach her. She said, "It didn't matter if it was a good swim or a bad swim, they would just smile and tell me they loved me."

Steve Lochte, who coached his son Ryan, also an Olympic champion, said the key was never putting any pressure on Ryan, that his son had to develop the desire on his own. (And Steve added it didn't really happen until Ryan was 14 years old!) 

The point of both stories is that your child is going to have some wonderful swims where they are excited-- celebrate them! But your child is also going to have disappointments and times when they feel like they are not making progress. (Both Coach Joe and Coach Charlie have grown up as competitive swimmers and are parents of competitive swimmers, so we can definitely relate to your frustrations!) Our best advice to you is you do the parenting  and loving and positive reinforcement and let our coaches do the coaching.

DO NOT:

  • Do not try to fix their stroke
  • Do not tell them to kick harder
  • Do not try to make things right
  • Do not let your child know you are disappointed either, as they will internalize this and think you are disappointed in them
  • Do not second guess or undermine the coaches, as this plants doubt in your child's mind

DO:

  • Celebrate the good times
  • Acknowledge times when your child is hurting and feeling frustrated
  • Encourage them to talk with their coach -- it is what the coach is for!
  • Remind your child every swimmer has good swims and bad swims and it's okay
  • Allow the coach to be the one to come up with a plan to action

You are always welcome to privately bring your concerns to our coaches!

So, WHAT IS TAPER?

As a final thought in this swim primer, you will start to hear the older kids talking about taper. While taper is not unique to swimming, it does not exist in traditional sports like football, baseball, or gymnastics. So, to understand what taper is, first you have to understand how swim training works.

Coaches are trying to develop a swimmer;s strength, flexibility, speed, technique, and that elusive "feel" for the water. so a variety of training exercises are used from drills in the water using fins and kick boards, to dryland exercises including running and doing weights. As we explained in an earlier section, there are two seasons in club swimming -- short course and long course, each ending with a championship meet. While the coaches are working their swimmers hard during each season, the athletes' muscles are being broken down to be built back up. The swimmers will be "sore" and weak and exhausted through much of the season. this is by design. If the swimmers can push themselves to perform even when absolutely worn down, think what they will do when rested!

And that's where taper comes in. Taper is the act of scaling back the hard work and training to allow the body to fully recover and be at its absolute prime during the championship meet. And taper is an art, not an exact science, so it is different for each swimmer as those with more muscle bulk might take longer to fully rest,  Coaches might do a mini-taper of just a day or to before an in-season meet, but often they are working right up until a week or so before the big meet. This is when practices may shorten, weights stop, and the focus really turns to any final tweaks on technique. This longer taper, if timed right, can result in huge drops in time for the swimmers.

Swimmers love taper because they start to feel good (after months of sore and tired muscles) but it always leaves coaches nervous wondering if they are timing the taper just right. 2008 Olympic gold medalist Garret Weber-Gayle famously missed the 2012 Olympic team by placing third in his event (only top 2 swimmer go) and he blamed timing his taper wrong as the cause.  

This is why it is consistency is important so your coach gets to know your athlete and how their bodies react to hard work and taper over the seasons.

Questions about any information in this article? Email Coach Joe and ask!