Friday, June 1, 2012

Get Ready for Summer Swim Season

Is your kid splashing into the pool with eyes on being the next Michael Phelps or Cullen Jones?  (I think with some work, I could catch up to Dana Torres, but that’s another story.)  We’ll be hanging out pool-side, too; my son will be returning for another summer season, now officially a year-round swimmer, joined by his sister for her first year.  I’ve collected some tips from our experience and checked in with one of our local swim team coaches, Jenn Barnes, for her expert input, too!


  • Yes, swim practice is every day.  Even when its really hot and even in the rain (as long as there’s no lightning).  Practice is important, so do your best to get your child there. 
  • Introduce yourself to the coach - according to Coach Jenn, its helpful for coaches to be able to match your face to your name and to your kid. 
  • If you stay at practice, stay quietly.  Coach Jenn says to “let coaches do the coaching, it's important to allow the swimmer and coach build a relationship/bond.”  If you do have any questions, don’t assume, go ahead and ask, but after practice so that the coaches can pay full attention to the swimmers. 
The swim meet consists of a series of events – all the swim strokes, divided by age and sex, as well as relays and stroke medleys, that all totaled could be 40 or more events and can last about 3, even 4 hours, with your child swimming for maybe 5 of those minutes. 

In our swim league, there are “A” and “B” meets.
  • “A” meet competitors are selected by the coaches.  How do the coaches make up the “A” line-up?  Coach Jenn says that “many factors go into creating an “A” meet lineup (opposing teams strong spots and weak spots, who is available for the meet, maximizing points).  Typically the top 3 fastest times for the whole team from each event are chosen to swim.”
  • “B” meet swimmers may be asked to swim or allowed to sign up for eligible events. 
  • Swimmers need to get to the pool for warm-ups before the meet. This is your child’s opportunity to wake-up, stretch out their arms and legs, get a sense of the pool (is it a deep diving pool, is the depth graduated or flat, is the water cold), and get mentally ready for the meet.  It will be his only warm-up time; the next time he touches the water it will be for his event.
  • Additionally, for the team coach, she can check who is there and make any necessary adjustments to the swim line-up.  If your swimmer doesn’t make it to warm-ups, his slot in the events may be given to another swimmer. 
Parents’ Role
  • Cheer - We’re the cheerleaders and we are there to support our swimmers. Coach Jenn emphasizes that during the meets, again, “leave the coaching to the coaches”. Remember all the bonding the kids and the coaches did during practice?  This is where it kicks in. 
  • Volunteer – We will be asked to help with the meet as timers and lane organizers, as well as with set-up and at the concession stand. Helping out with the team is a great way to be involved in your child’s activity (in a way they don’t mind) and get to know the other kids and parents on the team, as well as to pass the time.
  • Make sure the kids are near - Our team, and many others, has a “Clerk of Course”.  This is the person who wrangles all the kids for each event into their correct line-up; its much like herding and corralling wet cats.  I did this last summer; other parents can make this job easier by having your swimmer ready a few events ahead of time and near the line-up area so that they can be easily found. 
Team Spirit
A swimmer can come to practice, swim his events, and never have to talk to another teammate, because other than the relays, swimming really is an individual sport.  But how fun is that?  Through-out the season, many teams have team activities and pep-rally type events, to further develop the team bond between the swimmers. Coach Jenn believes that “summer swim team is where lifelong friendships are made and the best way to build these relationships is to attend the team activities/functions.  This not only builds personal relationships but also builds a team.”

If your child is only swimming one or two events in the beginning of the meet, I know, its real tempting to dry her off and head off to the rest of your day.  But if you can, stay at least a few events and cheer on the swimmers.  For Coach Jenn’s swimmers “building a team that supports each other and is there for one another is more important that winning; staying until the end of the meet is a good way to do this.”  Swim teammates often scream cheer at the end of a swimmer’s lane and during half-time, the teams often become their own crazed cheerleading squad, complete with cheers, synchronized dances, costumes, and cannon-balls into the pool.  This all builds the team bond and leads to a more positive experience.

See you at the pool!

* What goes in the swim meet bag?  Check my "Pack Your Bags" post on the Swimming Pool. *

Did you know that “drowning is the 2nd leading cause of childhood accidental death”?  African-American and Hispanic children are less likely to know how to swim than White children, making them more at risk for drowning.  

If your child can’t swim, check your local YMCA or public pool for lessons.  
Stats and information from “Make a Splash” Foundation.  

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