The Sport of Swimming

This section provides information for you to help your child enjoy and succeed in swimming.

The sport of swimming has many benefits, including the people you will meet. The camaraderie among swimmers is unique. Many swimming buddies become life-long friends. Swimming provides one of the most beneficial forms of exercise for cardiovascular and overall fitness. This exercise can be enjoyed throughout one’s entire life. For example, there are swimmers in their nineties setting “masters” world records. Possibly the greatest benefits of participating in an organised swim program are the life skills your child will develop. These skills include time management, self discipline and sportsmanship. Your child will reap the benefits of swimming long after their participation ends.

Most swimmers go on to be very successful and productive adults in part due to what they gained from swimming. Age group swimming can be fun, exciting and rewarding. When swimmers first start swim training and competing they will often improve at a rapid pace and it is not unusual to see significant improvements in race times during this phase. They will feel great setting a number of PBs (Personal Best times). It is important to avoid the tendency to push young athletes at this stage. Although a child of eleven or twelve can handle the physical demands of serious swim training, most coaches feel that the workload should not be great until a child reaches puberty. The emphasis should be placed on improving stroke technique.

It is strongly recommended that young athletes participate in other sports during this period. Participating in other sporting activities provides children with variety and can help prevent “burnout”. Many swimmers train for more than ten years during their careers. Swimming, especially when the swimmer is young, should be fun and relatively pressure free.

After a child reaches puberty, scientists and coaches feel serious training can begin. This can be a particularly frustrating time for swimmers. During this transition from age group swimming to senior swimming an athlete may experience a plateau or what appears to be a “setback”. It is harder to break a PB time, and training requires more time and dedication. Many parents begin to question whether a child’s swimming career is over at this point. This, coupled with the normal demands of teenage life, causes many swimmers to leave the sport prematurely. It is critical that parents and coaches be very supportive during this period of adjustment, realizing that it will pass. Future performance improvements generally follow.

Remember, not every swimmer becomes a world record holder, but everyone gains from their swimming experience.