The following questions are also found in the AAC Parent
Handbook. More questions will be added as parents contact AAC with
their questions. Please feel free to make suggestions for new
questions and answers to be posted. Email Head Coach Evan Stiles with your
Q: What will happen to my child's meet results if
he only makes half of the offered workouts because he is
participating in other sports?
A: Children involved in other activities can benefit in the
areas of coordination and balance, as well as improved social and
intellectual development. Specialized training in one activity does
not necessarily need to take place at this stage of development.
Will your son's teammate who makes all practices have better
results? Probably, because his teammate is working solely on
developing swimming skills. It is up to you to explain to your
child that making the choice to participate in other activities can
have its consequences. Tell your son that he should not compare his
results to that of his teammate, but to focus on the fact that he
is benefiting from and enjoying both sports.
Q: Shouldn't my child be swimming more laps instead
of doing all those drills?
A: Your child needs to develop a solid foundation in stroke
mechanics. Drills and drill sets serve the specific purpose of
teaching skills and fundamentals. Drills develop motor
coordination, motor skills, and balance. In fact, your child's
coach may prescribe a particular drill, just for your child, in
order to improve a part of her stroke. In addition, she may
actually be experiencing a “training” benefit from
drills. Drills require concentration and aerobic energy to do them
Q: My child seems to be bouncing off the wall
during “taper.” What is that?
A: Tapering is a gradual reduction in training workloads in
preparation for major competition. Some Age Groupers do not need to
taper at all: a little rest and they are ready to go. As training
increases, swimmers need more rest and the process of tapering is
introduced. Swimmers taper only a couple of times a year, for their
major competitions. Taper is not something that occurs for every
meet! “Taper time” is an exciting time for a young
swimmer and there are two reasons for this:
- Physiologically your child is expending less energy because the
workload has been reduced.
- Psychologically there is less mental fatigue as he is doing
less physical work. Additionally, the anticipation and nervousness
associated with the upcoming competition contributes to your
child's bouncing off the wall. Do not worry, it will soon be over.
Q: My daughter just moved up to the senior group.
Her coach wants her to start coming to morning workouts twice a
week. Is this really necessary?
A: Your child has established proper stroke technique and
swimming fundamentals by progressing through the levels of the
team. It is appropriate at this stage of your daughter's career
development to increase the training loads. This includes adding
the two mornings per week. Although morning practices come extra
early, this level of commitment is necessary for your daughter to
reach the next level of her swimming career.
Training for competitive swimming is demanding on young
athletes. As swimmers develop in the sport, they need to understand
the upcoming time demands. One specific principle of training that
applies is the progressive overload principle. A person must be
stressed slightly more each day over time to continue to improve.
In order to do that, the coach must plan additional time. The
addition of morning workouts often becomes necessary for the coach
to develop young athletes to their maximum potential.
Q: What type of commitment is needed for this
level of swimming?
A: While a swimmer's performance is influenced by numerous
factors, there are three that exert the greatest influence:
physical, technical and mental. As athletes progress, a greater
commitment, of both time and energy, is needed to enable an athlete
to address all of these factors.
Additionally, the athlete is asked to take more responsibility
for and ownership of his practice and competition performance. One
way of doing this is by accepting responsibility for leading a
lifestyle conducive to swimming well, i.e., proper nutrition,
adequate sleep, time management, managing extra-curricular
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Q: I think my child is sacrificing too much to
train. Is this okay?
A: What you may consider a sacrifice, i.e. missing a school
dance, football game, or simply going out with friends, your child
many not consider a sacrifice at all! Instead, your child has
chosen to commit to swimming. By doing so, he realizes that a
certain level of training is necessary for him to achieve greater
goals and does not look at these activities as missed
opportunities. Keep in mind that your child realizes missing a
workout is like missing sleep, it cannot be made up. If, however,
your child is expressing sentiments that he is missing these
chances, then it is time to re-evaluate the balance in his
Q: My child was a successful age group swimmer.
How can I help her reach the next level? (I.e. Sectionals, Juniors,
Nationals, National Team)
A: When your daughter is making the transition, she needs to
realize that she is participating at a higher level. Improvements
are in tenths and hundredths, rather than seconds, due to
biological and physiological factors.
Throughout her career, you have been very supportive. This
support is still needed but it may have to be a little different
than in the past. It is a good time to discuss with your daughter
what she needs from you. Do not be afraid to ask her “How can
I support you in your swimming?” While you are an important
part of her support network, realize your daughter, at this level,
should be taking on more ownership of her swimming career.
Q: My son is complaining that his shoulder is
hurting after practice. What causes this?
A: Swimming is relatively safe for children when performed
within reasonable guidelines. Children often seek to push their
limits, which can result in injury. The movements in swimming are
repetitive and can result in injuries of the soft tissues in the
shoulder, knee and hip. Proper strengthening, stretching routines
and stroke technique can reduce the risk of injury to these joints,
especially to the shoulder.
If pain occurs it is important to: (a) open the line of
communication with the coach, (b) ice the area regularly to reduce
swelling and trauma, and (c) interact with the family physician and
ask for a referral to a sports medicine physician. The coach should
know what the problem is and when the training aggravates the
painful joint. Immediate action to aid the healing process and to
decrease inflammation that results in pain is to ice the area. The
recommendation is twenty minutes of icing following each practice.
Performing the icing procedure following the workout will help to
reduce swelling and pain. Finally, the swimmer should be taken to
his/her family physician. The medical doctor can then evaluate the
problem and prescribe an appropriate treatment for the injured
Q: What are "Process" goals?
A: There are two types of goals that swimmers can set:
- Outcome Goals: focus on the end result of performance.
“Win, make finals.”
- Process Goals: relate to process of performance. “Breathe
every 3rd stroke, streamline.”
Swimmers have much more control over Process Goals. Outcome
Goals are uncontrollable since they also involve the performance of
other competitors. Swimmers and coaches, especially at the Age
Group level, should concentrate on Process Goals.
Q: Should my child begin setting
A: Of course! Everyone should set goals. In fact, most kids
have already set goals. As adults, however, we must remember that
kids are not simply little versions of us and are not going to set
the same types of goals as adults. One developmental difference is
that children lack the cognitive ability to distinguish time and
are also very concrete thinkers. Therefore, setting long-term goals
often doesn't provide the motivation for kids that it does for
adults. Kids want results today. With younger swimmers, it is
appropriate to talk about short-term goals - - what they need to
work on today. Most coaches will emphasize goals that reinforce
skill development and the process of swim performance.
Additionally, based on cognitive development research, we know that
around the age of 6 or 7, kids enter the stage of social
comparison. In this stage, they begin to evaluate their own
performance by comparing it to others. So as the parent, reinforce
what the coach has emphasized and help her focus on individual
improvement. Encourage your child's goal to be “SMART”.
- S pecific: tells the athlete what to do
- M easurable: able to measure and record progress
- A ttainable: athlete can experience success
- R ealistic: challenging but “do-able”
- T rackable: short-term goals build into long-term goals
Q: All my swimmer talks about is being an Olympic
swimmer. Should I discourage this since it may not be
A: Most kids will have long-term or “dream” goals
of making the Olympic team or winning Nationals. Dream goals can be
beneficial by helping motivate your athlete to go to practice and
to train hard (and there is no way of knowing if it is realistic or
not). While it is okay to have dream goals, there are several
problems with athletes only having dream goals. These problems
include not knowing if they are making progress towards their goal,
not experiencing little “successes” along the way, and
losing motivation when the goal seems so distant. To combat this,
it is important to also talk to your child about setting short-term
or even daily goals. Ask him what he is working on in practice this
week (just as you ask him what is going on in school), get him to
identify skills he needs to improve on, and follow up with him to
help him recognize successes along the way. Be sure to ask your son
to speak to his coach if he needs help seeking some practice or
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Q: My child gets so nervous before a competition.
Is this natural? What can I do to help her to reduce this
A: To a degree, nervousness is part of the competitive
experience and can be used as an opportunity to teach the young
athlete specific strategies or skills to help her manage this
arousal or nervousness. A simple skill that young athletes can
learn to help manage the “butterflies in their
stomachs” is belly breathing. The athlete is taught to take
slow, deep breaths into her belly, hold it briefly, and then exhale
slowly. Words can be included to help the athlete focus her
thoughts on something besides worry. This is a quick strategy that
helps calm the body and mind and only takes a few seconds to do.
Another skill to help the athlete deal with muscular tightness
brought on by nervousness is progressive muscle relaxation. In this
procedure, the athlete goes through the major muscles in her body
and first tenses and then relaxes each muscle. This teaches
athletes to learn the difference between a tense and relaxed
muscle, to learn where different muscles are located, and to
eventually be able to relax specific muscles as necessary. Remember
that these skills must be taught and practiced before the athlete
will be able to use them effectively.
We also know that excessive anxiety can be damaging to both
performance and to the athlete's desire to enter such situations in
the future. Two factors which have been found to play a role in the
level of anxiety experienced are the importance of the event and
the uncertainly of the outcome. Greater importance and greater
uncertainty lead to increased anxiety. Parents, this suggests that
you can play an active role in reducing competition anxiety by
de-valuing the outcome of the event and by focusing on the
individual performance over which the swimmers have control.
Symptoms of anxiety:
- increased heart rate
- rapid breathing
- frequent ‘pit stops'
- excessive worry
- talk of failure
- low confidence
Strategies to Manage
- Deep belly breathing
- positive self-talk
- relaxation exercises
- think of successes
- visualize race
- listen to music
- focus on goals
- light massage
- distract by talking with friends, family
Q: When is my child ready for
A: That is a difficult question, as research on athlete
development provides no clear-cut answer. In an article by Passer
(1988) addressing this question, he reviewed several areas of
development in attempting to provide guidelines on determining
readiness for competition:
- Motivational readiness: Because competition is a social
comparison process, the young athlete is motivated to compete when
he or she possesses a social comparison orientation. Research
suggests that around the age of 5-7 kids have the desire for and
ability to use social comparison information.
- Cognitive readiness: Competition requires numerous cognitive
and reasoning skills (i.e., perspective taking, differentiating
between effort and ability) that take some time to develop in
youngsters. Researchers suggest that kids do not develop the
cognitive abilities to have an understanding of the competitive
process until approximately age 12.
- Physical growth, physiological capacity, and development: These
factors must also be considered when trying to decide readiness for
Q: What should I tell my child when he or she says
it's not fair that I have to swim against Suzy, she is so much
bigger than I am?
A: Look at a classroom full of school children. The diversity
in size and shape is remarkable. Even though these children are
similar in chronological age (calendar age) they may be very
different in biological age (physical/sexual maturity). Puberty is
a critical point in the developmental process. It is well known
that girls mature more rapidly than boys do. In fact, the average
girl matures 2-2.5 years earlier than the average boy (see sidebar
on next page). However, these values are merely averages and the
range can be several years within each gender.
It is important to remember that “early
bloomers”-children who move through biological maturation
more rapidly than average- tend to be more physically developed.
This can sometimes be an advantage for them in the swimming pool.
“Late bloomers” tend to catch-up over time and will
often become even more proficient at the sport. Regardless of the
maturational pace of your child, she needs to focus on her personal
improvements over time.