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Thread: Will he ever improve?

  1. #1
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    Exclamation Will he ever improve?

    My son is 13 and this is his first year swimming in a club. For many different reasons he was late getting into the sport and slow to warm up to it but right now he is loving it and wants to do everything he can to get better. The problem is he is not getting better fast enough (for him). I keep telling him to be patient and put in the work, but it's completely devastating to him to go to meet after meet and have marginal improvements. I want to stress that he is the one who wants this - to improve his times, to get faster, to not be dead last in every event. He is very much aware of where he is right now. He does not want to be an Olympic swimmer, obviously, just a better one than he is right now. We talk about improving in relation to his own times, not comparing himself to others, enjoying the fun of it, but he is 13 and I guess it's not great for your self esteem when your times are so much worse than your teammates. He keeps asking me, when is it going to kick in for him. Right now he swims 4 times a week about 2 hours each practice. He does some dryland (not much). I guess what I am asking is - what can we do to help?

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    Re: Will he ever improve?

    13 is a tough age for boys. Most haven't hit puberty, but most 14 year olds have, and they have to swim against them. So that is working against him, too.

    Another thing that happens is that at that age, kids rarely improve more than once or twice a year. They get beat up pretty hard, and then they taper for a meet. If he has improved since September, he is doing well.

    I really don't know what advice to give that doens't involve patience. He has got to be patient. My daughter had swum for 5 years before she got her first AAAA time. Some kids will be naturals, some will be physical freaks. And then there are those who are neither. They have to work hard to get fast, and that work ethic will help them out through swimming, and life.

    I wish he could talk to this one kid on our team. He is a junior, just starting club swimming last year. My favorite kid on the team. Busts his butt, he drives over an hour every morning......for 5:00AM practice, then gets out a little early to head to school. And he is not fast, but getting faster. He's just happy getting faster, getting state cuts, etc. He knows he won't be setting team records, but he is having fun, and improving. He has set PERSONAL goals, rather than goals relative to others. Maybe that's the best thing to tell your son. Make the goals about him, not his peers. Once he does that, maybe it'll get more fun. And when it does, more success will come.

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    Re: Will he ever improve?

    I just listened to a fairly interesting podcast featuring Olympic swimmer Conor Dwyer. Although he comes from an athletic family, he was a late bloomer. Not recruited out of high school. 5'9" (to his current 6'5"). It may help provide some perspective with respect to persistence, patience and provide a real world juxtaposition between early success and a longer journey.

    https://findingmastery.net/conor-dwyer/

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    Very Active Member Swimspire's Avatar
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    Re: Will he ever improve?

    Hi swimmom, thanks for sharing your son's story with us! If you haven't done so already, your first step should be to talk with your son's coach and find out more about the coach's perspective on what he can do to improve. If you already spoke with the coach (and the response is why you turned to the forum), what did you discover?

    You're lucky that your son loves swimming and wants to improve and that this is all coming from him and his own drive and motivation. He's impatient about his rate of improvement, and the best way that you can give him the support and attention he needs is to educate yourself about the sport as much as you can. Knowledge is power - the more you learn about swimming, the better-placed you will be to help your son.

    Swimming is certainly no easy sport. A great deal of it is technique-based and humans are not born swimmers - we have to learn how to swim and it does not come naturally. Although it may be argued that swimmers are better off if they learn to swim at a very early age, there are quite a few excellent swimmers and even Olympians (such as Ed Moses) who got a late start to the sport.


    Again, knowledge is power. Figure out what strokes your son enjoys, which strokes he is weaker at. Try to learn some drills to develop his technique - consider attending a stroke clinic or camp for age groupers where you can both learn. Improvement takes persistence, knowledge and patience. Hopefully your son will continue to enjoy the sport and eventually will excel.

    Good luck to you both!

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    Re: Will he ever improve?

    Quote Originally Posted by 67King View Post
    13 is a tough age for boys. Most haven't hit puberty, but most 14 year olds have, and they have to swim against them. So that is working against him, too.

    Another thing that happens is that at that age, kids rarely improve more than once or twice a year. They get beat up pretty hard, and then they taper for a meet. If he has improved since September, he is doing well.

    I really don't know what advice to give that doens't involve patience. He has got to be patient. My daughter had swum for 5 years before she got her first AAAA time. Some kids will be naturals, some will be physical freaks. And then there are those who are neither. They have to work hard to get fast, and that work ethic will help them out through swimming, and life.

    I wish he could talk to this one kid on our team. He is a junior, just starting club swimming last year. My favorite kid on the team. Busts his butt, he drives over an hour every morning......for 5:00AM practice, then gets out a little early to head to school. And he is not fast, but getting faster. He's just happy getting faster, getting state cuts, etc. He knows he won't be setting team records, but he is having fun, and improving. He has set PERSONAL goals, rather than goals relative to others. Maybe that's the best thing to tell your son. Make the goals about him, not his peers. Once he does that, maybe it'll get more fun. And when it does, more success will come.
    Started lat as a kid about 21/2 as novice. Swimmer league with winter swing. at age 12, now there are some gals that made the natonal team starting that late but I think maybe I could have been 2 secnds faster if I started at 9 or 10. I went from about 1:25 100 yard breaststroke as a 13 to 1:23 and from a 1:18 100 yard butterfly to 1:13. So, you can improve a little at 13,

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    Re: Will he ever improve?

    His technique is actually pretty good. He has been swimming since 6, just very casually taking lessons once a week. But he joined the team only this past September. Never wanted to take the swimming further, and then suddenly he did. He also takes technique/stroke development lessons fairly regularly.

    He HAS improved since September, cut 2-7 seconds off most events. But at 13, he is still the slowest in every event and that is what he is upset about.

    I guess what I am asking is this - if he continues swimming, putting in the time and the effort, like he does now - WILL he improve? I am not that familiar with swimming, my older daughter is in gymnastics and it is unimaginable to start gymnastics at 13 and still have any kind of future ahead of you. Is swimming the same? Or is it a sport where everyone who is hard working and willing to do the work and be patient can get reasonable results (when I say reasonable I mean middle of the pack, not last in every event like he is now). Is it reasonable to tell him to expect to get better at 14, 15? He is wiling to be patient, he just needs to know it IS going to happen eventually.

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    Re: Will he ever improve?

    Oh man, I relate to your son so much. I'm also a late-bloomer and went from zero athletic experience to obsessed with swimming in the span of my last couple years in high school. I think it's really impressive and encouraging that your son's motivation seems to be intrinsic - yes, he might be hard on himself or discouraged at times, but from how you describe him it sounds like he really wants to swim because this is something he loves and wants to improve at. It's also really good that it sounds like he has an accurate perception of his performance - that's hard to do, I know when I first started I over or underestimated my abilities. An accurate perception of your current performance is key to achieving your future goals. Overall, if he loves it and wants to get better at it, it sounds like swimming will have a positive impact on his life, in fact, overcoming and facing the struggles may help build resilience and true commitment.

    Even when I was of the slowest swimmers on my HS team, and I struggled with guilt and shame about my underperformance compared to my HS peers, swimming still had a highly positive impact on my life because, good or bad, I was able to live out something I loved. "If something is worth doing, it's worth doing badly." Is a quote I adore that is relevant here. I loved my swimmer identity and loved the version of myself willing to put in hard work even for minimal results. Swimming was worth my time, $, energy, and emotions, and if being a slow swimmer was what it took to be a swimmer, that's what I had to take. And while gradual, I did start to marginally improve my times. I improved the most by having seasons of real ambition and nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic... followed up by bouts of rest and putting my swimming into a greater perspective in my life. Some days I was a hardworking swimmer. Some days I was just me, and it was not necessary to align swimming performance with identity. The former kept me going and improving. The latter kept me forgiving and realistic.

    I'm still battling the insecurities and guilt that comes with not being as good as your peers, and being hard on yourself when you're new enough to not be experienced; but not new enough that your novice status can waive your lack of ability and skill. What has worked for me best is keeping it all in perspective. Even as a young adult, this is difficult to do some days. It's important to remember that discouragement and set-backs are part of ANY process, relationship, or goal in life. Sometimes being hard on yourself or unsettled with your circumstance is a silver lining, something that's going to activate emotional energy that drives you to put in the work and stick out the uncomfortable or hard parts. As a person, you have a right to make time to improve yourself, your physical strength, your performance in your swimming... Of course, sometimes being hard on yourself is counteractive, and makes you so hyperaware of yourself that its hard to improve, because you've lost appreciation that improvement could happen beyond where you can perceive it. For most of us, swimming is a balancing act.


    EDIT: In response to your last post, OP, hell yes, he will definitely improve in the next months and years if this is what he still desires and acts on. Swimming is one of the least elitist, least discriminating sports I've encountered, personally. Anyone of any background can jump in the water and improve to personal achievements. You can still track for international competition in swimming later on if you know your stuff, and it's a lifelong sport. That's the message most of Masters is here to communicate - that it's not too late to enjoy or participate in swimming!
    -
    There are plenty of cool stories out there of swimmers with open minds and devotion who turned the tables on convention and accomplished swimming later in life. One of my favorites is Lynne Cox, who swam 20+ miles in open ocean in her early teens, and continued on to marathon swims in Antarctica and Alaska in her adulthood, unbelievably. If you search USMS archives, you occasionally find handfuls of 20-40 somethings qualifying for Olympic Trials. You'll get as far as your hard work takes you.
    Last edited by Solarizing; March 31st, 2018 at 01:11 PM.

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    Re: Will he ever improve?

    Quote Originally Posted by swimmom123 View Post
    His technique is actually pretty good. He has been swimming since 6, just very casually taking lessons once a week. But he joined the team only this past September. Never wanted to take the swimming further, and then suddenly he did. He also takes technique/stroke development lessons fairly regularly.

    He HAS improved since September, cut 2-7 seconds off most events. But at 13, he is still the slowest in every event and that is what he is upset about.

    I guess what I am asking is this - if he continues swimming, putting in the time and the effort, like he does now - WILL he improve? I am not that familiar with swimming, my older daughter is in gymnastics and it is unimaginable to start gymnastics at 13 and still have any kind of future ahead of you. Is swimming the same? Or is it a sport where everyone who is hard working and willing to do the work and be patient can get reasonable results (when I say reasonable I mean middle of the pack, not last in every event like he is now). Is it reasonable to tell him to expect to get better at 14, 15? He is wiling to be patient, he just needs to know it IS going to happen eventually.
    Males in swimming don't hit their prime until College. Michael Phelps was an exception going to the Olympics at 15 years old. Girls like those in gymnastics usually have to start earlier since they sometimes peak in high school age. Male swimmers can start later than female swimmers. In high school he has a good chance if he is not swimming in California since most states high school swimmers mainly swim only during the school year or don't play water polo which can help your freestyle skills.

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    Re: Will he ever improve?

    Quote Originally Posted by swimmom123 View Post
    He HAS improved since September, cut 2-7 seconds off most events. But at 13, he is still the slowest in every event and that is what he is upset about.

    I am not that familiar with swimming, my older daughter is in gymnastics and it is unimaginable to start gymnastics at 13 and still have any kind of future ahead of you.
    2-7 seconds in 7 months is HUGE. I'm a bit miffed that there is an expectation (yours, his, or both) that he'll be able to just be right there in a few months when other kids have been doing it for years. If he is truly driven, this will be good for him, as he'll have to out in the work, which will help him throughout life. That said, the 13 year old kids on our team are in the water over 17 hours per week (when school work allows). 2 hrs M-F AM, 1.5 M, W, F PM, and 2.75 Sat AM. Maybe he needs more practice.

    Can he start late? Ed Moses is an Olympic gold medalist who took up the sport at 17.......

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    Re: Will he ever improve?

    Quote Originally Posted by Solarizing View Post

    I loved my swimmer identity and loved the version of myself willing to put in hard work even for minimal results. Swimming was worth my time, $, energy, and emotions, and if being a slow swimmer was what it took to be a swimmer, that's what I had to take
    .
    Thank you for this. Definitely on to something here. I see that he is proud of the work he is doing and it is giving him a lot. Its a bit hard for a 13 year old to grasp that this right there is enough but this kind of thinking is definitely something I would love to see him "get".

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    Re: Will he ever improve?

    Quote Originally Posted by 67King View Post
    2-7 seconds in 7 months is HUGE. I'm a bit miffed that there is an expectation (yours, his, or both) that he'll be able to just be right there in a few months when other kids have been doing it for years. If he is truly driven, this will be good for him, as he'll have to out in the work, which will help him throughout life. That said, the 13 year old kids on our team are in the water over 17 hours per week (when school work allows). 2 hrs M-F AM, 1.5 M, W, F PM, and 2.75 Sat AM. Maybe he needs more practice.

    Can he start late? Ed Moses is an Olympic gold medalist who took up the sport at 17.......
    Is it really huge when you start with abysmal times? Even with those cuts he is still the slowest in his age group at every meet. He is able to go against 11 and 12 year olds and do alright. Please don't get me wrong, I am not asking if he is going to be the star of his team in 2 months time, I understand that it takes years and years. I am by no means trivializing other kids commitment to the sport. But I also don't want him to be the kid that lives at the pool but goes nowhere despite all the work he is putting in, he is not the kid that would be satisfied with that.

    17 hours is a lot. He doesn't swim nearly as much - about 10 hrs / week.

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    Re: Will he ever improve?

    Let me quote Alex Zanardi*. "I don't get on my bicycle because I love to win, I win because I love to get on my bicycle."

    Your son needs to swim because he loves to swim. If he does, improvement will come. If he swims because it happens to be a vehicle for some indirect joy (racing, fitness, etc), then he likely won't move up in the ranks. There is a saying......."the will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win." If he doesn't swim because he just enjoys it, then he won't have the drive when he needs it - in practice.

    *Alex Zanardi was an IndyCar champion, then lost his legs in an accident, then took up biking as a sport for amputees. He is a para-olympic gold medalist in that sport.

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    Re: Will he ever improve?

    I was 13 when I started seriously swimming. I was on a large age group club and had to practice with 8 and 9 year olds at the beginning because I was so slow. It was rough for a couple of years, but I made steady improvements and by my junior year in high school was training with the top group in the club and placing in district high school meets. I was never a star, but I was good enough for it to be very rewarding.

    If he keeps putting in the training and and gets good coaching on technique, he won't stay the slowest for much longer.

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    Very Active Member rtodd's Avatar
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    Re: Will he ever improve?

    I would say in general with steady practice, it is a three year process of steady year round work to get good. Good being maybe 80% of where you would be after 10 or more years. Itís been said 10 years to reach 100% full potential and thatís probably about right. If we take the 100 free for example and take 45 as 100% full potential for an elite HS athlete, then I would think if he were blessed with same ability then maybe he can hit 54 after 2-3 years. If he was at 50sec max potential, which by the way is extremely respectable, then I would think he could be under a minute in year two or three.
    A lot has to do with body awareness and feel for the water. Those things hopefully he has. His time drops should be very significant over the next three years. They may not be linear, but nothing for a while then sudden, so he needs to take it as at least a three year process.

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    Re: Will he ever improve?

    Quote Originally Posted by swimmom123 View Post
    My son is 13 and this is his first year swimming in a club. For many different reasons he was late getting into the sport and slow to warm up to it but right now he is loving it and wants to do everything he can to get better. The problem is he is not getting better fast enough (for him). I keep telling him to be patient and put in the work, but it's completely devastating to him to go to meet after meet and have marginal improvements. I want to stress that he is the one who wants this - to improve his times, to get faster, to not be dead last in every event. He is very much aware of where he is right now. He does not want to be an Olympic swimmer, obviously, just a better one than he is right now. We talk about improving in relation to his own times, not comparing himself to others, enjoying the fun of it, but he is 13 and I guess it's not great for your self esteem when your times are so much worse than your teammates. He keeps asking me, when is it going to kick in for him. Right now he swims 4 times a week about 2 hours each practice. He does some dryland (not much). I guess what I am asking is - what can we do to help?
    He is actually starting to do swim team at a perfect age, seriously. Swim lessons have a point of diminishing return. Learning to swim and developing stroke technique are 2 different things; entirely different skill sets. Problem is that the business side of aquatics pushes everyone who needs help with swimming into lessons. And as someone else pointed out boys don't peak until college. Find a very good coach. And remember it takes time.. Swimming is like gymnastics and yoga: technique and form... it takes time and the right progression.. and takes alot of time.. add in the conditioning.
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    Re: Will he ever improve?

    The answer is Yes, yes, yes. Many swimmers on my HS team did not start swimming competitively until they were 14ish, and became very good swimmers by the end of senior year. HS swimming's dual meets are a big change from the USAS individual meets, and a lot more fun for everyone, with large numbers of swimmers contributing. You don't have to be the state champ to contribute significantly to the competition and the team wins as a whole (or loses). A totally different experience in my opinion and he is likely to be a very important swimmer on his HS team.

    If he wants to swim in college, he may need to pick up the pace from 10 hours per week, but there is PLENTY of time for him to make that decision and move.

    Additionally, as others have said, big physiological changes may be ahead for him as he matures. His ability to handle the work load will evolve too. Also, remember that your body builds muscle and adapts to the stress from exercise when it rests, not when it is working, and it is sometimes hard to see progress in the middle of a training season.

    Now that he is past the basics, good coaching and technique are important, as well as his continuing to enjoy swimming. Good luck.
    Some guys they just give up living and start dying little by little, piece by piece. Some guys come home from work and wash up and go raciní in the street. (Bruce Springsteen, 1978)

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    Re: Will he ever improve?

    Quote Originally Posted by rtodd View Post
    I would say in general with steady practice, it is a three year process of steady year round work to get good. Good being maybe 80% of where you would be after 10 or more years. Itís been said 10 years to reach 100% full potential and thatís probably about right. If we take the 100 free for example and take 45 as 100% full potential for an elite HS athlete, then I would think if he were blessed with same ability then maybe he can hit 54 after 2-3 years. If he was at 50sec max potential, which by the way is extremely respectable, then I would think he could be under a minute in year two or three.
    A lot has to do with body awareness and feel for the water. Those things hopefully he has. His time drops should be very significant over the next three years. They may not be linear, but nothing for a while then sudden, so he needs to take it as at least a three year process.
    Thank you. His best time for 100 free was 1.16 at the end of short course season , down from 1.25 at the beginning of the season.

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    Very Active Member rtodd's Avatar
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    Re: Will he ever improve?

    He should break a minute in another year, maybe two. Keep encouraging him! Can you post a video? Itís all about technique.

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    Re: Will he ever improve?

    Swim 5 or 6 times a week or maybe 7 to 9.
    Put him in the best most convenient swim program.

    There's a lot of ways for a motivated young swimmer to get faster.
    Improve technique,
    get stronger,
    train harder and faster,
    better coaching
    I wrote swim faster faster with tons of tips.

    Watch youtube videos of elite swimmers and copy their technique.

    please share more details
    height weight
    events and times by age

    But also please let swimming be HIS thing, consider backing off, let him and his coach figure things out.
    Don't get too wrapped up in it. We've all seen swim parents who are too eager and pushy and it never ends well.

    Just be a dumb loving swim parent,
    make sure your child has the equipment he needs and drop him off and pick him up on time for practices and meets.
    Don't watch him practice and let swimming be his thing.
    Ask a few questions like
    Are you having fun?
    How was that swim? then listen

    Let your kid be a kid and let him have fun.

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    Re: Will he ever improve?

    Quote Originally Posted by ande View Post
    please share more details
    height weight
    events and times by age
    He is 5 ft, about 90 lbs
    His most recent events and times:
    200 free 3:00
    200 br 3:58
    200 back 3:29
    100 free 1:19
    100 back 1:33
    100 br 1:45

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