Wednesday, June 17, 2015

How to Be A Great Swim Parent

I find myself thinking about my mom a lot lately. She's currently battling cancer and I spent last weekend with her while she was undergoing chemotherapy. In my previous work as a college swim coach, I didn't have a lot of interaction with parents- besides some polite conversation when they showed up to cheer. In my current job as a club coach, I have a much closer interaction with parents.

When I look back at my upbringing, I won't say my parents were perfect, but on swimming they pretty much nailed it. My mom was leading the charge of course, she did the bulk of bringing me to meets and practices when I was young. So, I know there are plenty of articles out there telling parents what they should and shouldn't do, I'll just speak from my own life experience and give my opinion on how my mom was a great swimming parent.


1. Process and High Standards- She made it clear that she expected that I had a good process and held me to a high standard of behavior. My mom didn't know very much about competitive swimming but she did know that it was important to work hard and be respectful to those around you. I knew from the get go that it was my job to push myself hard in training, to listen to what the coaches were telling me and make the most of an opportunity that my parents were investing considerable time and money in. I can remember one meet at age 14 where I threw my goggles in frustration after finishing a swim. On the walk to the parking lot my mom calmly informed me that there would be no more swim meets if I acted so immaturely again.

2. Focus on self-improvement. When I started swimming, my mom never payed attention to my speed relative to the other swimmers, just how I was doing in comparison to myself. This was good, because when I was starting out I was getting dead last in nearly every competition I entered. The first couple of years she tracked some of my times, so that at the end of the year she could remind me that I had really improved a lot over the year. This helped motivate me to stick through it even when I was getting my butt kicked, and I learned to focus on making myself better rather than constantly comparing myself to other swimmers.

3. Independence- Recently I asked my mom how old I was when she last made contact to an adult teacher or coach to intervene on my behalf. Her reply was stunning, "Pre-school". I had some idea that my mom had never been one to jump in to my rescue as a kid, but the fact that she had done so from such a young age caught me by surprise. I learned from a young age and a lot of trial an error how to represent myself to adults, and how to confront them on critical issues. My parents were always willing to help me prepare for these meetings at home, talking through what I would say, but critically they never stepped in to say it for me. As a result my identity as a swimmer really developed independently, and my love for the sport only grew as I reached the teenage years and wanted to be that individual separate from my parents. When I recruited swimmers to college in the US, I learned pretty early on to run (not walk) away from recruits who had their parents talking for them on the phone or recruiting trips. Before you guess that I was some precociously conversational kid, I was and still am a pretty strong introvert, so speaking for myself at a young age was a challenge but one I am glad I was asked to make.

On to the training logs:

Wednesday, June 10th

The workout
3x100 Warmup
8x15m finishes
30x25 Freestyle, Pace 15

How it went: Another bad Wednesday training. Part of the problem is that two Wednesdays in a row I have worked late on Tuesdays, compromising my sleep, and therefore I just don't think I am recovering properly. I got about 10x25 in before I got overwhelmed with lactic acid, and even after taking a break I could feel I was swimming with really poor technique. 

Thursday, June 11th

The workout
3x100 Warmup
8x20m start and breakout
30x25 Freestyle, Pace 15

How it went: Luckily I am bouncing back on Thursdays. This one for the first time I did 30x25 all on the 15 pace. I nearly nocked off 30 in a row, completing 26 straight and then easily ripping off 4 more after that. However, I still feel like I am not quite ready to bump up to 14, I'll have to play with it over the next couple weeks. My shoulder flexibility has shown some progress, but it is really slow going to get it to where it needs to be for me to make proper starts and streamlines

Monday, June 15th

The workout
3x100 Warmup
8x25m turns
30x25 Freestyle, Pace 15

How it went: 30 in a row on :15! Now of course I must try 14, I have no excuses left. I am finding it is easier for me to hit my pace when I breath to both sides in a 3/2 pattern, favoring my better (right) side. 

Wednesday, June 17th
The workout
3x100 Warmup
8x15m finishes
30x25 Freestyle, Pace 14/15

How it went: Didn't get enough sleep again, this time because I was all anxious about my trip to Azerbaijan. I think many people imagine coaches are on vacation on national team trips, the reality is they are hard work, and you are still expected to keep in contact with home base both professionally and personally, which can sometimes mean you are just ON from the time you wake up until you sleep each day. Needless to say, I wasn't able to sustain 14 for more than a couple, so I went back to 15 and managed to knock off 20x25 before my technique suffered. 

Next, on to Baku!

1 comment:

  1. Inger Raahauge NielsenJune 17, 2015 at 6:11 AM

    Thank you Christopher and I wonder if you give me too much credit. You were one self motivated kid when it came to swimming and it was easy to be a swim parent.

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