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Advice from any competitive swim parents/teachers...past or present!

(21 Posts)
ealingwestmum Tue 17-May-16 12:46:40

My DD is 12.5 (Y7) and has been swimming competitively for just over 2 years now. She's high achieving in most things she does, but swimming doesn't come easy for her, doesn't feel the water naturally as the coach puts it. She's always slightly out of county time thresholds, whereas her very competitive club has swimmers her age constantly hitting county/regional levels. She swims around 10 hours+ a week, with the expectation to commit to more, should she move squads post summer. She will always be competing in the year above due to her age pre december cut off.

Whilst there is no expectation from her or me for her to aspire to olympic standards (that's the level some of the children are at in top squad), I am challenged on whether she will ever catch up with her peer age group. Even though most of them have been swimming longer, this is no longer an excuse as she's received the same training as them for a school year now, and their improvements are far more advanced than hers.

Her body is changing, she's tallish and slim, developing more muscular form, and has very good endurance. This just does not translate to race times. She admits she holds back a little in galas, worried that she'll be too knackered to complete her events, but loves the competition and camaraderie (I have asked her to consider swimming for fitness only, rejected). But gets really frustrated that her performance didn't meet the coach or her expectations.

We all know the swim parents' mentality. I try not to be one of those, but also conscious of whether she is able to find her form or am I slightly deluded and that it's just going to happen, given her age. I also know this is the time most children give up so are we jumping the gun?

So, long winded background - my question is: is it possible for girls like her to find form later than most swimming children (if attitude is persevering and resilient) or, should we gently ease her off now before she gets burned alive on the next level squad? There may be other sports she may be natural at (she's a good all rounder but not exceptional at any one thing) that she's not had chance to develop due to the hours dedicated to swimming.

To sum up, she'd be gutted to stop swimming. Would not take too well to stepping it down to a recreational level, but her lack of achievement is, understandably, getting her down.

Any thoughts or advice most welcome!

lljkk Tue 17-May-16 12:59:06

I don't understand the real question. Sorry, I probably didn't read carefully enough.
Has her coach asked her to step down a squad?
Are you fed up with the time & commitment?
Does she want to quit unless she thinks she has a good chance of catching up with others later.
Why can't she continue as she is doing now?

Monsterclaws Tue 17-May-16 13:05:46

She might start to excel may be at the longer distances but even if she doesn't keep her on the squad.

It's great fun, a great social life and amazing for fitness. You can still find a place without being a national level swimmer or a an England hopeful. It's also a great life lesson that you don't have to be best to enjoy something and that you can't come first at everything

ealingwestmum Tue 17-May-16 13:09:33

I have waffled somewhat so understandable!

Has her coach asked her to step down a squad? No, but jury's out on where she should be next....age means outgrown current squad

Are you fed up with the time & commitment? Naturally at times, but her choice, so happy to support both if that's what she wants

Does she want to quit unless she thinks she has a good chance of catching up with others later. She used to think she could catch up but mentally I think there's doubts now, driven by recent gala results

Why can't she continue as she is doing now? Age, the side squad tends to have children who don't want to be there (parents make them to keep up fitness etc)

I guess I am asking if others have experienced this, have they come out the other end successfully with kids who want to carry on in spite of being behind at 12/13.

I know, there's no crystal ball smile

lljkk Tue 17-May-16 13:15:08

She could shift her focus. Switch to water polo, triathlon or open water swimming or another form of water sport that she will probably excel at but have different competitors so she could find more satisfying success.

Or switch to a different club with a different type of development programme. Or go into coaching & away from competition, or into other sports, etc.

It's how Chris Hoy ended up in Track cycling having been a keen rower, mountain-biker & BMXer in his teen yrs. Chris Hoy's dad is very funny talking about how bad CH was at MTBing.

CMOTDibbler Tue 17-May-16 13:21:12

I'd shift to triathlon if she's a good allrounder. Its good fun and doesn't have the same levels as swimming (basically you just enter events or not, and if you want to make the age group internationals you register to do a qualifying time and just do the required event). Its also something you can enjoy doing all your life

ealingwestmum Tue 17-May-16 13:23:34

Monsterclaws, I would agree with the life lesson aspect. It's one of the reasons we've been so supportive of the time/commitment factors, that not everything comes easy to all!
I just need her to see past this brick wall, gets lost at times with a competitive child.

Thank you llijkk, good options to consider vs abandoning the water altogether

Monsterclaws Tue 17-May-16 13:28:35

I think puberty makes a big difference, can be transformative but there is no way of knowing.

The longer she sticks with it the better at cross country, cycling, triathlon, rowing, wrestling she will besmile

She probably won't ever be one of the best if not a natural fish but there may well be a stroke over a certain distance she can compete on. Bodes really well for her life if she still has all that tenacity.

ealingwestmum Tue 17-May-16 13:38:53

Brilliant, thanks guys. Feeling better about it already.

Madcats Tue 31-May-16 20:58:57

Does your DD get any feedback about her technique?

Unintentionally, DD was fortunate to have some swimming lessons from some great swim teachers (former internationals now teaching baby swimming up to triathletes). They really focus on trying to get the most out of a stroke for the minimal amount of effort if a child/adult show promise.

They tend to walk up and down in the pool looking down at/behind the swimmer and film with ipads in housings.

Most squad coaches haven't the time to stare intently at a particular child, so I pop DD back for a one-to-one lesson once or twice a year.

Mistigri Wed 01-Jun-16 07:29:51

I was going to suggest triathlon.

Puberty and its timing makes a big difference at this age, and you won't know whether the difference is positive or negative for another year or so.

However I think at 12 it's usually quite obvious whether a child is a "true competitor" or not. I have a friend with two kids both of whom are at top regional or national standard in my DS's sport and the difference in mentality is striking. The younger one competes in the same category as DS and in training sessions the differences are really not that big - but in competitions this kid completely outclasses DS.

ealingwestmum Wed 01-Jun-16 12:01:14

Thanks all for the suggestions and additional thoughts.

Does your DD get any feedback about her technique? She does, her challenge is balancing the feedback of 2 coaches (school and squad), that can differ, and then making adjustments between sprint and mid distance strokes. Her club has taught most children from 4/5 so their technique is superb, whereas she's making adjustments that are often up-picking bad habits through less formal teaching. Often correcting one stroke can put out another! For a musical kid she doesn't quite have the natural coordination required for swimming.

Puberty and its timing makes a big difference at this age, and you won't know whether the difference is positive or negative for another year or so This is so true. She's had massive growth spurts this school year making her taller than most of her swim peers, but they are faster, lighter etc. They compete more because they hit the entry times for their ages on county/regionals, and their swim mentality is so much more aggressive than hers. She may never get this.

Time will tell. She seems determined still, I found her looking at the ASA website this week cutting the data to see where the older top club swimmers were on times at her age and it gave her a renewed boost, in addition to their competitive times spread over 5/6 years compared with her 2. I think the standard of coaching and ability of children's swimming in UK is so high now with land training etc that even the top swimmers were way slower at 12 vs the current 12yr olds.

Triathlon may take some convincing to try. Running's not her strong point grin

ealingwestmum Wed 01-Jun-16 12:02:43

un-picking not up!

QueenofLouisiana Fri 10-Jun-16 21:09:01

If she's had big growth spurts her bones will have grown and her muscles may still need time to catch up. Performance often drops after a growth spurt and then picks up again.
DS played rugby before swimming found him. He never "felt" that in the way he does swimming. Just never had the umph to score a try, although he enjoyed the game. The expression on his face when he gets on the block isn't the goofy expression I see day to day- he wants to win or exhaust everyone trying. It might be worth looking at other sports to see where her winning instinct kicks in? (Mine's non-existent, no idea where DS got his!)

ealingwestmum Sun 12-Jun-16 12:19:11

Good point re growth spurts QueenofL, as I now go off to find new shoes with 3 weeks left of school year due to a 1.5 size growth, thanks. grin at your boy's expressions when off the blocks!

ealingwestmum Wed 02-Nov-16 13:28:17

Just a quick update to those that may be where I was at 5 months ago on competitive swimming progress...

Queen was bang on with her body growth needing to catch up with her. She's started the season in the elite squad of her club, is undergoing a gruelling 'hard training' regime (I know this will mean something to the hardcore swim parents out there) and is coming out with improved endurance, technique and times.

Still a way to go to catching up with the experienced group, but the gap has definitely closed on most strokes and she is loving the discipline of 6 x training a week though not so loving the early starts

Thank you all for your support a while back - swimming, along many other sports is most certainly a long game to achieve at a high level, but even those who don't have early natural talent like mine can seemingly catch up with the right training and attitude. The camaraderie with like-minded friends also helps...

QueenofLouisiana Thu 03-Nov-16 22:50:33

That's a lovely update!

a7mints Fri 04-Nov-16 22:16:39

I coach gymnastics, so completely different sport BUT
1) Puberty is a hard time as gymnasts lose flexibility and outgrow their strength.As they start to come out of the other side there is often quite a change round
2) Those who stick at it longterm and keep trying nearly always improve.

ealingwestmum Sat 05-Nov-16 13:18:55

That's interesting a&mints. We have a fair few ex gymnasts in my DD's club. They've made the successful jump across sports, most do very well in the sprint events (typically light, small, very fast) but are struggling a little with the long distance sets.

Seems like to key is to try and sustain children's motivation whilst they undergo body changes and ride the plateau of form out to the other end!

As an amateur observer, early to mid teens has such contrasts in both the girls and boys swimming - from the above to the truly amazonian build. But, both seem to work in this sport, at this age, which is great to see.

Laura0806 Tue 08-Nov-16 12:14:42

Thats really good news ealingwestmum. Well done to your daughter. Its quite hard to stick at something if you feel like you are playing catch up all the time. My daughter is in a similar position to where yours was in May though a little bit younger-she is very petite and seems to lack speed compared to her peers in competition (shes very shy and nervous which doesn't help) although in training will be always ahead of them-she just can't turn it on in competition. However, she is determined to stick at it so we will see! I was a swimmer and its great fitness for life. We are also thinking about triathalons as she is much more of an all rounder. Let us know how she gets on

ealingwestmum Tue 08-Nov-16 17:34:21

I can relate Laura, it's frustrating for them (and us) to see swimmers who don't put in 100% in training but can pull it out the bag at galas!

However, I now realise that mine wasn't really putting in 100%. She has always panicked about the lactic acid feeling (feels the same in running), and never knew how to push past the pain. In her current squad's training regime, there is absolutely nowhere to hide. She has had to endure that pain in difficult sets with no leeway but now knows that she can recover just as quickly when pushed to the limit. It's a real mind shift but it's minimising her holding back in races. There will still always be those that don't train so hard but can rock up to a gala and perform brilliantly, I don't think there's any avoiding those, but again, I'm trying to help her focus on her own performance, not theirs.

I have no real advice re the confidence factor, other than maturity helps and it really is about syching themselves up pre race in the most simple ways - walking tall, shoulders back, looking directly at the heat line and saying in their head they are worthy of being there (and that most others feel the same!). The hunched walk still appears now and then with DD, but she's working on it, and she's also started chatting randomly to the line, not easy if you're shy but it may be worth a try, even if she says something like 'have you swam here before?' grin. Breaks the ice most of the time...

Likewise let me know how she gets on the remainder of this season Laura...I will update again in the summer!

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