View Full Version : Steering vs Forcing? for DD

December 18th, 2017, 05:10 PM
How do you know the difference if you are “Steering” your child to swim vs “Forcing” them to Swim? Daughter has been swimming since 3 and is now 9 (almost 10). She’s had some great moments like winning a Summer League All Star butterfly race when she was 8. But after that, we gave her the choice to do winter league and she didn’t want to (previously she said she had). She still had pretty good summer (before getting sick) and was still on B team for the relays, but it wasn’t the same at age 8. At the end of this summer, she admitted that she should have done some of the swim clinics before the start of the season.

But, now she goes back and forth. One time we will be swimming at the pool, and she asks if I think she’ll be in Lane 3 (fast lane). Then recently she said that she didn’t want to be competitive and only “liked” swimming.

In Jan – Feb 2018, I do have her signed up for some swim clinics. So 1x a week for 6 weeks. But, should we do more swimming after? A part of me thinks she needs some private lessons as her technique has eroded due to not being in classes/team. But, should I do that if it doesn’t matter to her?!? I mean she can swim.

I've seen her flip-flop about wanting to swim and not quite sure if she gets the effort. For example, she set a new PB in Fly this summer and was disappointed she didn’t get a ribbon – she was against 10 year olds that were fast. Well, geez, should have done the stroke clinics before the season like I said. I don’t think she’s fully grasped that the “separation is in the preparation” (to quote Russell Wilson).

I’m trying not to be a crazy parent. I want her to get the health benefit from swimming. She loves ballet and performing – I see her on the stage. But, she is going to need the exercise from swimming to keep in shape.

I feel like it was easier when she was younger and we would just take her to class 1x a week to learn to swim.

Any Advice? I’ve thought about asking her if she has goals for next summer. At times, I think we just sign her up for some lessons/stroke clinic (from March – May) where she should just swim 1 – 2 times per week (would that be “forcing”). Or do I wait and see how she responds to the Stroke Clinics, that I signed her up for in Jan- Feb?



December 19th, 2017, 08:53 AM
Have you asked her if there are other sports she might like to try? My niece went through several sports, including swimming, before finding one that she really enjoys. You shouldn't have to force fun on a kid, IMHO.

December 19th, 2017, 10:32 AM
Have you asked her if there are other sports she might like to try? My niece went through several sports, including swimming, before finding one that she really enjoys. You shouldn't have to force fun on a kid, IMHO.

Totally agree. My youngest had decided that she liked the practices, but hated the all day meets. She had started with the Y programs from age 7 and moved up to USA swimming by 10. ...This was a hard one for the coach, because she was very gifted, but he insisted that they all must go to the meets. Driving two hours (each way) to sit around all day for a 50 yard event, and then wait another hour and a half for the next one, just sucked all the fun out of this. She eventually joined the high school team which was much more fun and more rewarding.

A long story short, swimming is either something your child will either completely love, or eventually shy away from. When they dread the early practices or the two hour sessions after school, you know that it just might not be their thing. The kids who are born to do this masochistic sport simply live for it. ...that's how I felt about it anyway. :) and still do, 40 plus years later.

December 19th, 2017, 10:33 AM
It was interesting at 8 (when all this great swim stuff was happening), she started talking about Gymnastics. And she was watching all these level 9 kid gymnastics on youtube. So this past summer, we send her to a camp at a Gymnastics academy and she didn't like it. In the fall, we had her goto class 1 day a week and most weeks she hated it! The semester has finished and she's done.

She did take an after school Yoga class, which she liked. I do want to see her go back and do some of that.

As mentioned, she loves her ballet and dance. She's in 4 classes a week and was in 2 nutcrackers.

The thing she is missing is an aerobic work-out. She has like zero interest in "ball" sports. If she rode her bike, then we could just ride her bike.

So what to do?

December 19th, 2017, 10:40 AM
She actually seems to like summer league and being with her neighborhood friends. Like I said, there is disappointments, if she doesn't get some ribbons. But, too get ribbons you actually have to swim outside of 6 weeks in the summer!

One of the challenges with Winter league, is they offer practice 3 times a week, but most kids (like my dd) only came 2 times. Hence, she really didn't get a chance to bond with the other kids. And I also think all the kids (70 or so) really kinda freaked my daughter out. She's very comfortable in dance class with at most a dozen girls.

In some ways, I do see her shying away from it. I just don't know if that time is now or in the future. And do I "force" or "guide" her to do some swimming in March?

December 19th, 2017, 11:27 AM
Have you asked her if there are other sports she might like to try? My niece went through several sports, including swimming, before finding one that she really enjoys. You shouldn't have to force fun on a kid, IMHO.

She started talking about Gymnastics when she was 8 (when all these great swim things were happening), so she went to a camp at a Gymnastics academy and didn't like it. Then we had her take a class 1x a week which was like pulling teeth. Thank fully the semester is done and she's done with Gymnastics.

We've tried some "ball" sports and she hasn't liked them. She did do an afterschool Yoga class that she liked.

She loves her ballet and dancing.

Just need to get her some aerobic activity and yes, swimming is something she's good at.

December 19th, 2017, 11:39 AM
You may have already given yourself the answer... Unfortunately swimming is not like soccer where "everyone is a winner" just because some hapless kid managed to kick the ball through the goal after both teams spent two hours of running around in circles. It's an individual sport where the agony of defeat and/or the joy of victory is based purely on one's own efforts. The sad part of reality is that not all participants receive a ribbon or medal. A fact of life lesson, and perhaps a good one.

Regarding the other comments, it sounds as if a smaller group setting is more within her comfort zone rather the the often raucous atmosphere of the pool facility - which always sounds much louder based on the acoustics of most swim centers.

At the end of the day, it's wonderful that your child is engaged in an activity which she enjoys. Let her decide if the swimming is for her by suggesting it - rather than telling her. There are definitely options in that she might enjoy synchronized-swimming, particularly if she enjoys dance. If you wanted to coax her, a positive benefit to being an adept swimmer is that she can always get a lifeguard job when old enough. Those are often the best high school summer jobs ever, particularly on the ocean.

...Sometimes parental motivation is good, but just because we may like something doesn't necessarily mean that our children will take to it. good luck!

December 19th, 2017, 11:55 AM
Oh, if there Synchronized Swimming club wasn't a 45 minute drive, then that would be something we could try.

You do bring up a good point about lifeguarding, because this is something that she has even mentioned.

To your point about the "smaller setting", I think if she does swim she should try the Y program. As they break kids into different training groups. Hence, she might be more comfortable.

Allen Stark
December 19th, 2017, 04:01 PM
All the dance classes I've seen seem like an aerobic workout,am I missing something?

December 19th, 2017, 04:41 PM
some yes. But, there is a lot of waiting in ballet. A lot of focus on body control.

Now Tap Class, she gets a good sweat going!

December 19th, 2017, 06:05 PM
Try again with the once a week clinics.

December 20th, 2017, 10:01 PM
Funny thing about encouraging kids to take up the things that interest you (the parent). I've always been a swimmer. I made it my mission that my kids (now adults in their 20s) would at least be capable swimmers because of our frequent proximity to the water. Their swim lessons literally began the day they were born...and they quickly learned to swim. Through their childhood and adolescence I encouraged them to join swim clubs. Encouraged...not forced. But they never had any interest so I eventually stopped when they were in middle school. Then, when my daughter was in 10th grade she came to me and said she was joining the h.s. swim team. I was ecstatic. She swam through h.s., LOVED IT, and was sorry she hadn't joined the team in 9th grade. But I think she enjoyed it more because she did it her way, or her schedule.


January 2nd, 2018, 09:54 AM
All - thanks for your input... I really think we will stick with the 1 day of week clinics/swimming in Jan/Feb. So get her back to swimming consistently 1 day a week. How does she respond? Sure, I think she'll get better and faster. But, does she enjoy it?

If not, then it's time to completely back down. Aerobically, she can hit a elliptical machine.
If enjoys, then will get back to 1 day a week with some private lessons to fix some bad habits.

I do think she needs to really think about what she wants to accomplish with swimming. What if she was not in the relays in Summer League ? Will it matter to her or not?


January 2nd, 2018, 02:00 PM

I thought about posting a while back and decided not to, but your comment "she really needs to think about what she wants to accomplish with swimming" has changed my mind. When I coached that age group, the kids ranged from Top 2 in the country to slower than "C" times. They just wanted to have fun in practice and be with their friends. My whole goal was to have them enjoy it. if they did well, that was icing on the cake. if they were not fast and still enjoyed it, the chances of their kids swimming went up 100% and maybe that kid was the future champion.

IMHO, respectfully, you are looking at this through adult eyes and brain. Your intentions are admirable, but your daughter is 10 and has no clue (nor should she) about what you are talking about. Forcing her to "figure out what she wants" will lead to her doing something because it makes you happy. Chances are she is not real sure what she wants to do in a couple of hours.

Short story. I swam once a week until I was 12 because practice was in the evening and 4 miles away and the coach was volunteer. Instead I played outside, water skied in the summer, snow skied in the winter, wrestled, tumbling (loved it), football, basketball (terrible at), bicycled, dance class (hated it too). We did alot of unorganized physical activity. Doing all these different sports made me a better athlete, so that when I did focus on swimming, alot of good skills were in place. I did well in the sport.

The point of the story is that that kids at 10 have no clue what they will be really good at. They have to try lots of things instead of focusing on a single sport at such a young age. AND, puberty has a way of changing things in a very big way - especially for girls. One of my best 10 yr old female swimmers eventually became an NCAA D-III golf champion. One 10 yr old boy (a gifted swimmer) turned to snowboarding before coming back as a diver. He went on to be a 4x NY State Champion, All-American, and full ride in Diving at a D-I school.

The more physical skills your daughter has, the better she will be at everything she does. She has plenty of time to decide what to focus on. And, you know what, she might decide she likes doing something different every three months when she gets to middle and high school. If she does, I think you have an ace of a daughter.

All the best,


January 2nd, 2018, 02:59 PM
As mentioned, she loves her ballet and dance. She's in 4 classes a week and was in 2 nutcrackers.

To be honest, it reads to me like she has chosen her preferred activity. 4 classes per week is a pretty full week for a 9 year old. And I can't tell you how happy I am that my daughters didn't like dance, but I don't think you give enough credit to the physical aspect of it. The kids my kids' ages who dance are generally VERY athletic. A few of them tried swimming, and didn't like it.

She's getting close to teh age where she'll figure it out, herself. It reads to me like swimming is a fun thing, not the passion. If she decides she wants to focus more on it, or improve on it, she'll let you know. She's young enough where the passion may switch.

We have had a kid on our Summer team for the past few years we have been hoping would try our year-round team. She had the most natural butterly you've ever seen. Finished 2nd in our region's Summer league championship meet in the 25 fly a couple of times (out of 3600 total swimmers), but as she got older, she wasn't quite as competitive with kids who started doing year-round swimming. But her parents owned the local ice rink, and she was a skater first. Then hockey player. Well......at age 11, she decides she wants to swim. And she has now given up the other activities. So it isn't too late.

Keep her in the clinic. See if any of the year-round teams have any sort of Spring Conditioning clinic. Our team does that, we occasionally get kids to use it as a way to move into year-round, but the most important part there is building the social alliance. At that age, and even for a couple more years, that will have more of an impact on what she wants than the actual activity.

January 2nd, 2018, 04:13 PM
It reads to me like swimming is a fun thing, not the passion.

Oh, I agree with this. She just happens to be good at it. And I'm not trying to push her into year-round swimming. More that she's had some early success if she wants it to continue, then she needs to swim.

she wasn't quite as competitive with kids who started doing year-round swimming.
I do think this is part of my point with me wanting my daughter to figure it out. The average 12 year old year-round swimmer could be competitive with an 18 year old summer league swimmer.

January 2nd, 2018, 07:48 PM
Hi DanceDaddy,

As I thought about my previous post, I missed what I was trying to pass on.

First, let me answer the question you asked in your opening thread. Yes, I think you are Pushing/forcing. I will say again - she is 9 yrs old. She has no idea what being passionate about something means. She just knows she likes something.

Think about this a different way. Do you expect her to pick an academic focus at 9? Do you expect her to select a career at 9? Have you asked her to figure out what she wants from Dance/Ballet? I hope you'll say "No" because these are exactly the same thing. Remember back to when you were 9. What you be thinking about this things you were doing?

There are many reasons the average 12 yr old is competitive with an 18 year old. Most of them have nothing to do with swimming year round vs not. The vast majority of swimmers do NOT need year round swimming to be good - even very good. They do NOT need doubles nor weekend practices. They need solid technical coaches - especially at your daughter's age - above anything else. I am glad to explain privately why this works and give many examples.

However, I suspect this is really a parenting situation. You could substitute another activity in place of "swimming" and have the same situation. Therefore, the answer to your question can probably be found in a forum that addresses the wants of the Parent vs the needs of the child.

Respectfully (and glad to communicate off-line),

Paul Windrath

January 2nd, 2018, 11:02 PM
Oh, I agree with this. She just happens to be good at it. And I'm not trying to push her into year-round swimming. More that she's had some early success if she wants it to continue, then she needs to swim.

I do think this is part of my point with me wanting my daughter to figure it out. The average 12 year old year-round swimmer could be competitive with an 18 year old summer league swimmer.

Summer league is a crap shoot, almost. Any semi-athletic kid can get in there and with fair technique swim a 50 yard sprint fast. How do they do with a 400IM or a 200FLy? That's a different scenario.

Furthermore, fewer than 10% of kids nationally ranked at 10 are nationally ranked at 17. Early success is not an indicator of future success. Anecdotally, my daughter was the slowest kid, not only on the team, but in the pool at 8 (year round team). Over 2 minutes to do a 100 free. By 10 she was top 10 in the LSC. By 12 she was top 25 in the nation in her events, and fastest in the LSC in them, as well. Half of those girls who were faster than her at 8 have quit the sport entirely. Others no longer swim year-round, only summer. Another took a year to figure out how she got passed, then buckled down, and she and my daughter are now making each other that much faster. In many ways the kids who are just naturally fast are at a disadvantage - they don't have to work hard, and those who do will pass them.

You need to let her figure out what she wants to do. No kid on Earth can be the best at everything they try. I have seen some kids be pushed to try that in academics, arts, and athletics. It is just not possible. And then the parents get frustrated when their kid isn't the best at something. I would highly advise you to take a step back. SHE has to want to do it.

She is YOUNG. Seriously. One of our former coaches was a Summer Wonder, and didn't start year-round until she was 12. At 13, she was a Junior Nationals swimmer, and an Olympic Trial swimmer at 17. D-1 full ride. Again, she didn't start year-round until she was 12.

Then there are other kids who are the opposite. One whose parents I have met had their 12 year old Olympic trialer quit at 12. I don't know details, but it wasn't her passion, no matter how good she was at it.

You just need to support her in what she does. And let her decide what her priorities are. If she wants to swim, support her. If she doesn't, she will not put in the work it takes to be an elite swimmer. You can make her go to practice and all of the meets, but you can't swim the races for her. Success in this sport takes a LOT of very, very hard work. You have to be bought in on your own to do it. Another anecdote......my fast daughter has an identical twin who also swims. She isn't as passionate about it, and is an A swimmer to her sister's AAAA.

February 9th, 2018, 11:06 AM
Wanted to follow-up that this has worked out pretty well…

DD has been doing the 1x a week stroke clinics. It’s been small groups (<5 kids) per instructor. Also, the place where she had taken swim lessons when she was younger offered a free clinic and she went.

So last night I asked her if she wanted to do the “Mini-league” where she had been doing the stroke clinics. Essentially, swim 1 hour on Saturday for 8 weeks and have 2 “meets” (no relays). She didn’t want to. BUT, she did say that she wanted to do more clinics where she had taken lessons and do some clinics (endurance - pounding laps) where she had done winter league in the past. Okay, that’s something!

A few things that I’ve learned through this…

Giving my daughter some sort of “ultimatum” would have been dumb! She’ll catch onto girls that are swimming 2-4 times a week are fast. Maybe, she want to do more, maybe she won’t!

Kids don’t always know what’s good for them. That said, what they want might be different then what you want. It’s important to hear what they say.

Kids are in the “now”. For the past year, I’ve heard the place where she took lessons is for “babies”. Now she likes it!

Get the hell out of the way! For a while, I was the one dragging my daughter to the Y pool. Trying to come to the rescue, so she didn’t fail. Big mistake! Sure, swimming with your kids is okay, but I’m no coach! And ask yourself, did your kid “ask” you to goto the pool or did you say, “We’re going to the pool” this weekend. In short, it’s better to pay someone.

Provide “options” not “outs”. One mistake I made after she was 8 (and had that great year), was stressing, “if you want to do winter league”. Well, she had the chance to say no. And no she said! It would have been better to present it as, “There’s winter league which is Monday Friday” or “there is a Class at Blah that is Saturday at 2:30”. Now the reality is that she wanted neither! Accept it as a parent! Move on, if they like it, then they will come back.

This is the age to try different things. She has already mentioned about a Pilates/Conditioning class at the ballet studio, when she is 12. It will be offered and maybe she’ll stop swimming at that time – okay! She’s getting physical exercise.

Swimming should be fun at this age! She loves her dancing, while keeping a foot in the “swim world”. The worst thing I could do is push swimming.

My biggest highlight came after the first clinic when she came out and said, “That was fun” and once again I saw that smile on my daughters face! That’s a lot better than any specific time, ribbon or relay!

February 9th, 2018, 03:53 PM
Thanks for the update!! Definitely sounds like you are on the right track. Hopefully she'll figure out where her passion lies, and go at it full force. And maybe you'll luck out and it will be swimming.

February 9th, 2018, 04:15 PM
Or maybe it won't be!!!!
Right now, I'm glad she's swimming and happy.