Parents Corner

 

 The parents of a competitive swimmer play a vital role.  

The success of the Team Rockland Swim Team program depends on the complete understanding and cooperation among parents, swimmers and coaches. Your role is to support the coach and his/her decisions and not to coach, criticize, reward, or make suggestions that you feel will enhance your swimmers performance. You have the responsibility of creating the environment and instilling values, providing structure, and being a model that will allow them to be successful during their life. You are also responsible for choosing the programs and activities that will contribute to their future. In doing so, you must support and contribute 100 percent if your child is to benefit. Below are some helpful guidelines to keep your child’s development in proper perspective.


FAQ's about meets.

How to be a winning parent.

10 Commandments for Swimming Parents

Want your kid to become a champion in the pool?

Helping parents play the proper role on the swimmer-coach-parent team

Guidelines to help keep your child's progress in perspective

 


 How To Be A Winning Parent
A Parent’s Guide For Winning In The Youth Sports Game 
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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 generalize 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, no wins unless everyone wins. We need you on the team!

# 1 -When defined the right way, competition in youth sports is both good and healthy.

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. Sports is about learning to deal with challenges and obstacles. Without a worthy opponent, without any challenges, sports 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/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 loosing

A corollary to TWO, 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 parent-coach-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 children do so because they forget to remember 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 disappointing 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 (i.e. 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 they will learn and the better they will perform. 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 tendency to burn out and become susceptible to repetitive performance problems. An easy rule of thumb: If your child is not enjoying what they are doing, nor loving the heck out of it, investigate! What is going on that's preventing them 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 going will soon become a drop out statistic.

# 6 – Whose goal is it?

Number 5 leads us to a very important question! Why is your child participating in the sport? Are they doing it because they want to, for them, or because of you. When they have problems in their 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 will lose. 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 them with your expectations or by using guilt or bribery to keep them 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 unconditionally.

Do not equate your child's self-worth and lovability with his performance. The most tragic and damaging mistake Isee 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 and 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 1988 Olympics, when Greg Louganis needed and got a perfect 10 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 they have just performed miserably. In this situation being empathic and sensitive to his feelings is what's called 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 life time. 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 area 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 is 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 them 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 off 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 is 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 distorted 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.


10 COMMANDMENTS FOR SWIMMING PARENTS 
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I. Thou shalt not impose thy ambitions on thy child.
Remember that swimming is your child's activity. Improvements and progress occur at different rates for each individual. Don't judge your child's progress based on the performance of other athletes and don't push him based on what you think he should be doing. The nice thing about swimming is every person can strive to do his personal best and benefit from the process of competitive swimming.

II. Thou shalt be supportive no matter what.
There is only one question to ask your child after a practice or a competition - "Did you have fun?" If meets and practices are not fun, your child should not be forced to participate.

III. Thou shalt not coach thy child.
You are involved in one of the few youth sports programs that offers professional coaching. Do not undermine the professional coach by trying to coach your child on the side. Your job is to provide love and support. The coach is responsible for the technical part of the job. You should not offer advice on technique or race strategy. Never pay your child for a performance. This will only serve to confuse your child concerning the reasons to strive for excellence and weaken the swimmer/coach bond.

IV. Thou shalt only have positive things to say at a swimming meet.
You should be encouraging and never criticize your child or the coach. Both of them know when mistakes have been made. Remember “yelling at” is not the same as “cheering for”.

V. Thou shalt acknowledge thy child's fears.
New experiences can be stressful situations. It is totally appropriate for your child to be scared. Don't yell or belittle, just assure your child that the coach would not have suggested the event or meet if your child was not ready. Remember your job is to love and support your child through all of the swimming experience.

VI. Thou shalt not criticize the officials.
Please don't criticize those who are doing the best they can in purely voluntary positions.

VII. Honor thy child's coach.
The bond between coach and swimmer is special. It contributes to your child's success as well as fun. Do not criticize the coach in the presence of your child.

VIII. Thou shalt be loyal and supportive of thy team
It is not wise for parents to take swimmers and to jump from team to team. The water isn't necessarily bluer in another team's pool. Every team has its own internal problems, even teams that build champions. Children who switch from team to team find that it can be a difficult emotional experience. Often swimmers who do switch teams don't do better than they did before they sought the bluer water.

IX. Thy child shalt have goals besides winning.
Most successful swimmers have learned to focus on the process and not the outcome. Giving an honest effort regardless of what the outcome is, 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.

Does this make me a failure? No, in fact I am very proud of that swim." What a tremendous outlook to carry on through life.

X. Thou shalt not expect thy child to become an Olympian.
There are 250,000 athletes in USA Swimming. There are only 52 spots available for the Olympic Team every four years. Your child's odds of becoming an Olympian are about .0002%. Swimming is much more than just the Olympics. Ask your coach why he coaches. Chances are he was not an Olympian, but still got enough out of swimming that he wants to pass that love for the sport on to others. Swimming teaches self discipline and sportsmanship; it builds self esteem and fitness; it provides lifelong friendships and much more. Most Olympians will tell you that these intangibles far outweigh any medal they may have won. Swimming builds good people and you should be happy your child wants to participate.


WANT YOUR KID TO BECOME A CHAMPION IN THE POOL? (back to top)

Yo! Mom and Dad!!! Want your kid to become a champion in the pool? IF YOU DO, THEN YOU SHOULDN'T COACH!!!

I listened to his Dad frantically outlining all kinds of last minute race instructions. "This is a big race son. Don't forget to streamline out of your start and turns…and remember, no breathing into the turns. You've got to make sure you get a good start…and build the race in the second 100. You've got to make sure you don't back off like you did the last time….blah…blah…blah." His 13-year old son silently stood there, head down, looking at his toes. I could only imagine what he was thinking.

I guess Dad didn't realize that his son already had a very good coach. More than likely Dad meant well and was trying to be helpful. I know for a fact, however, that Dad didn't have a clue that his pre-race coaching with his son was going to guarantee, as in you can take it to the bank guarantee, that the boy would have a lousy swim. Certainly if he had known this he would've kept his lips sealed and simply encouraged his son to just go out there and have fun.

Throughout the swim, Dad's voice boomed out from the stands, "Go Billy, come on kick! Swim faster….Keep those hands together boy!…Pick it up now! Pick it up! Yadda, Yadda, Yadda!!!!" Unfortunately no amount of yelling and urging was going to get Billy to swim fast today. He was, as I had predicted, toast. His swim was several seconds slower than it should've been and, in the stands after the race, Dad couldn't contain his obvious anger and disappointment. "What happened out there?!!! You swam so badly. You didn't do anything we had talked about! Why Billy?!!! Why did you not do anything we had planned?!!!"

Now Dad, just what exactly is Billy supposed to say to you here? "Well gee Pops, I just thought, since I've been working so hard and so long, busting my butt to get up early, and pushing through mountains of pain and fatigue, that I'd just take this opportunity to waste all my training and embarrass myself, my coach and you in front of all these people!" Come on Dad! Get with the program!!! I have never met a swimmer who wants to swim poorly on purpose. Don't you know that Billy already feels badly enough without your angry critique? Are you unaware that he probably feels just terrible that he let you down? Whether you know it or not, the last thing your boy wants to do is to be a disappointment in your eyes! What he really needs after a bad race is your support, NOT your anger, disappointment and inappropriate and unhelpful critiques! (Yes! They are unhelpful coming from you, even if you know what you're talking about!) You won't help him feel better about himself nor swim faster by going down this road! All you'll get him to do is eventually hate himself, hate swimming and have a real hard time being around YOU!

In too many meets across the country Moms and Dad's are repeating the mistakes that Billy's Dad has made here. What they don't realize is that by becoming over involved in their children's swimming and "coaching", they are killing their kids' enjoyment of the sport, setting them up to fail and insuring that their children will become swimming, drop-out statistics. Over 70% of kids between the ages of 8 and 12 prematurely quit their sport because of too much pressure from adults, (parents & coaches).

So if you really want your child to go fast and as far as possible in this sport, let me coach you here. You have two important roles with your child that will pave the way for their swimming success. First, be your child's best fan. Support them. Love them unconditionally. Pick them up when they fall. Cheer for them. Don't tie their love and self-worth in your eyes with how fast they go in the pool. Second, DON'T COACH!!!! Don't sit in the stands and time them! Don't film their stroke mechanics and do stroke critique sessions! Don't remind them of everything the coach has been telling them! Don't try to motivate or focus them before their races. Don't force them to sit down and set goals! Don't force your goals on them! Don't discuss their race strategy and what you think they should be doing. Don't critique their races afterwards and help them correct their mistakes unless they ask directly. These are all the coach's job, not yours!

The best swimmers in the world have taught me one thing about what kind of parenting breeds Olympians. Most of the Olympian's I've talked to or worked with over the years have had parents who were incredibly supportive and unobtrusive. They weren't pushy, they didn't coach and they weren't over involved! Instead, they allowed their son or daughter to own the swimming. Remember, don't coach! Your job is to "love 'em", the coach's job is to "shove 'em"

 

HELPING PARENTS PLAY THE PROPER ROLE ON THE
SWIMMER-COACH-PARENT TEAM  
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“I'm so nervous. Oh my god, I can't wait for this event to be over! If I don't get a good time, I'm going to hear about it all the way home! Every time I swim slow, I have to go through the ringer with my dad (mom) and listen to everything I did wrong. According to them I don't work hard enough, my turns suck and I fool around too much! They always make me feel awful after bad races, like they're disappointed in me. It makes me hate swimming.”

A lot of swimmers get a bad case of performance anxiety pre-race which saps their confidence, tightens their muscles and drains the fun right out of the sport, ensuring that they'll swim slowly. Oftentimes, underlying these pre-race jitters is the powerful worry that unless they “produce,” mom and dad will be very angry and disappointed.

When a parent responds to your bad swims with their anger, disapproval and criticism, we can assume that most of the time, their heart is in the right place. They're simply trying to be helpful and wanting you to do well. Unfortunately, this is NOT their role on “the team” and they need to know that their “trying to be helpful” in this way is actually causing you to swim slower!

Why?

In order to swim your best, you must be loose, relaxed, (excited) and having fun pre-race. If you're  worried about disappointing parents, then you'll be too nervous, distracted and physically tight to swim well. Your parents need to understand that if they really want you to go fast, then their role on the team must be to help you stay calm and have fun.

They can do this in two ways:

First, by being your “BEST FAN.” Parents need to be emotionally supportive and positive with you, to pick you up when you're down, to help you feel happier and better about yourself, especially after a bad swim!

Second, by NOT COACHING! Coaching is the one parent mistake that will cause serious unhappiness in your house and performance problems in the pool. Coaching involves critiquing your practices and races, pushing you to work harder, trying to motivate you, focusing you on beating other swimmers or achieving certain times, offering pre-race strategy and technique advice, etc.

Have a conversation with your parents today and tell them that when they act like your coach and get angry and frustrated when you go slowly, they aren't being supportive and this will never help you relax, have fun and swim faster! Instead, coach them as to exactly what you need from them before and after your races. Help them understand what, if anything they could say pre-meet that would help you relax and have fun. Tell them what you most need from them after a disappointing swim or meet. Remind them that they have to play the right role on “the team” for you to be successful.

GUIDELINES TO HELP TO KEEP YOUR CHILD’S DEVELOPMENT IN PROPER PERSPECTIVE. 
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1.  The goal of the coaching staff is to build character, self-esteem, teach goal setting and self discipline, as well as develop fast swimmers. Your support of these values is crucial to the success of your swimmer.

2.  The development of your child is comprised of a progression of attitude, technique and speed, which may take up to 15 years to realize. You must be patient and remember that all swimmers learn at different rates. Your swimmers progress will be determined on the mastery of the fundamentals taught at each level.

3.  Swimmers at a young age and with less experience tend to progress faster than swimmers that are older and have been around for a while. Swimmers may worsen their times when learning new techniques, until they become habits. Be supportive and patient during this process.

4.  All swimmers will hit plateaus in both competition and training. Some last days, and some, in case of very accomplished athletes, last months. The most successful athlete will work through these temporary delays and make great strides toward their personal potential.

5.  Swimmers will be subjected to new stress levels both physically and mentally. It is important to adapt to these new levels, not to work around them. Swimmers and parents must learn to handle the disappointments and discomfort that goes with the stress.

6.  Competition is about striving for excellence and improving, not winning. Winning is the byproduct of these values and is temporary. There are always some swimmers that are faster. The real competition is within each individual to strive for his or her potential.

7.  Questions about your swimmers training, or team policies should be directed to the coaching staff on phone or in person. Criticizing the coach or team in front of swimmers or others, directly undermines the coach’s authority and ability to help your children reach their potential.

8.  Communication between the coach and swimmer is important and must exist at every practice and meet. It is important that the coach has your child’s full attention at all times. You are asked not to watch practice, or distract the coaching staff from their duties at these times. All questions and comments can be addresses before or after these times.

9.  No parent should behave in such a manner as to bring discredit to the child, the team, or
competitive swimming. Any disagreements with meet officials, other parents, or swimmers, should be brought to the attention of the coach, and handled by the coach.