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Thread: What Is Wrong With Swimming??

  1. #1
    Active Member Rob Nasser's Avatar
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    What Is Wrong With Swimming??

    Saw one of the more interesting articles about the past, present, and future aspects of competitive swimming on SwimInfo's website the other day from Wayne Goldsmith..

    http://www.swiminfo.com/lane9/news/7720.asp

    I think it provokes a great deal of thought in this arena and specifically within this group since many of us either participate, have friends/relatives who participate, or remember participating in competitive swim meets.

    I particularly appreciate the parents perspective provided in the article. While I have little children (5 and almost 3 years old), the thought of going through what my parents did with me makes me hesitate to sign up for the first set of SwimAmerica lessons or summer club swim team to introduce them to swimming. While I swam through my school age years, I didn't really consider just what my parents had to go through right along with me.. I was always thinking about what i was going through. Wow!

    Check out the article and see what you think...

    Rob

  2. #2
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    I agree with many of these points but as a former "age group" swimmer and current parent of "age group" swimmer. I think many more USA swim clubs should consider dual/tri meets as an alternative to the current meet format. This is preferable to the unending heats described in the article. The team element keeps it exciting, reduces the number of participants so that the meets complete within two hours, etc.

    Many other good points.

    BTW, I've noticed a trend here in New England where the number of boys in the younger age groups is increasing from the lows of several years ago. In fact, boys now outnumber girls in a few 12 and under age groups at some of the larger clubs. Most cite the growing popularity of jammers as the primary reason.

  3. #3
    Very Active Member Dennis Tesch's Avatar
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    I loved this article - actually sent it out to all the masters swimmers in Utah. There needs to be some kind of change in swimming to attract the new kids and their families. Two areas I think we can change are sport are:

    1. Find a way to make it more team oriented. It is hard for the general masses to become a "fan" of swimming. Most people admire the individual accomplishments of one of our superstars (a.k Michael Phelps, Mark Spitz, etc.), but they are not fans. Fan's are people that walk away from a competition (live or watched on tv) say that "their" team won.... It is very difficult to have the same association with a single swimmer. (I'm not sure this is possible, since swimming is such an individual sport, but I'm working on ideas).


    2. We need to change the majority of our competitions. Ninty percent of our meets need to be short and more often. Maybe mirror soccer schedules with age group teams. The other ten percent should be our championship meets, were they are longer and we swim all the events. I think more people can deal with championship meets once and while, than a bunch of long invitationals through out the year. The first 75 % of the season can be single stroke or distance style dual/tri meets which only last hour and are once a week, maybe twice. (I personally don't think we race enough as swimmers, that's the old coach in me). The last part of the season is all about taper and getting ready for the one big meet....

    Every parent wants their children to learn how to swim. The only problem is that learning how to swim doesn't always mean being a part of a team. When you join baseball, football, soccer you learn skills and also participate on the competitive level. This rarely happens in swimming. Maybe we need to start at an even more beginning level......

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    Very Active Member breastroker's Avatar
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    Most cite the growing popularity of jammers
    The first thing I tell the mothers of 10-12 year old boys is to get them some jammers. It makes all the difference between them wearing baggies and not swimming at all.

    Next thing is I tell them to get clear or amber goggles for our indoor pool.

  5. #5
    Very Active Member knelson's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Dennis Tesch
    2. We need to change the majority of our competitions. Ninty percent of our meets need to be short and more often.
    I'm on the fence on this one. I agree the all weekend long meets are tough--especially on parents--but the downside to the short meets would be even less emphasis on the distance events, which I think would be a shame.

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    Very Active Member swimlong's Avatar
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    No, I don't think short meets would marginalize distance events; distance events actually lend themselves to short "theme" meets. Often the 1500 or 800 are held on the Friday night of a 3 day meet, which in itself is like a mini meet.

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    Very Active Member Dennis Tesch's Avatar
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    I worry about the distance events being left out of the short meet formats. But why not start the season of with a 500 freestyle and 400 IM 2 hour meet. The only two events offered at the meet. Then the next meet is a backstroke meet, with the 200, 100, and 50 backstrokes. The next week would be breaststroke....

    I would almost bet that this would help coaches promote the all around swimmer, by making their athlete compete in every stroke and every distance. You could hold pentathlon contest over the combined times of all the meets. Reward swimmers for competing in their best events, but also reward swimmers for becoming stong all around swimmers. There are endless ways to reward the swimmers in this type of system....

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    Very Active Member Leonard Jansen's Avatar
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    I wonder... While having shorter meets seems desirable on one level, might there not be a problem with parents feeling like they have to constantly be going to meets. Although the meets are shorter, spreading them out means that you are going to have to plan more dates around swimming. The attendent overhead of getting the kids ready, to the meet, fed, home, cleanup, etc kills more total time surrounding the meets than a larger meet held less often. Having things spread out might also mean that if little Suzy is pretty good at all 4 strokes, she might not get to swim in, say, the backstroke sprint meet because of her sister's soccer game.

    -LBJ

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    Very Active Member knelson's Avatar
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    Good point Dennis. I like your idea.

  10. #10
    dorothyrd
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    Good point Leonard, and if you are in an area that you have to travel at least 2 hours to get to a meet, you don't want to be doing that every weekend.

    As a parent to an 11 and 16 year old swimmer, this article sure has hit home. Our team's smallest group is the little kids. The teenagers have become a little apathetic because they are tired of giving all their time to swimming<7-9 am and 7-9pm in the summer, what a life). I get exhausted getting them to practice and meets and am relieved when the season is over. The 16 year old plays soccer, and that is much easier. The 11 year old plays softball and I coach her team and STILL that is easier.

    Swimming takes a lot of committment and teaches some real good core values, but sometimes it is TOO much.

  11. #11
    Very Active Member Alicat's Avatar
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    These ideas have been around for a while...

    Hi all,
    In New England swimming, some of theses ideas have been running for YEARS! I remember distance meets, freestyle meets, 10 and under meets, run as part of the yearly meet schedule. I think we called them "specialty meets". Sometimes meets were run the races that age groupers in the younger brackets could swim some of the bigger races, 8-13 year olds get to swim 400 IM's, distance free, the 200's etc. It was a really good experience and the meets didn't run as long as a full meet.
    For the what it's worth department I suppose,
    Ali

  12. #12
    Very Active Member Matt S's Avatar
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    This has been an interesting tangent, but how about the core of the article's thesis? We are arranging things the way they have always been. That caters to the convenience of the swim coach. It reproduces similar conditions over and over again (to the crashing boredom of most potential fans) to ensure strictly fair competition. It maximizers the swims and opportunities for the very best swimmers, and everyone else gets to live with the consequences and the leftovers.

    Let me ask you, why are 99% of all swim teams run like every kid wants to make the Olympics? As "What is Wrong with Swimming" suggests, the key objective on most clubs is to throw lots of conditioning at new swimmers to get their bodies to the point where they can handle 2 per day workouts, 6-7 days per week, with ever increasing yardage as they mature. WHY? That makes sense if every kid is another Michael Phelps, but they are not, nor should they even want to be. How are intelligent t-ball and little league teams organized? Don't they focus on teaching fundamental skills and giving the kids a chance to play with the game and have fun? Couldn't a swim team offer a beginners program with practices (not "work-outs") 3 times per week, time trials within the team, and culminating with one actual meet?

    Another radical suggestion, our meets are crashing bores. Does the Catholic Church start out people who are new to the faith with a 4 hour mass in latin? Don't think so. Moreover, you can read the heat sheets and predict the order of finish with pretty fair accuracy at most invitational meets. A coronation march has more drama and variety. Most other sports tolerate a much higher level of randomness and bad breaks influencing the outcome of their games. For example, why are we so hung up on "fairness" that we toss fast times from "Top Ten" consideration (which is itself a barstooling concept that has as much, or as little, meaning as you put into it) because the bendy bulkhead made the course one centimeter short? I'm not suggesting we randomly toss spectators into the pool just to mess people up (but some of the crowd control in the Tour de France, bicycling's premier event, has a similar effect on the race). I am suggesting some of our hang-ups have got us thinking in a microscopic box. How about races that get away from the clock only? Suppose you have a distance per stroke race that adds the time in seconds to complete the race to the number of strokes used to complete it. Ever wonder why the IMs are often the most interesting races? Because people have different levels of skill with each stroke, and you are never really sure who is ahead when the trailing swimmer has his best stroke coming up.

    Please, look up from the teeny-weeny issues we are comfortable discussing in microscopic detail, and really start to imagine the possible.

    Matt

  13. #13
    Very Active Member Sam Perry's Avatar
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    Summer rec teams in Phoenix are very popular. Just the type of format, time commitment, and recreation that many of you have addressed.

    It amazes me to watch kids at those meets having the time of their life and creating lifelong memories and comparing to age group meets with kids the same age not having fun at all. I don't know if anyone else has noticed this dynamic, just thought I'd throw it out.

    One example of "Fun" is the parent's relay at the end of the summer season. It is a ball and the kids love cheering on their parents. Have we ever seen this at USS meets?

    Don't get me wrong, swimming takes a great deal of comittment and seriuosness, but with that comes having fun and I think many USS programs are forgetting that.

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    All good points.

    One lesson to be drawn from the relative success of HS, REC and to some extent Y swimming is that these programs are organized to encourage participation and promote fun. Most of the complaints I hear from swimming parents of younger children concerns the meets and not the training aspects (most USA programs require no more than 2 practices up to 1 hour each for the younger swimmers). The meets are unbearably long for all but the few diehards (btw, I am one of the die-hards).

    Swimmers do need to compete in meets at all ages. But I still think that dual-meet, tri-meet formats overcomes most of the objections about meets. Rivals can be local thereby eliminating the long drives. Dual meet format keeps the meets within the two hour range. All of these metrics compare favorably to other sports...in fact emphasis on dual meets would make swimming look better compared to ice hocky, soccer, lacrosse travel teams.

  15. #15
    Very Active Member SWinkleblech's Avatar
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    My daughter has been on the Y swim team for the past two summers. They have dual meets and invitationals. The dual meets are required and the invitationals are by choice. I think it is a good set up. The dual meets are only a few hours and the invitationals are only a day. Only the state and national meets go longer then a day and only those who qualify go to those. No one here is going to be the next Olympic gold medalest. At the end of the summer they have a meet that includes parent events. The kids love to see their parents and coaches finally get in the water and swim themselves. It is a great way to end the summer and let kids see the fun in swimming.

    On the other hand my nephew is on a swimteam that swims for a total of five hours a day. His meets last several days. The meets are also far away and my sister has to pay to stay at a hotol during the meet. This is on top of spending much more on team fees then I do for my daughter.
    I also know of local schools that have a 5:00 morning practice and an afterschool practice. Every swimmer must go to all the practices or they don't swim in a meet. What is this teaching our children? I know of an adult who was a member of a swim team like this and now hates swimming. I have been trying to get her to try masters and she just doesn't want to do it. Are these pracitce schedules really teaching children to be life long swimmers. If a swimmer chooses to want to swim like this for their chance at Olympic gold then it should be there for the swimmer to acheive thier gold. But to force all swimmers to swim like this and pretty much giving them no choice or they don't swim meets then I think the set up is going to far.
    SWinkleblech

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    Very Active Member Dennis Tesch's Avatar
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    Matt S - I love you thoughts!!!!!

    I just put my child in her first swimming lessons (besides the ones I give her) and I am realizing that this is where we make our mistakes. Providing positive reinforcement for kids is easy, but we set up 99% of our kids for failure.

    We try so hard as coaches to get kids to think about the final outcome (Olympics), when we can motivate legions of kids with much smaller and more satisfying outcomes. Why aren't we putting together meets that reward skill level and accomplishment... not who swam across the pool the fastest.

    That is why "team sports" will always be more fun to the masses. Every kid has a chance to make a basket or hit the ball. Swimming there is only one winner. We tell a great majority of our swimmer that they are losers, just by making them compete for place.

    We need to get creative and think out of the box, to keep kids interested and excited about being in swimming.

  17. #17
    Active Member Kipp's Avatar
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    This article really bugged me, yes it made me think but come on..
    As a lifelong swimmers, we probably all had the realization at some point in our lives that this sport was probably not going to make us rich and earn us fame, even the Olypians probably did not start because they wanted to be famous..At some point thay realized they were really good and decided to committ to their dreams through alot of hard work and determination

    Interesting, people join a club team, most of which have been existing sometime before they joined, and joining that team, they expect to do a program that works for them.. We hear this all the time in club coaching- people expect to do what they want and not do the program the way the coach has set up, which is totally bogus..could you imagine showing up to a football practice and telling the coach..you know, I really am not liking the whole tackling thing, maybe I should be the qaurterback, yea OK! Somebody had made a statement that these kids are forced to do what the coaches want or how they set up the program..No kidding, that's why they are the head coach of an established program...what they do seems to work for everybody, not just little Johnny (what's Johnny gonna do in the relal worl when the Boss comes knocking?).

    Someone also said that swimming only places emphasis on winners and only one can be a winner.. what society are we living in where we are all winners? the big four (soccer,baseball,football and basketball) all have major world championships for their repective winners!! what is bigger than the Superbowl? Swimming teaches the true fact: There is always someone a little bigger,stronger and faster and you have no control over that and the sooner we deal with that, the sooner we can focus on being the best that we can be...

    Last part of the article that really irked me.. "Kids are different."?
    Kids are not different, yes they are taller on average, have higher SAT Scores on average and much are more profficient on computers than we are, but in essence don't they still need:
    Discipline, to be taught proper ethics and morals, to be praised when they do something well and to be taught when they have done someting wrong, to have a place (like swim practice) where they can be themselves, have friends, be safe and set high standards for themselves and lastly to have people (like swim coaches and parents) who have high expectations of them?..

    I believe it's the parents who have to change..not the sports, not the kids.. the parents need to get tougher!
    Jeremy Kipp
    UCSB Swim Coach

  18. #18
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    My take on Kipp's comments:

    1) I don't see a problem per se with approach to training (in fact my comments are all directed at meets rather than training). One can find club with different approaches to training and/or offering different levels of participation.

    2) Personally, as a swimming parent I've found that coach-owned and coach-runned clubs have been better for my kids than parent run organizations. I think it helps to have someone in charge who is very swimming knowledgeable.

    3) I can't imagine that many people (coaches, swimmers or parents) think that these long meets are one of the highlights of one's swimming career. Most of remember the "team" element of swimming (relays, close duel meets, conference championships, nationals, etc) as the best part of our competition days. I think we need to introduce some of this "team element" into club swimming--that does require different meet formats.

  19. #19
    dorothyrd
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    As a parent who agrees with the article and posted words above,
    I have to say that I am NOT sorry I got my kids into swimming. The things they have learned from this sport and the good friendships they have achieved far outways the negative. Plus I never would have started swimming myself if they had not turned into swimmers!

  20. #20
    Very Active Member SWinkleblech's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Dennis Tesch
    Swimming there is only one winner. We tell a great majority of our swimmer that they are losers, just by making them compete for place.
    [/B]
    I am totally going to disagree with this comment. With this kind of thinking you are setting your children up for failure. I am in the process of teaching my child that it is not coming in first that makes you a winner, but getting in the water and doing your best is what makes you a winner. The only losers out there are those who don't give it a try and the parents who think that their child is a winner only when they come in first. Yes it is great when you come in first and yes it can be disappointing to not place first. You can teach your children to enjoy swimming and be proud of their accomplishments even if they come in last all the time. Everytime I swim or run a race my daughter always ask me if I came in first. Because I am slow I have to tell her no but that I am still happy with what I have accomplished that day. I hope she learns by example that being a winner is not always coming in first.
    SWinkleblech

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