Parent Education

Five Easy Ways for Young Athletes to Practice Gratitude


posted:  November 5, 2020

Practicing gratitude has been a trending topic amongst mental health and wellness experts in recent years, and for good reason: This simple shift in thinking can lead to big change. According to the American Psychological Association, teens who practice gratitude are more likely to be happier in general and less likely to have behavior problems at school. They’re also likely to be healthier overall, according to new research, and could even be more likely to easily make friends.

But can gratitude also help them in the pool? TrueSport Expert Kevin Chapman, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of The Kentucky Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, says yes, and explains how coaches and parents can help their athletes practice an attitude of gratitude.

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Stress Better:  How Parents Can Help Athletes Grow from Stress


posted:  September 3, 2020

Stress automatically calls to mind negative moments in life: A difficult upcoming test, a fight with a friend or parent, global collective stress like the coronavirus pandemic, or even self-created stress about what others might be thinking. And yes, too much stress and too few resources to combat it can be a bad thing…but allowing kids to entirely avoid it actually does them a disservice.

Board-certified family physician and TrueSport Expert Deborah Gilboa, MD, specializes in youth development—including stress management. Her main message to parents is that children need to experience stress in order to be prepared for later life and become effective leaders. “Our job as parents is not to protect them until they’re adults. It’s to ready them for adulthood. And the ability to deal with stress is one of our best tools,” says Gilboa.

Here, Gilboa explains how parents and coaches can teach young athletes how to process and handle stress, rather than bulldozing it away.

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COVID-19:  How to Keep Kids Calm and Accountable from TrueSport


posted:  April 22, 2020

As a parent during these uncertain and difficult times, the correct way to talk to your kids about COVID-19 might feel like walking a tight rope. How much should you share? How do you talk about school closures? How do you explain the importance of social distancing and CDC guidelines without terrifying them? Essentially, how do you keep kids both calm AND accountable?

There is no single script that works in these situations, but there are some general principles for communication to make sure kids feel safe and understand their part to play in the current crisis.

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Children should not stop playing sport in run up to exams as it has no impact on results, study suggests

by: The Telegraph

posted:  May 6, 2019

Parents should not stop children playing sport in the run up to exams because it has no impact on results, a new study suggests.

Taking part in competitive team games in the run up to GCSE and A-level exams will have no negative effects on a teenager’s grades, according to research commissioned by The Headmasters’ & Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC).

The study analysed the GCSE results of 1,482 male and female students from 19 independent schools, and examined the effect that participation in sports such as badminton, cricket, hockey, netball, rugby and tennis had on their results.

Professor Peter Clough, head the Psychology department at Huddersfield University who carried out the research, found that contrary to what some parents believe, “sport involvement does not appear to have any negative implications” on results.

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Four Myths Parents Need to Know About Supplements

by: TrueSport//USA Swimming Partner

posted:  April 24, 2019

Dietary supplements are omnipresent in sports. When youth athletes see their professional idols or peers using supplements, they may feel supplementation is necessary to keep up with the competition. Since they are so readily available, it’s also easy for parents to think there’s no harm in letting athletes use them.

Unfortunately, the supplement industry is one of smoke and mirrors. Although they might seem appropriate for young athletes trying to stay healthy and competitive, there are many myths surrounding supplements that parents should be aware of before choosing to buy these products.

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Nutrition Tip: Top Foods for Fighting Inflammation

by: Chris Rosenbloom, PhD, RDN (

posted:  April 10, 2019

Jenny, a 19-year old swimmer, trains hard in the pool and on land. After an intense workout, her muscles ache and she want to know if there is a natural anti-inflammatory remedy to help her recover.

While many athletes think of ibuprofen as a chemical remedy, have you ever considered the power of food?

I talked to sports dietitian, Roberta Anding, a Houston-based registered dietitian who works with the Rice University athletes and the Houston Astros to get her top tips to help athletes to use foods to fight inflammation.

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What You Need to Know About E-Cigarettes and Vaping


posted:  March 11, 2019

After decades of declines in tobacco use by teenagers, vaping and the use of e-cigarettes is surging in high schools and middle schools nationwide. According to a November 2018 advisory from the U.S. Surgeon General, e-cigarette use increased 78% among high school seniors and 48% among middle school students from 2017 to 2018.

As they have before, parents, teachers, and coaches must once again help kids understand the risks and learn to reject nicotine and tobacco.

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Is Your Overparenting Ruining Your Athlete’s Experience


posted:  January 28, 2019

We value youth sports for many reasons: from the lessons taught and the friendships formed, to the health benefits gained and the self-expression learned through play.

However, at times, these benefits are muted when sport and play is influenced by overparenting.

“Overparenting has become an increasingly common occurrence within out-of-school settings, such as youth sports. Many program providers are challenged to find ways to engage those who overparent in ways that build positive relationships, while also supporting the needs of youth athletes,” says Clemson University’s Dr. Barry Garst, who has been studying overparenting for the past five years alongside Dr. Ryan Gagnon.

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Resilient Kids Come From Parents Who Do These 8 Things

by: Lizzy Francis from the Fatherly

posted:  December 17, 2018

When you’re a kid, everything is a tragedy. Your grilled cheese has the crust on? The horror. Can’t assemble that Lego set? Might as well stomp up and down. You can’t change this. What you can do, however, is arm your kid with the techniques that teach them how to bounce back from their daily struggles so that, later on in life, when the stakes are higher, they know what to do. Because resilience is a behavior learned through explicit lessons and examples, one that teaches kids how to, among other things, better handle stress, understand that rejection is not a comment on their entire existence, and view setbacks as things that don’t need to sideline them for good. But how, exactly, should you do to teach this lesson? According to Amy Morin, LCSW, a psychotherapist and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do, here are eight common practices of parents who raise k

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NCAA coach’s advice to parents:  You need to let your kids fail

by: Steve Ewen from The Province

posted:  December 17, 2018

Notre Dame Fighting Irish’s Muffett McGraw, who has coached for more than 35 years, says it’s not the kids who have changed — it’s the parents.

The inaugural TCL Vancouver Showcase is dishing up unusual opportunities.

The eight-team women’s basketball portion of the event tips off Thursday at the Vancouver Convention Centre, with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish as headliners.

They’re the reigning NCAA champions. They’re also the No. 1-ranked team in the United States right now, according to the latest Associated Press poll. You don’t get many cracks to witness firsthand and up close what a team like that looks like without leaving your own town.

Notre Dame is coached by 62-year-old Muffet McGraw. She’s been running benches in the collegiate ranks since 1982-83 and at Notre Dame since 1987-88. Last year’s national championship win marked her 800th victory with the Fighting Irish.

The Showcase offers a chance to pick her brain, to get her take on where university basketball in particular, and youth sport in general, has been and where it might be headed.

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5 Habits That Turn Off College Coaches

by: Sam Howell written for PCG Basketball []

posted:  December 17, 2018

Whether you are a high school or a college coach, perhaps your players could benefit hearing this message from another voice.

I have seen it all when it comes to recruiting. I coached college basketball for almost a decade and then ran a NCAA certified recruiting service that had college coaching subscribers from all levels so, to this day, I often get asked by athletes, parents and high school coaches about college recruiting. The recruiting process can be daunting and confusing, at times. However that process could be over before it begins if you allow these 5 habits to be a part of who you are.

While collecting my thoughts to write this article, I reached out to 15 male and female college coaches, from across the country. At every level, from Division 1 to Junior College, here is what they had to say.

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by: Mike Gustafson- USA Swimming correspondent []

posted: October 20, 2014

Sara reaches for the wall, exhausted, straining, and gets 3rd place. She gets out of the water and checks her time. Almost a best time. Almost a win.

Sara is happy. Or at least content. She knows what she has to fix – that second turn was a little off – and is excited to get back to practice on Monday. Sara warms down and smiles to herself. Sure, it wasn’t a best time, but she loves to race. It’s the one time of the week she doesn’t have to worry about tests, homework, that school dance next week…

“You missed your turn,” Sara’s mother says.

“Yeah, I know, but I think I can get better,” says Sara.

“You almost won. You should have won,” her father chimes in. “Maybe you should work on your finishes. Do you work on your finishes in practice?”


“Maybe I’ll talk to the coach.”

End scene.

I’m not a fan of cliché stereotypes that begin with, “There are two types of parents in the world…” but there are definitely two types of parents in the swimming world: The parent that builds, and the parent that breaks.

The above interaction – fictional, though I’m sure happens every day on every pool deck everywhere – didn’t involve screaming, red-faced swim parents with insulting comments. It wasn’t too harsh. It didn’t involve profanity or threats or tirades.

But it wasn’t supportive, either. It wasn’t, “Hey, good race!” with an offer for a hug. Instead, the interaction involved two parents, obviously trying to be supportive of their swimmer, showing up to the race, giving advice, letting their swimmer know what happened, offering critiques.

The thing is: Critiquing is not a parent’s job — at least when it comes to swimming. Critiquing is the coach’s job.

That’s why coaches exist.

The other day, I was talking about all the emails I get from swimmers around the country and how a majority of them talk about how hard their own parents are on them. Mostly after races. I get emails from swimmers as young as 10 years old who tell me things I’m sure their parents would be horrified me finding out about. They tell me about parents who break down instead of build up. Parents who are critics and let swimmers know what they need to do to improve. Parents who yell after the race is over. Parents who threaten to force their swimmer to quit the sport if victories are in the soon-to-come horizon.

“I bet a lot of these parents, if I read back to them their letters from their swimmers, would be horrified,” I told my friend. “I bet many of these parents don’t even know how much pressure they put on their swimmers.”

No one of us wants to be that bad villain from the Disney movie. You know the kind of villain: The parent who yells at their kid and the kid goes into the bedroom and cries and music grows and we feel appropriately bad for the kid. No parent wants that to be that “villain.” And yet, I think many parents place an incredible amount of pressure on kids without even knowing it.

Many parents don’t even realize it.

Take the scenario I wrote above: It wasn’t necessarily a bad interaction. But it wasn’t good. Sara, like many young swimmers, uses the sport as a way to escape and have fun and race. Swimming, to Sara, is just a way to get away from real-world pressures, of which, at any age, are numerous. Tests, homework, social pressures, that whole “figuring out what you want to do with the rest of your life” thing… Sara, like millions of other athletes around the country, just uses sports as a secondary activity, one that is fun and healthy and vigorous and enjoyable.

Many times, though, parental expectations and pressures get in the way of that enjoyment. Let’s face it: Many kids want to impress their parents. They want good feedback. And I understand we live in a society that perhaps praises too often. There’s a joke in one of my favorite sitcoms when the student receives happy clouds and sunshine cartoon icons instead of actual grades. Too much unearned praise can, sometimes, be detrimental.

But again: There are two types of parents.

The kind that build. And the kind that break.

To borrow a line from one of my favorite movies, Stripes: Lighten up, swim parents.

This sport, while teaching many lessons to swimmers, is like climbing a mountain. You learn most lessons on your own. How to climb. How to fall. How to get back up. Swim parents: Let the rest of the world break down your child, because the world out there will gladly do so. Let it be your job to build your child up, to just say, “Great job!” and offer a hug and nothing else. Let the coaches coach. Let the swimmers swim. Let the races be raced. And while everyone needs a good push once in a while and everyone needs encouragement once in a while, this is just swimming. This is just a sport.

A friend of mine recently told me his parents finally told him towards the end of his swimming career, “We know we have been putting too much pressure on you. So now with your last season, just have fun.” And he told me just hearing that from his parents made all the difference. Just hearing those words was like a blessing — a freeing act, like now he had permission to enjoy the sport again.

And guess what?

In his last meet, he swam lifetime bests.

He sat and reflected. He then smiled and said, “If only they had told me that sooner.”

New USA Swimming Parent Education Resources Now Available

by: USA Swimming []

posted: February 18, 2014

USA Swimming presents its new monthly Parent Excellence Academy. We are excited to announce a special relationship with Growing Champions for Life, an organization dedicated to creating cohesive families and principle-centered athletes who win at life, not just at swimming.

Every month, you will be able to access new content from inspirational videos and educational webinars to interesting articles and informative newsletters right here on Check out this great new resource now!

Read more …

Everyones’ a Winner; Baby, That’s the Lie

by: By Thornton McCamish THE AGE (Melbourn, Australia, Daily Newspaper) (Swim Parents Newsletter)

posted: May 1, 2013


They don’t play pass the parcel like they used to. Go to a kid’s party these days and you’ll see that the host parent has rigged the parcel so that each time the music stops and a layer of wrapping comes off, a chocolate frog pops out. It’s a fiddle. Every child wins. By the time the real prize is revealed, the orderly circle has disintegrated into a chaos of smeared chocolate and the screaming of sugarised toddlers.

As I recall it from 25 years ago, pass the parcel used to be a strictly one-winner affair. And it’s not just pass the parcel that’s gone soft. There are blatant rorts of the pinata, too. I’ve seen toddlers held up and given a free hit at the donkey. And aren’t you supposed to wear a blindfold? It dawned on me recently, as I watched a roomful of fathers sweatily whaling away at a pinata, that childhood has changed.

It’s the grown-ups who’ve done it. We seem to have cancelled competition. It’s not just parents either. “Improvement in performance,” say guidelines on coaching juniors published by the Federal Government’s Australian Sports Commission, “should be measured against individual past performance rather than against other children.”  Prize nights drag on into the early hours now that everyone gets one. It’s the rule of modern childhood: you only have to be in it to win it.

When I was a child in the 70s, our district was so short on kids old enough to hold a bat, the only way we could make up a cricket team was to enter us all in the under- 14s competition. Our opponents were often twice our size. We waddled out to the pitch in leg pads that came up to our ribs and batting gloves that swallowed the entire forearm. We lost all the time. I remember year after year fielding on the boundary, while St Colemans’ opening batsmen filled their boots with runs.

There’s no surprise ending to this tale: we just kept on losing. And I’m not sure that I learned much from this over-generous lesson in defeat except that while it might be nice to win some time, it wasn’t going to happen until we were good enough. Perhaps we developed a sort of precocious stoicism to cope with each Saturday’s thrashing. We certainly learned that none of us was going to play for Australia. Not until we grew, anyway.

Somewhere along the line we’ve become squeamish about exposing kids to competition that might include failure. In Kanga cricket, losing doesn’t come into it. One school’s coaching policy for Kanga cricket spells this out: “Because all children are not identical in size, strength, ability and personality, game co-coordinators should adopt a flexible attitude to enable every player to have success.”

When did we decide that competition was too tough for kids?

I remember my father telling my brother and me when we were eight or nine that he didn’t care what we did in life. We could be garbos, nurses, explorers or rocket scientists, whatever. What mattered to him was that we were the best at whatever we did. As a way of encouraging kids to aim high, that was probably a bit heavy-handed, even by the standards of the late 70s. But an equally devoted parent probably wouldn’t say that sort of thing now. We’ve become afraid of exposing our children to the possibility of not measuring up.

Now we pretend that comparisons are irrelevant; that every kid is the best at everything. Now that I’m a dad, I find myself doing it too. Last week was my first experience of a school concert-type event, at my kids’ day-care centre. Our children performed a song with their classmates. We took pictures, cheered; when it was over we raved about how great they were.

I guess nothing fudges the facts like love. In truth, they had both flubbed it big-time. One fled the stage in panic before his song had even begun. The other hid behind a classmate with fingers in mouth and eyes shut, as if she could thus make herself disappear. But still we raved about how brilliantly they’d performed. All the parents did.

In fairness, these are very young children. At this age, the kid-glove approach seems to come from deep in the DNA. God knows, you don’t want your child to form a haunting early memory of being useless at thrashing a paper-mache donkey.

But how far should the “everyone’s-a-winner” ethos go? Is sheltering children from the reality-check of competition – particularly in schooling – the best way to prepare them for life?

Brendan Nelson doesn’t seem to think so. One of the conditions the federal Education Minister attached to the latest Commonwealth education funding package was that states put in place a “quartile” ranking system in which students are graded from the bottom to top 25 percent of their class. That was the sort of plain-speaking information, he told Jon Faine on 774 ABC Melbourne, “which most parents consistently have told me they would also like to know”. His critics called the idea “educationally unacceptable”, “back to the ’50s” and even nonsensical, given that the bottom quartile of a class at, say, MacRobertson Girls’ High School, which has selective entry, might well be the top quartile of a class at a school that takes all comers.

Nelson backed down from his threat to cut funding to states that wouldn’t submit to his diktat. But not before, in the view of The Age’s Education section, “deriding the education community as ideologues who have hijacked the education bus”.

Of course, assessing educational performance is all about ideology. Why go out of your

Way to rank students against their classmates – as distinct from statewide benchmarks –

unless you believe that a competitive atmosphere in the classroom is a good unto itself’

“The nature of life itself,” Nelson told Faine, “is that all of us are being compared to one


The way we think about competition in schooling reflects deeper views about the individual in society. To the Tory mind, firewalling kids from the rigour of competition and comparison is just slack liberalism, the sacrifice of excellence for participation. What disturbs lefties, on the other hand, is the prospect of publicly consigning some kids to a dummies’ gulag at the bottom of the class.

To me, an educational approach that broadens the categories in which students can achieve, and is supple enough to recognize a range of qualities, sounds like a great leap forward over the dux-to-dunce approach that pertained when Nelson was at school.

But the flare-up over the “quartile” ranking idea reveals a genuine unease about the messages we’re giving children.

We’re not being entirely candid with our children when we shelter them from the reality of competition. Because the world they’re growing up in is competitive, and becoming more so. In governance and economics, the word “competition” is itself a synonym for vigour and health. To describe something as “competitive” – a game, an environment, a race, a jobs market – is to praise it as honest and lean. Heck, humans love competition. It’s in the gut of the species. Magazines and newspapers print lists of the week’s winners and losers, as if there’s nothing in between. Comparisons may be invidious, but they’re a lot of fun. If Gore Vidal was wrong when he said “whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies”, it’s only because there’s a fragile splinter in all of us that quails at anyone’s success.

Pretending the world is otherwise is a beautiful lie. Or a snow job, depending on your point of view.

What’s strange is that it’s a fib we adults seem to be telling for our own benefit. Kids seldom need to be told how they’re doing: they know already. Another kid is always going to be better at catching; someone will have a cooler backpack. Even in an egg-and-spoon race, several people are going to come – how shall we put it? – non-first. Besides, for many of us, the first and most lasting experience of competition is with our brothers and sisters. “The hideous complexity of sibling rivalry,” as the writer Paul Theroux describes it; “struggling like crabs in a basket.”

So why are we so chary of letting kids risk winning or losing in structured competition? Perhaps because losing, and even winning, seem properly to belong to the register of adult experiences, like sexual relationships, drinking or managing a credit card.

But children have to try it sometime. The ones who’ve never struggled to achieve something difficult are easily spotted on, say, the audition rounds of Australian Idol. They’re the ones who come in, sing in voices that could crack glass, and then sob indignantly when they don’t make the cut. You can see the violated sense of entitlement on their disbelieving faces.

Perhaps failure wouldn’t hurt so much if they’d had a chance to experience it a bit sooner. Since they’re going to be doing so much of it as adults, why not let children practice winning and losing? The Australian Sports Commission guidelines on junior sport might seem a little over-protective, but they still acknowledge that “competition can be extremely motivating and help children feel good about themselves”. In his book Secret Men’s Business, children’s author John Marsden argues that it’s important that a boy eventually beats his father at something that matters to them both. “By defeating him you free yourself to go on and achieve the great things that life holds in store for you,” he writes. Sure you might lose. But it’s a risk worth taking for the exhilarating experience of finding out what you’re capable of.

What impact will shielding kids from losing have on them? It’s probably too early to say. What’s certain is that if we take real competition out of schools, children will learn about winning and losing from the culture. And Australian culture has a monomaniacal focus on winning.

This wasn’t always true. I grew up in the 70s thinking of the country’s sporting status as pretty much in parallel with the fortunes of my under-14s cricket team: we usually lost. When an Australian won an Olympic gold, when Australia II pinched the America’s Cup in 1983, it was like a happy miracle.

After the Montreal Olympics of 1976Australia’s sporting nadir – the government decided it had had enough of losing. We got the institute of sport in 1981 , and the cricket academy in 1987. The government paid for sporting excellence, and got it. Soon we were winning all sorts of stuff.

But did we lose something? Now the back pages are so thick with the latest gold-medal victory that there’s hardly room for the more subtle, complicated story of the runners-up; the team or athlete who trained their guts out and still didn’t win.

Winning’s great. And Australia is rich in gracious, inspiring winners – Pat Rafter, the women’s swimming team, for example. But if winning’s all there is, it’s no wonder that losing feels so damning and bitterly personal, as it obviously does for those Australian Idol wannabes.

Our narrow focus on winning misses a richer sense of the full story of competition itself. For a society powered by unsentimental competition, we don’t like to dwell much on failure. When it happens, it usually gets spun into something else. Take the spectacular self-immolations of John Brogden and Mark Latham: Brogden’s demise we smoothly pathologised as depression – inscrutable and too private to contemplate; Latham’s we put down to a meltdown in dignity.

Why can’t we get our minds around failure? In the quote beloved of modern self-help gurus and manuals, inventor Thomas Edison once remarked: “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” That might be useful if you live in a laboratory. But using this kind of thing to cheer up flunked adults is just sophistry.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard AFL coaches say something like: finals is the reason we play the game. It may feel true to the coaches when they say it -they’re talking a good game for sponsors and supporters – but it’s not. To say that football is only about winning is to ignore the guts of the contest. Every game is a rich experience: the crunch of bodies, the pies in the grandstand, the struggle, the glory, the boredom. It’s what sport, and competition, is.

Recently I was at the football with my father. In the Auskick match, the mum who was umpiring took the ball off a big kid who had taken a clear mark and handed it to a little girl who was nowhere near the contest. “What was that for?” I muttered into my pie.

“Maybe,” Dad observed, “she’s thinking everyone should get a kick before they go off.”

Well, quite. We want our young people to grab the excitement of competition with both hands; we want kids to taste success, and to learn that failure isn’t the end of everything. But first we’ve got to teach them that it’s fun just to be out on the ground, or in the circle, passing the parcel. They may not win the prize, but with any luck, there’ll be a chocolate frog in it.

“You’re Missing the Point!” “It’s about making it hard, not about making it easier”

by: Jackson Leonard- American Swimmer Coaches Association (Swim Parents Newsletter)

posted: February 14, 2013

Our friends the Australians have an expression…to be “gobsmacked”. Heaven only knows the derivation, but the picture I have in my mind is getting literally “smacked in the face with a fish”. Sort of a stunning and “attention riveting event.”

One night during Christmas Vacation training, one of the nice young men on our team, (I’ll call him Benito) did something that led to my exclamation at the top of this article.  He’s a good young man, and he was simply responding to the prevailing ethic of our society, which is to constantly seek to make things “easier”.

In the process, he lost track of a critical lesson and a great opportunity. It resulted in my rather loudly and strongly making my point above.

We’d finished about 6 K of water work in 90 minutes and were proceeding to our 30 minutes of dryland work on a cool Florida evening, with a decent chill in the air.  My first instruction was about some med ball throws. Following that, it was “3 sets Med ball situps, ½ twist, 100 with 30 seconds rest.”

So far, all is well. Benito moves into the situp phase well enough and does his first set. Around that time, another athlete has to leave….tossing her med ball into the bin….Benito, who is about 30 situps into his second hundred, hops up, and grabs the just discarded ball, which, I immediately note is 4 pounds LIGHTER.


“Coach, I wanted this other ball…..” (as explanation for stopping in mid-set, which he knows is a team no-no)


“Coach, this ball has handles and its lighter.”

Now revert to the top of the page for my next comments.

I then stopped the whole group and gathered them around me….”guys, why are we here?” (various answers) “we’d better all be here with the intent to get better.” (various nods, affirmations, and some blank stares….) “to get better, we Need to Do Whatever Is HARDER, Not what is easier, yes?”

Lights go on in most eyes, most heads nod. Notably, not ALL heads nod.

I went on to explain that sport, done correctly is counter-culture. The prevailing culture around us values and esteems “making things easier”. It’s EVERYWHERE in our world.  And it is EXACTLY what keeps us from being our best. As aspiring athletes, and coaches, we need to SEEK OUT that which is harder, more uncomfortable, more demanding. Not look for the lighter ball with handles.

Benito got it. As soon as I said “back to work”, he found the biggest, nastiest med-ball he could find WITHOUT handles, and restarted his second set of 100. The majority of the rest of the athletes did likewise. When you point it out to them….”they know”.

But I found myself wondering, if a COACH didn’t point it out to them, would they ever get it on their own? I think that’s why we describe it as “counter-culture.”

Each of my athletes has heard and “understood” the expression “get comfortable with being uncomfortable” if you want to get better. They can all intellectually explain it. But on a cool Florida night when they were tired, most could not see the application “on their own.”

A wonderful lesson for me as well as for my athletes.

If you tell someone you’re going to do something, you do it

by: Jackson Leonard- American Swimmer Coaches Association (Swim Parents Newsletter)

posted: January 30, 2013

Our swim club learned a lesson last week that is worth sharing.

John is a great 13 year old boy who has recently found enjoyment in chopping wood and hauling water. It took four months, but he is no longer the stereotypical 12 year old boy and is now a real young person who is loving training (vs swimming) and has taken completely to hard work. Occasionally he says something that reminds me he is barely 13, but for the most part, he’s becoming a great guy.

Two Fridays ago, we finished practice with 25’s underwater dolphin kick with fins. I made a point to say we were going to make all of them NO BREATH. Immediately before we left, John asked if he could go without fins. I hesitated, unsure if he actually could make it the whole way, never mind no breath. I nodded though, and said, “Only if you make ALL of them, underwater, no breath, on interval.”

John accepted these conditions. 13 under waters into the set, John realized how tough the set really was and how uncomfortable he was. He asked, “May I put my fins on to finish?” I said, “No. You told me you would finish them without fins. This is a lesson that applies to everything, not just swimming- if you tell someone you are going to do something, you do it. Period. Do you understand?”

He nodded reluctantly and went on his way, uncomfortable for the rest of practice. I went home disheartened and unsure if he had received the message. (He had…)

Rose is a 12 year old girl in the group, who is conscientious, hard working, and good person. She has normal insecurities and concerns about her swimming, but overcomes them most of the time. A week and a half before our Mile Meet, her parents take her to Georgia on a family trip. She doesn’t swim while away. Her first practice back, she goes 90×[email protected]:25 with the group and averages 1:09’s (very good for her). Three days later at the Mile Meet, she is nowhere to be found, even though she signed up and told me she was going to be there only days earlier. I went home disappointed she hadn’t swam it; it is likely her best event.

Monday, after the Mile Meet, during warm up with everyone at the wall, I quietly asked Rose why she wasn’t at the Mile Meet. “Because I didn’t think I was ready to swim it,” was her reply.

As a coach, a million irate thoughts raced through my head- as if it was up to her to decide if she was ready to race well! Before I could get a word out, thankfully, John cut in and said- quite forcefully- “You said you were going to be there Rose, you should have been. When you tell someone you’re going to do something, you do it!” and quickly dipped underwater.

I was momentarily stupefied and just nodded and said, “He’s right.”

I have been growing more and more worried about how the group will swim at Champs. But if John’s reply is any indication of how the group is growing and learning, I’ll be okay with anything. As I remind the AG coaches in our weekly meeting (partially to remind myself)- we need to be infinitely more interested in the swimmers as human beings than as athletes.

The Biggest Question….

by: John Leonard- American Swimmer Coaches Association (Swim Parents Newsletter)

posted: January 28, 2013

In all of age group sports, the biggest question for every parent is…”How much to be involved.”

 In every sport from tennis to golf, to gymnastics and swimming, there are horror stories of absolutely awful parental interference, with tragic consequences for the career of the young age group athlete. Yet every one of us loves our children like nothing else in the world. So, how does this happen?

I think it’s because as parents, we’re all looking for a singular rule that will make our role as parents “successful”. And it does not exist. In fact, exactly the opposite is the truth…the rules change all the time, as the child matures, and only experience can tell the parent that.

Here’s a classic example. Jill is 8 and very enthusiastic about her new swim team….most of the time….but on a given Friday, her friend is having a sleepover party and Jill wants to go and skip practice.  Perfect role of her mom? “Jill, get in the car, you made a commitment to swim team and you will keep that commitment. I’ll take you to Sally’s for the party right after practice.”

Mom reminds Jill of her if’s, and’s or but’s. And enforces it, without depriving the child of the fun party. Perfect.

Now Jill is sixteen…another friend is having another Friday evening party and once again, Jill is debating where she “should be”. She discusses it with her Mom. This time, Mom simply raises and eyebrow and says “your choice, you know what you should do.”  Again, perfect.

But totally different.

And that, I believe, is the point. When our children are young, we are really and truly “herding them through the process” and making decisions for them, as we should be…..And the goal, is to gradually and systematically, based on successful demonstration of competence, to hand over to them, the decision making power.

Athletes who have been in a sport for years, invariably have the same comments…”my parents let it be “my sport”, not theirs,” “they were interested in what I did, but it was mine,” “they didn’t interfere at all in my teens, it was up to me to get out of bed to go get them to take me to morning practice. If I chose to sleep in, oh well, my loss.”

The hard part is judging that “letting go process” and deciding when it’s “right” to let go of what. Like most things in life, it’s never completely straight-forward..instead, it’s two steps forward, one step back, etc. In the case of most children though, by the early to middle teens years, it should be parents just sitting back and enjoying watching their teenagers make decisions and experience the consequences.

I have a friend named Lynn Offerdahl. Lynn is a former collegiate All-American diver and her husband John, a former All-Pro linebacker for the Miami Dolphins. Lynn has two children who swim and two who play football.  Lynn says “Every time you do something for your children that they can do for themselves, you make them weaker. Every time you chose to “let them do it,” you are choosing to make them stronger. I want strong kids.”

It doesn’t get any wiser or better than that

Whose Swim Is It? Taking Ownership

by:   Michael J. Stott (

posted: September 28, 2011

PHOENIX, Arizona, September 27. RYAN Lochte’s world record smile and thrust fist in Shanghai upon winning the 200 meter IM (1:54.00) was a long time coming. “The genesis of such swims,” says Chris Plumb, head coach at Carmel (Ind.) Swim Club “is the day a swimmer takes true ownership of his swimming.”

At age 27, Lochte has taken ownership for quite a while. For younger athletes with concerned parents it is a different story. “Often parents must first learn to let go,” says Plumb. “That can be difficult for those who, from a young age, have taken care of a child’s every need — from waking, dressing, feeding, transporting and timing at meets.”

Bailey Weathers, previously an executive head coach at Club Wolverine who now is athletics director at Grace College in Indiana, believes that parents want to do more for their kids today than they did 10 or 15 years ago.

“In doing so they often reduce opportunities for swimmers to assume responsibility for their own success. That’s something our sport can teach and I’m not sure we have a lot of avenues for that in our culture anymore,” he says. “There is no simple answer for coaches on how to teach accountability even when things go wrong, other than to be consistent with expectations and in reminding swimmers of their ownership roles. Part of it is learning that you can put a lot of work into something and not have an immediate payoff; it may take a season or two or even longer.”

Ownership evolves over time. “The earlier it is assumed by the swimmer, the better,” says Tom Himes, head age group coach at North Baltimore Aquatic Club. “While there is commitment by coaches and parents the greatest commitment is going to come from the swimmer. The most successful swimmers are those that are able to take control of their swimming with the help and guidance from their parents and most of all their coaches.

“When a swimmer first becomes involved, many parents want to control ownership and direction. It is the coach’s role to take over that ownership and control by educating the parents, gaining their confidence and that of the swimmer. Educating the parents as to their role is very important for the long term future of the swimmer,” he says.

“Yes,” opines Jessica Vipperman, head age group coach for Sun Devil Aquatics in Tempe. “Educating the parent is just as important as developing a good swimmer. In our age group program, we can never spend enough time finding ways to educate and engage our new parents. The parents who value commitment, support their athlete’s participation, trust the coaches and enjoy the community created by the team end up with happy athletes involved in swimming for the long term. The converse is also true.”

Vipperman offers these Do’s and Don’ts for being a great swim parent:

– Don’t Remove Challenge from their Path. Often the anxiety a parent feels comes not from an actual challenge or conflict, but the perception of, or anticipation of, a conflict. Experiencing failure is not a bad thing, at any age. It’s how we learn to reevaluate our goals and efficacy of a plan, identify where things went wrong and persevere. It’s the obstacles we overcame in life that help make us resilient and confident adults.

– Do take success in stride. Early success doesn’t guarantee quick success throughout a career. Time drops are made in small or major increments depending on physical maturation. Progress isn’t always measured by the clock. Mastering technical skills is just as fundamentally important as learning to race well.

– Do be your kid’s biggest fan. Provide him with unconditional support; provide hugs, shoulders to cry on, high fives. Leave the coaching to the coach. Instead of telling him what he did well or could improve on, ask him what his coach said.

– Do address problems when they are molehills, not mountains. There will be hiccups. Keep the lines of communication open with the coach. Life outside of the pool effects life in the pool. Keep your coach abreast of significant life events. If you doubt, mistrust, and have ill feelings towards your child’s coach resolve it with the coach, immediately.

– Do ask your swimmer what his/her goals are. When a swimmer first asks about progressing to the next group, my hope is that question is kid driven — and not coming from the parents. If the swimmer initiates the conversation with his coach about advancing I know he has given it thought and has confidence in his ability to do it.

“Everyone wants to see your child succeed,” says Vipperman. “Let the child define what level of success he is aiming for, let him set goals and let him reevaluate those goals when they aren’t achieved the first time. Work with your child, and the coach, to provide the necessary and appropriate support.”

When parents begin “to let go of control the coach/swimmer relationship can really begin to evolve,” says Himes. “Regardless of age, I want my swimmers to learn how to communicate with me on anything involved with their swimming as well as anything that may be affected by or affecting their swimming. Coach-to-swimmer communication is the biggest key to swimming success. During a swimmer’s early years, the coach should be educating athletes how to control their swimming destinies. Setting goals (current year, a few years out and more), teaching good practice habits, meet preparation and allowing swimmers to make or be part of various decisions all have an impact towards that end.

“Explaining the importance of practices, as well as making daily practices interesting and different lead to very good practice attendance. The result is that swimmers then understand the level of commitment needed to reach optimal performances and goals. They also gain the confidence and knowledge to take on challenges in both practices and meets so as to make decisions with an understanding of the impact of those decisions,” says Himes.

At NBAC, the swimmer-to-coach communication really takes hold around 9-10 as swimmers begin to have input in event selection at meets. At Sun Devil, Vipperman says “at ages 11-13, I want conversations about missing practices or attending meets to come from the swimmer, not the parent.” The same at Carmel, “I want to talk to my swimmers about their races and not their parents,” says Plumb.

Amazing things can happen when swimmers are given some choice. During Weathers’ first year at Southern Illinois University, a senior requested to swim the 200 fly and 200 IM after spending a college career doing 500-1000-1650’s with no time improvements. “That year she was much more invested in her swimming, enjoyed what she was doing and had lifetime bests in 10 events.

“Parents often say there is only going to be one gold medal every four years, but in swimming the opportunity to be accountable and learn how to be successful is there for every child,” says Weathers.

For Himes the bottom line is “the swimmer should have the ownership of their swimming. It is the parent’s job to initially get the swimmer involved, get him to practices and meets and constantly provide a positive/supportive environment (no coaching your kid). It is the coaches’ job to educate the parents as to their role, to educate the swimmer about the sport and prepare him technically, mentally and physically so as to allow him to grow and take a bigger role in his/her swimming development. The swimmer’s role is to learn what it takes to be a successful competitively and to take ownership with the guidance of the coach and the support of the parents,” he says.

“And when athletes feel in control of their own development” says Plumb, “they are more likely to learn what works for them and truly enjoy the journey. The lesson here is ‘less is more.’ Empower the athlete, trust the coaching staff to do their job and truly support your swimmer by offering advice only when asked.”

A Swimming Hydration, Electrolyte Strategies for Improved Performance and Muscle Cramp Prevention

posted: September 21, 2011

WHETHER you are a competitive short or long course pool swimmer or a casual or competitive open water swimmer, attention to good hydration and electrolyte balance is essential not only to your enjoyment of swimming and peak performance, but also to muscle cramp prevention, health and safety.

One of the biggest threats to a swimmer’s performance, safety and health is dehydration. Dehydration is an illness which causes extreme electrolyte imbalances in the body. It occurs when you do not take in enough fluids to replace what have been lost through sweat and urination. While dehydration is a danger during any sport of physical exertion, it is more so during swimming. This is true for two reasons. First, when you exercise, you sweat. When you are in the water swimming, you do not realize that you are still sweating losing fluid. Second, because you are surrounded by water, your brain is tricked to think you have all the fluid you need, and does not signal your mouth and throat to be thirsty.

A Nation of Wimps

Published on Psychology Today (

Maybe it’s the cyclist in the park, trim under his sleek metallic
blue helmet, cruising along the dirt path… at three miles an hour. On his tricycle.

Or perhaps it’s today’s playground, all-rubber-cushioned surface where kids used to skin their
knees. And… wait a minute… those aren’t little kids playing. Their mommies—and especially
their daddies—are in there with them, coplaying or play-by-play coaching. Few take it halfeasy
on the perimeter benches, as parents used to do, letting the kids figure things out for

Then there are the sanitizing gels, with which over a third of parents now send their kids to
school, according to a recent survey. Presumably, parents now worry that school bathrooms
are not good enough for their children.

Read more …

Getting Parents On the Team

by:  Dr. Allen Goldberg- USA Swimming and US Ski Team

A successful sport experience depends on parents being proactively trained to play the right role on the
parent-athlete-coach team. Coaches should take the time in the beginning of the season to educate parents on
their very important support position. The coach should appeal to the parent’s proper involvement for the
team’s and their child’s success. In parents meetings and in written handouts the coach should present and
discuss the correct parent, coach and athlete roles, the “do’s and don’ts” for success.

Read more …

Understanding a Young Athlete’s Physical Growth and Development…


by:  USA Swimming and US Ski Team

1. Individuals follow a predictable pattern of physical growth but the rate at which children and youth go
through this growth varies by individual.

• During the childhood phase, children grow about 2.5 in./yr. and gain about 5 Lb./yr.
• Peak velocity of growth occurs during puberty/adolescence.
• Athletes of the same chronological age can vary by as much as 5 biological years, especially during
adolescence. Therefore, with two 11-year-old swimmers, one may be 10 and the other 15,
biologically. Talk about competing on uneven playing fields!

Recommendation: Educate athletes regarding growth cycles so they understand what is happening to their
bodies. Be sure that athletes have regular physical check-ups.

Read more …


By: Kay Lynne Firsching, Head Coach and Owner- Saint Louis Spirit Swimming
from: Swim Club News- a publication of the American Swimming Coaches Association

posted:  May 26, 2008

After a recent meet, a parent spoke to me about the conversations taking place in the stands about the swimmers. Some parents talked about everything that their, child needs to change to improve.  Others wondered why their child was not improving as much as another swimmer on the same team. Others expressed doubt that the coach was doing enough to make the swimmer improve. None of the comments were about whether the child was having fun or noting the improvements that did happen. Did these parents share their thoughts with their child when he or she came to the stands? I hope not. All of these concerns are the purview of the coach. All of these parents mean well.  They want their children to be happy and to be successful. They want to help. Sometimes parents help their children so much that the activity, in this case swimming, becomes more about the parents’ feelings than the athletes’.

It is important for the young athlete to be able to own her swimming.  What I mean by this is that the desire and work and commitment need to come from the athlete. Some parents make the mistake of wanting swimming success for their children so much that there is no room for the child to discover on her own whether or not she wants to do it.  Some parents are so busy making sure that everything is taken care of that the child never experiences any failure. If a child never experiences disappointment or failure, she will never learn how to recover from it.  She will not know the value of appropriate consequences for her lack of action. She will not be motivated to change.

Parents are in the enviable position of being able to be their child’s cheerleader and primary emotional support for swimming. All corrections and instructions should come from the coach. The coach knows what skills and training levels the athlete should be working on.

I had a young athlete on my team for many years who loved to swim. When he became a teenager, he developed some performance anxiety issues and started swimming less well at meets than at practice.  Worry became a part of every meet.  He worried that he would not be good enough. He worried if he did not drop time at every meet in every event that he was not working hard enough. He worried about his mom’s reaction to his performance.

That was the key it turned out. Other swimmers told me that this swimmer’s mom would tell him after every practice and meet all the things she had seen that he needed to fix. She had spent a great deal of time and effort to understand swimming and wanted to share her knowledge with her child. – .she wanted to be involved and to help him improve in every way possible. The result- he stopped swimming. It became not fun. He felt like he was a failure even though he had “A” times and was a leader in his lane. The message he heard with all the corrections was that nothing was good enough. The mother’s desire for the swimmer to be really good dominated the swimmer’s relationship with his sport. Instead of the swimmer determining the amount of time and effort he wanted to spend improving, he spent his time reacting to his mother. It became about her and not the swimming.  Parent’s over-involvement with their child’s swimming even extends to simple things during practice.

Last year, I was in the hallway waiting for all the swimmers to be picked up and a brother and sister from the team were playing in the hall. I asked them where their mom was and they said she had gone back to the pool to get the water bottles they had forgotten.  These siblings were 9 and II years old.

When will these children remember to pick up their water bottles for themselves?  Never.  Who would if someone
else will do it for you? As a coach, my feeling is that swimmers should be responsible for their own equipment.  Parents might want to remind, but they should not do something for a swimmer that they can do for themselves. One of the coach’s jobs is to teach the athlete to be able to take care of herself and her equipment.

All of this is not to say that parents should not have any concerns or responsibilities about swimming. Parents need to get swimmers to practice and meets on time and they need to make sure their swimmers have access to the proper equipment and supplies for their sport.  Parents need to reinforce the concept that swimming on a team is a commitment to the team and to the sport and to themselves.”   If parents have concerns about training levels, skills, or stroke technique, those concerns should be discussed with the coach.  The coach is responsible for the long-term development of the athlete and may have a different view of what is happening.  Your child’s coach knows her as an athlete. Your child’s coach knows what your young athlete can do and what she is capable of doing. Let your young athlete have her own relationship with her coach and with her sport.  Don’t become your child’s coach. Hopefully, she will have many good coaches in her life. No matter what, she will only have one mom and one dad. Be the parent.

Kay Lynne Firsching has been coaching swimming for 18 years in the St Louis area. Previous experience includes singing telegrams, teaching elementary music, working as an arts administrator, and raising three children. She has been the Head Coach and Owner of Saint Louis Spirit Swimming for the last 7 years.