Competitive Swimming for Children: What Parents Should Know
The Southeast Asian Games 2019 capped off its festivities last December 11. With the Philippines swimming team bagging 16 medals, there is no contesting the fact that the nation homes very talented athletes. Among many is gold medalist, James Deiparine, who set a new Southeast Asian record of 1 minute and 1.46 seconds for the men’s 100-meter breaststroke.
Most competitive swimmers start at a young age because of the mastery of skills and emotional maturity involved in training. Competitions can indeed be nerve-wracking but years of intensive training is designed to condition the mind and body for discipline in and out of the water. With this said, most swimmers begin their competitive journey at around 8 to 12 years old. According to Jill Purdy, Public Relations and Customer Retention officer from Jackrabbit Class, when the child already has the endurance to swim at least 50 meters without difficulty, he or she is ready to advance to a competitive swimming league.
Familiarity with the basics such as swimming techniques and strokes is required from the individual who wishes to train competitively. Thus, one cannot get into competitive swimming when he or she is just about to learn how to perform the backstroke or breaststroke, etc. – these things should have already been taught beforehand. These are prerequisites. That is why many children tend to start their swimming journey as early as 4 years old: to learn the basics and simultaneously build confidence in the water.
“The younger a child learns to swim, the younger that child may exhibit the skills and temperament for competitive swimming.” – Jill Purdy (Public Relations and Customer Retention officer from Jackrabbit Class)
Developing Emotional Maturity for Competitions
Competitive swimming requires discipline and sportsmanship. First, training can take up the whole day from mornings to afternoons to evenings. The swimmer, therefore, needs to embrace the idea of setting goals and maintaining motivation to last each training. Second, competitions may take longer than expected, stretching up to hours of waiting until the swimmer’s specific event. The swimmer ought to have lasting patience and focus that will keep him or her alert enough to follow the coach’s directions throughout the day. Furthermore, the competitive swimmer must develop a healthy way of handling pressure to perform. Lastly, if personal goals were not met or if he or she loses an event, the swimmer must be able to handle the loss.
Indeed, mental toughness is part of the intensive training swimmers undergo. It is as important as mastery over the strokes because if the child competes without developed emotional maturity, he or she may not even last in the team due to discouragement, embarrassment, or downright laziness.
Tips for Parents: How to Prepare for Swim Meets
Competing for the first time can feel overwhelming. Here are a few guidelines to take note of when it’s your child’s first time joining swim meets:
Before competition day
Prepare the gear
Pack everything your child needs like goggles, swimming cap, racing suit, towels, snacks, water bottle, and sunscreen the day or night before. For young children that are competing, don’t forget to include portable activities like books, coloring materials, and other electronic games to keep the child busy during waiting periods.
Day of competition
It’s always best to arrive early to settle your child in and to reserve the best seating spot in the audience area.
Take note of the heat and event numbers
Take a hold of the heat sheet and record the important information for your child’s event. You may write this on your child’s arm with a waterproof marker so it won’t get lost. The important things for your child to remember are the event number, the heat number, the lane where he or she will swim, and the corresponding stroke. Here’s an example from The YMCA’s “Swim Meets 101: A Guide to Swim Meet Survival” --
The first number represents the event number, the second is the heat number and the third the lane number and finally the distance and stroke abbreviation.
10/3/5 – 25 fr = Event 10, Heat 3, Lane 5 in the 25 free event
16/2/4 – 50 bk = Event 16, Heat 2, Lane 4 in the 50 back
Make sure you keep your child nearby between events instead of wandering around
One of the worst things that can happen during swim meets is for your child to miss the event because he or she had been away for the designated waiting area where events are announced. One best way to avoid this is to help the child familiarize him or herself with the facility grounds as early as possible, such as the locations of the restrooms, locker rooms, and so forth. Once this is settled, remind your child to stay near the waiting area to be able to hear the announcements and respond to his or her heart and event numbers.
Relax and have fun!
After setting everything necessary for the competition, head to the audience area to watch your child compete. Cheer at the top of your lungs and document your child’s milestone.
Where to start: The Noodies Swim School
The Noodies Swim School teaches basic and competitive swimming lessons to children of all ages. Students may opt for individual classes, buddy classes (2 students per class), and group classes (3 to 5 students per class). Students are also encouraged to join swim meets to mark milestones with the family.