As a kid, I grew up in a middle class suburb in
Throughout my childhood, I always thought
was a great swimming state. I mean look at the high school national record
books and you'll see Ohioans scattered throughout. Ohio
However, now that I live in
California, I have learned somewhat behind the
learning curve, that
is a much faster swimming state. California
I know what you're thinking,
California is better because
they have more swimmers or because the areas I've lived ( , San Jose) have a higher
socioeconomic class, etc. Los Angeles
These reasons likely tell part of the story, but I'm critical of their full contribution and wonder if perhaps cortical and motor development contributes to the equation.
Hands and Feet
I'm shocked at the amount of people in
who wear sandals or no shoes at all, all the time! California
I repeatedly have to remind kids to bring real shoes to dry-land. One particular kid sleeps in a hammock, so I guess I shouldn't expect anything else.
and I'm guessing most of the Midwest, people
wear shoes all the time! When I say all the time, I mean every waking second,
until they go to bed. Even in bed many Midwesterners, like myself, wear socks
(I'm trying to knock the habit). This desensitization doesn't only happen in
the feet, but also in the hands. During cold spells, gloves help keep the body
warm, but also desensitize oneself to sensation.
The cortex is complicated, which neither I, nor anyone else fully understands. However, literature suggests repeated use of an area increases cortex size and firing. Therefore, desensitization (gloves, socks, and shoes) may decrease their cortical size. Moreover, the hands and feet are highly innervated structures. This makes sense, as cave men/women we needed sensitive feet to prevent stepping on rocks and our society still uses their hands excessively making this neural structure necessary.
Unfortunately, desensitization is devastating for feel in the water. Often times, feel is only discussed for the hands, but the feet also feel. In
I'd imagine other warm states), the lack of shoes and gloves increases
sensitivity and use of these areas, theoretically increasing the cortical
demand and size, improving feel. California
Exposure to Water
Another avenue giving
coastal areas) an advantage is an early exposure to water. If you read frequently about the
sport, then you are aware early specialization in swimming is not associated
with swimming success. However, early exposure is essential. The exact
mechanism behind this association is unknown, but is thought to
improve motor programming, helping swimmers learn balance in the water.
Moreover, early users of water potentially learn motor programs in the
water earlier, as they've learned how to use their body in the water. California
Once again, this doesn't suggest 20 hours a week for a 3-year old, but being in the water at a young age is important for sports development.
Exposure to Various Activities
Californian high school kids are oblivious to professional sports. Perhaps it is my age, but everyone I grew up with was obsessed with professional sports. In
, the kids
barely know who won the NBA Championship! California
This is due to a few things: a lot of stuff to do and nice weather. A lot of things to do in
kids from sitting around and watching TV. Moreover, the warm weather makes
it easier for kids to get outside and run around instead of reading baseball
card statistics, I was always memorizing Jose Rio's WHIP, ERA, and wins. California
This exposure to various activities likely improves motor control and body awareness, all essential for improved biomechanics, the most important variable for success in swimming.
All of these variables are uncommon, but likely contributors to
and other warm, coastal cities success in swimming. Population, income, and
race likely play a role in this success as well, but they likely tell part of
the story. California