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Any swimming (competitive) parents around for a chat?

(30 Posts)
DebbieFiderer Tue 16-Dec-14 15:53:07

I've seen threads for other activities/sports but not swimming. I'm near the beginning of what I expect will be a long journey with swimming (DD1 is almost 7 and has been with the club for a year, DD2 hasn't started yet but is quite a promising little swimmer already), and I was wondering if any more experienced parents had any tips for us, or just wanted a general chat.

FannyFanakapan Tue 16-Dec-14 16:03:47

ds (15) is a competitive swimmer. He swims 12 hours a week and is in a county squad, so aiming to get regional times.

He does enjoy it, but it is becoming an elitist sport and is very, very expensive.

Fees at his level are in excess of £1400pa. Swim meets - add another 30 per meet, and they are expected to do a meet every 3 weeks or so. So add another £300pa. Then theres the equipment - new swimsuits and various other training aids - add another £1-200. Petrol costs to and from training and to and from meets - add another couple of hundred.

I think my DS is one of the few kids in his squad that is in state school. (One child is collected by the chauffeur hmm. )

At competitive levels, you are looking at early morning swimming (ds swims at 6am 3x a week) as well as evenings, plus land work.

BUT on the positive side, swimmers are fantastically fit, feel totally comfortable with members of the opposite sex (because they spend so much time together wearing very little...) and there is a very social aspect to swimming.

They also seem to manage their time very effectively.

DebbieFiderer Tue 16-Dec-14 16:21:29

Eek, that is a lot of money. Our club are very coy about fees; no mention at all of money on the website, and even when she was offered a place I had before they told me about costs, and it was in quite a defensive way. To be fair though, I spend nearly that on all get activities combined (also does council swimming lessons, ballet and gym), and those would obviously gradually get dropped as swimming hours increase (assuming she keeps going). I had noticed about the state/private thing already though, even at this age it seems disproportionate.

I've looked at the timetable for the older ones and it doesn't look too bad; it is only the senior ones who train at stupid o'clock, the earliest it gets for the younger ones is 7.30 which is doable.

Pagwatch Tue 16-Dec-14 16:35:43

I think the key is to not worry about it now and don't get sucked into the dynamic where parents make it all about them.

Don't forget it's not a roller coaster - you can choose what level your child swims or competes at and, even though it can feel as though you have to do what the club says, you actually don't.

Dd is 12. She swims between 6 and 10 hours a week depending on other commitments. I have encouraged her to kep other interests. She does gym, acting and dancing too. She also does school netball and athletics.

The pressure to hit county times and then regional times can become a treadmill - some children thrive on it, some don't. And that isn't linear either. Dd had terrible health problems last year so stepped back a bit. She's training a bit more now and she already has four county times this season. It's hard to but try to follow your child.

Bear in mind too that different clubs do different things - DDs fees are about £900 per year and they would actively object to as many galas as one every three weeks. Galas are about 6 a year with training geared to peek at gala times. Her club has several national swimmers in her age group so they still operate at the top level.

We also lift share to meet, swap and pass on equipment and don't necessarily enter every event at every meet - entry for meets is usually a fiver per event so can be £15/20 or as much as £60.

Don't be put off, don't over think it. Just see where it goes and don't get sucked into the weird vortex of parents who equate their child swimming well with their being an awesome parent. There are quite a few of those.

Ps -TK maxx often do speedo and tyr costumes for about a fiver.

Pagwatch Tue 16-Dec-14 16:37:53

Btw, resist dropping too much to favour one event as long as you can. My friends 16 year old just stopped swimming when he didn't get regional times after an injury. He now does nothing sporty at all and is pretty much at a loss.

Micah Tue 16-Dec-14 16:42:34

Don't worry about it until your child is nearer 11 or 12.

Until then they should be learning good technique, and gaining general fitness (through other sports too). At this age swimming up and down for hours a week is counter productive.

How often and what sort of session is your dd doing?

Footlight Tue 16-Dec-14 16:52:27

My dd (11) is in an entry level squad that operates like advanced swimming lessons. She attends for an hour a week which costs £8 a session, payable termly.

It's not very competitive, more working on their technique and stamina before they go up into the club proper which she'll do in Feb. Technically, she's really very good, but lacks confidence and competitiveness. We're taking it very slowly as she really enjoys it and I feel like there's loads of time.

FannyFanakapan Tue 16-Dec-14 16:53:50

oh I agree about swim parents!! Walking around with a spreadsheet of their kids times on a clipboard - or even having memorised them! And always "is jonny doing the X meet? Kevin is doing 10 events you know, he qualified for the 400 but doesnt think he'll bother yada yada yada.. " (yawn)

Walking around with their child's medals on... knowing every child in the upper squads ("ooh didnt jocasta do well in the 50 fly, PB AND regional time...." )- knowing your childs times if they are close to their childs times...good grief, I dont even know my childs time except in the most ballpark way! And the ones that badger the coaches about their child after every session so no-one else gets a minute.

Im sure that too much exposure to chlorine can make their brains seize up.

Make sure you have a kindle or similar for the long and boring sits by the pool - unless of course you live 5 mins away!

And yes to keeping up other activities. Our swimming club tries to insist on exclusivity, but DS loves rugby and so he still plays.

My DS swims because he is was recommended when he was diagnosed at 4, and fortunately, he has always been a water baby. I dont care if he never gets a regional time, or if he gives up tomorrow. He has loved swimming and it has kept him out of hospital many times over. But when he stops enjoying it, its time to quit.

Pagwatch Tue 16-Dec-14 17:01:48

God FannyFankapan, me too.

I have a kindle, I do all my emailing etcetc and I'm on level 1,00000000 on candy crush grin

Dd also started swimming at 9 because she kept ending up in hospital with respiratory problems/suspected asthma. She just loves it. The fees seem high but she can attend any number of up to 6 2hour sessions so it's really flexible.

I remember the 'Twighlight zone' feeling when, just as I was watching one parent bellowing at her also 9 year old off a viewing balcony, another mother came up and said 'oh congratulations - paggirl just get her county time with that 6 second PB'

At that point I didn't know how to find out what her times were or what they met. It's very weird. But it is only a noisy few. Most parents are also just getting on with it, bleary eyed through the morning sessions.

DebbieFiderer Tue 16-Dec-14 17:41:43

Thanks all. At the moment she is just swimming once a week, for 45 mins, in the training pool, but she had her first meet recently (club competition for the little ones) and loved it, so I think we will be carrying on for a while. I am keen for her to keep other things going as long as possible but I can see clashes eventually, but like you say that is a long way off.

Pagwatch Tue 16-Dec-14 17:47:57

And hopefully, as she is only 7, you are ready for her to decide down the road that actually she wants to be a diver, or a bi-athlete , or a musician.

Swimming beyond pre teen requiring 12 hours a week is a big chunk of a child's life if they don't love it.
The things that clash include parties and sleepovers. It's got to be what they want because when it's the parents choice it is positively grim to see.

DebbieFiderer Tue 16-Dec-14 17:59:17

Oh absolutely. As I said, she does three different activities at the moment, I keep getting tempted to add more (she would love to do tap, tennis and an instrument), but have to be realistic about what we can manage. I want her to try out as many things as possible so she can work out where her interests/talents lie (and hopefully they will be the same thing! smile ). I just started this thread as I was interested in reading more about what it would involve as she gets older; there are plenty of threads about dance/music, but not so much about swimming.

Pagwatch Tue 16-Dec-14 19:02:23

Sure smile
I was just responding to your bit about you want to keep other things going for as long as possible. It's odd to watch the things they focus in on. Dd was completely preoccupied with gym at 7, didn't start swimming for a few years after. She wanted to dance since she was 4 and now wants to do singing and maths club [weirdo] grin

sablepoot Wed 17-Dec-14 10:58:48

Ds is a swimmer, but never took it too seriously never training more than 5hrs a week, often less, and he has still done well (swimming for county, occasional national time, fastest at university...). Especially if your child is a sprinter, they may well be able to get away without the very long training regimes. Some clubs will offer discounted fees, or even free fees if you help out in some capacity and many have hardship funds too, so costs don't have to be extortionate. Even the expensive kit isn't really essential, ds raced in endurance training trunks up to the age of 19 (when he bought his first expensive pair) the difference to performance is more psychological than anything else IMO.

rugbymum143 Wed 17-Dec-14 11:25:24

My DS was a swimmer but gave it up when he was 12. He started swimming for a club when he was 7 & when eligible for county championships at 9 came in the top 4 so was invited to the county squad. At 10 he was swimming every week night & Sunday morning as he progressed into the next squad on gaining regional times. From 10 and a half to 12 he was swimming for 13 hours a week including 2 hours before school twice a week & there was land training on top of that. Attendance was expected to be 90% & he had no time to do anything else. He loved it, we supported him & then he wanted to stop & we supported that. We knew the expectations of the county set up before accepting the place so knew what we and ds were getting in to & I think this is key. He loved training but wasn't really that bothered about competing by the end. ( Whole weekends for a handful of races almost weekly on the run up to regionals & nationals). He could have turned down the place in county & stayed at club but he wanted the opportunity & he was in the top 10 nationally for a couple of years & still was when he decided to finish. At that level it did take over our family life but we were happy to support him but were quite relieved when he decided to stop! Different counties have different approaches. Just make sure that as your dd gets older you know what you are getting into. We or my ds have no regrets & he loved it whilst he did it but I think they expected too much too young & if he could have had more of a balance he might have carried on but it was, at that level all or nothing.

dancemom Wed 17-Dec-14 17:30:19

I'm a swim coach for our local club, dd swims and dances and it's always a balancing act!

SquirrelledAway Thu 18-Dec-14 13:50:17

Lots of good advice up there, but it's such early days your DD will have plenty of time for other sports, brownies, play dates etc for a good while.

My DS started competitive swimming when he was 8 and is still competing and improving at age 16. He got his first pair of fancy jammers just a few weeks ago - he really wasn't all that bothered about having them, and he has always thought that you'll gain more advantage by having a great start / turn / finish. He is regularly swimming at nationals, and has recently joined a sprint squad so no longer has to train such long hours covering 1000s of metres each week (down from 16 hours a week to around 6) making school work / social life / swim training a lot more balanced.

My advice is to get involved with the club, clubs are run by volunteers and you'll get a lot out of helping - squad rep, kit, fundraising, helping at galas, timekeeping or judging, helping poolside etc. Get into lift shares if you can too. Keep an eye on clearance sales on the main online swimming kit providers.

Your coach will guide you as to which meets / events to enter (you need to be 8 to compete at accredited meets), for the younger ones it should be about having fun and swimming as a team - plenty of time to get serious later on.

Remember that there are many ups and downs along the way - long periods when their progress plateaus and there doesn't seem to be any PBs - and keep positive and focus on what they do well and encourage them. Don't live your life through them - competitive mums / dads are truly cringeworthy!

basildonbond Fri 19-Dec-14 14:31:55

After several chlorine-soaked years we are now on our way out of competitive swimming (and it's a huge relief wink)

Ds1 started club swimming at 7, did fantastically well in fits and starts but was plagued by illness and injuries at the wrong times. He made a choice to stop competing seriously during the summer term of his GCSEs but carried on swimming for the club and turning out for relays/club galas during Y12 but by the end of the last school year was no longer enjoying it - his friends had all either left or been picked for national talent squads so he was all on his own. He's now training once or twice a week for a non-competitive club and enjoying that, plus volunteering in the baby pool with the learn-to-swimmers

Dd looked like she would be very promising when she was 6 but she'd seen what her brother had had to do and although she likes swimming, doesn't like it that much! So she's mived clubs to a less competitive one and instead of training 10 hours a week is doing 3 x one hour sessions and still has time for all the other things she enjoys

At your dd's age I wouldn't even be thinking of her as a competitive swimmer - she may still be enjoying it but she may well have moved onto something else. All the children at ds's club whose parents were convinced they were going to be Olympic stars had all quit by the time they were 13...

Personally I think that swimming demands far too much commitment at much too young an age. Having been through it once I'd think very carefully before setting off down that route again...

QueenofLouisiana Fri 19-Dec-14 16:55:48

DS is 9 and a year into competitive swimming. He swims for about 6 hours a week and does land based training too. He's just got to the point when it has occurred to us that he's quite good.
However, he enjoys it which is more important to us. He has made great friends and the squad is wonderful. They do fun things as well as training together- they did a secret Santa this week. He still does Cubs and plays football at school, he found it too tiring to do another out of school sport as well.
He has one expensive set of jammers ready for the County Championships, the others are standard Speedo endurance ones. The cheaper versions just fell apart after a month in the water.

SquirrelledAway Fri 19-Dec-14 18:41:30

YY to Speedo Endurance - the standard ones with Lycra just aren't up to the job. DS trains in little Speedos, and just uses jammers for competition.

The latest generation of LZR Elites are more durable now too (just as well at that price!). They do occasionally split along the seams but Speedo are good about replacing them.

We found that there is a big social aspect to being in the team, especially when they do team travel to away meets.

DS also helps with the local learn to swim programme, and lots of the swimmers go on to do the teaching courses which means they can make quite decent money teaching swimming.

Footlight Mon 09-Feb-15 12:10:34

Hi all, dd has now been offered a place with the club and so I thought I would post again, as I am already feeling in a slight twilight zone.

She is expected to train 3x a week (3 hours in all) plus attend various galas and competitive events if selected (approx 6 times a year I think).

She is very excited and committed to doing it (so far), but the training sessions clash with other activities. One she is sad, but ok, about giving up, the other she doesn't want to give up. I'm going to continue to let her do it, but will she fall behind if she regularly misses 1 session a week? This activity is only term-time, so she wouldn't miss them all.

Also, I have list of kit to buy. I'm slightly wary of spending a ton of money if she just finds it all too much and gives up. Do I need it all now? Is second hand a possibility?

Debbie. how is your dd getting on with the club and managing other activities?

Micah Mon 09-Feb-15 12:20:12

What's the other activity? Can she move it to another night? Have you asked the club if she can swap one night for another? Most have multiple squads and she may be able to slot in another.

Otherwise no, I don't think missing one will hold her up. Most 7 year olds aren't doing more than once a week at this age. I do know some "big" clubs which like little ones to train more- but mainly form a fitness aspect, it's a big jump from once a week to 3 times, and if they're not fit it puts them off very quickly and they quit.

If her other activity is also physical (dance, gymnastics, martial art, football etc) I'd say that should cross train well enough to stop her falling behind. DD only did one session a week when she swam, the others did 2x. She actually streaked ahead as she did two other sports and was just much, much fitter generally.

Ask them. Personally though I think I'd have reservations about a club asking a 7 year old to do 3 hours a week. Swimming you don't peak until late teens at the earliest so why risk burning them out by starting so early?

DeanKoontz Mon 09-Feb-15 12:41:31

She's 11 Micah, sorry.

Ironically, she's giving up a physical activity and keeping guides. However she's as fit as a bean and does lots of other physical stuff, so stamina and fitness shouldn't be a worry.

I believe the club expect a 75% minimum attendance rate. which I think she'll meet (just), but I was more thinking about the technical aspect. If, for instance they might always practice turns on that particular night? Then she'd miss out. Not sure how the training sessions work.

There is an introductory meeting in 3 weeks time so I can ask about swapping sessions. It will be useful to have my questions ready before I go. However, that's the same night that she'll start training so we'll allready be committed at that point.

DeanKoontz Mon 09-Feb-15 12:42:39

Oops, namechange fail there.

Micah Mon 09-Feb-15 13:30:40

11 makes far more sense-I was reading it as you were the o/p

Can you email and ask before you commit?

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