The Best Advice I’ve Ever Heard a Swim Parent Give Their Kid
Excerpt from Be In Synch Newsletter: April 2016
By Olivier Poirier-Leroy, Regular contributing writer to USA Swimming’s “Splash Magazine.”
Having been in and around the pool deck for almost my entire life I have seen all manner of swim parent.
You got the red-faced screamer. The parent who thinks he is the coach. The bubble-wrap optimist. The scoreboard whisperer. And everything else in between.
What do they all have in common?
They are trying to do right by their kid.
They are trying to give their young swimmer the best chance possible at making the most of their talent and ability, while also developing them into someone of character and who is resilient. The Best 10, err, 11 Words a Parent Can Tell Their Athlete
I was strolling into the pool last week into practice when an SUV rolled up to the curb. The door swung open, and inside were the familiar frantic movements of a young athlete–running late–and his parent trying to gather the yard sale in the back seat into his swim bag.
“Are you late?” asked the parent, handful of swim towel in one hand.
“Nope, I should be able to get on deck in time,” said the young swimmer, probably no older than 10. The swim bag was double checked–everything looks like it is there–and the swimmer leaned out.
“Be the hardest worker and the one having the most fun,” came the parting words of the parent.
“Sounds good!” The truck door closed, and the swimmer scurried indoors, swim bag bouncing wildly off his back.
The parent’s statement stopped me dead in my tracks, if not physically, than definitely mentally. After all, this wonderful piece of advice was comprehensively powerful and gave exactly the right message: You can work hard, and have fun at the same time.
And really, isn’t that all we want?
For our young swimmers to challenge themselves, to learn proactive strategies for improving and developing themselves, while also feeling the satisfaction and pride that comes along with it?
Recent research on elite athletes has shown a set of consistent traits among the highest performers. A proactive and positive approach to challenges. And parents who were not only supportive, but generally hands-off. This situation helped to foster a situation of accountability and ownership where the athlete looked inwards for motivation (the familiar intrinsic motivation).
The statement that the parent gave that day exemplified this perfectly.
My Child’s a Synchronized Swimmer… What Can I Do?
Excerpt from Be In Synch Newsletter: October 2016
If you are a parent or guardian of a synchronized swimming athlete, you may be wondering how you can support her or his development in the sport. You might be saying, “I used to be a swimmer, but I know nothing about tucks or support sculls I hear referenced at home.” Or, you could be saying, “How do you tell when the team is doing well? There are no points on the scoreboard!” Even questions such as the following might be coming to mind: “Why do they have to wear black suits and white caps in one part of the competition and then fancy suits and make-up in another? Why is my daughter moving her arms all the time and she keeps telling me it’s really her legs?”
As in any sport, parental support and involvement is key to an athlete’s success. Each part of the “team” of
coaches, athletes and parents plays an instrumental role in athlete and sport development. I ran across a small book given to me by one of my daughters’ swimming coaches. The book, The Parent’s Guide to the Proper Psychological Care and Feeding of the Competitive Swimmer by sports psychologist Dr. Keith Bell, is a quick read that offers suggestions for parents, coaches and athletes in a swimming environment. But his tips are appropriate to use in any type of youth sports setting. Let’s take a look at some of his recommendations for parents and apply them to the sport of synchronized swimming.
• Provide your athlete with the opportunity and then follow up with support. This means if your athlete is on a team, provide transportation to practice and learn to love carpools. Pay your fees on time, attend parent meetings, and volunteer to support the organizational aspects of running a team with your time and expertise.
• Love your athlete unconditionally; create and maintain a positive environment at home and at the pool. As a former coach, I know athletes may come to practice to find a positive place to be. Do not use going to practice as a reward….or threaten to withhold practice as a punishment. Once you have made a commitment to the team, create an understanding as to what that commitment entails. Encourage and support your athlete by asking what was learned at practice, ask what the best part of the session was, and lead by example by thanking the coach or greeting other parents and athletes with positive comments.
• Let the coach coach. The coach has the responsibility to run organized practices, communicate with parents and athletes about upcoming competitions, maintain safety credentials and keep updated with synchronized swimming techniques and rules. If you have a question or concern, contact the coach about the best time to meet, often that time is not immediately prior to the start of practice. Coaches are typically setting up equipment, organizing the athletes and getting the practice session going. Encourage your athlete to keep eyes and ears on the coach during all practice sessions. If you are observing a practice, remain off the deck and without comment.
• Ensure your athlete gets enough sleep, has good nutrition and hydration, and learns to balance priorities. It’s tough to be an athlete and juggle home, school, church, family, extracurricular activities and synchronized swimming. Even young athletes can learn to keep a calendar and plan ahead. Set schedules to accommodate and teach good sleep habits. Prepare healthy meals and snacks at home and if your athlete needs to eat “on the go,” opt for nutritional selections. Help keep your athlete’s water bottle filled and carry an extra supply in the car. If your athlete is swimming a routine with others, it’s critical they are all at practice at the same time. Synchronized swimming is a team sport; practices and competitions are at defined times and the commitment to be in attendance is a foundation for the sport. Have your athlete pack a swimming bag with an extra suit, cap, goggles and towel just in case one time a suit is forgotten!
• Tell your athlete to “have fun.” Synchronized swimming is demanding at times with a lot to learn in the water and on land. Athletes may be asked to stretch at home, review routines with land drills on their own, listen to and learn to count their music. But it should all be part of the fun experience. The rewards of a learning a new routine from start to finish, improving on figure scores from one meet to another, and meeting the challenge of having a flat split are all fun. Making new friends on the team is fun. Winning a championship is fun. Help remind your athlete of all that is fun.
Want to be a Synchronized Swimming Judge?
Excerpt from Be in Synch Newsletter: October 2016
The Front Row
By Linda Loehndorf, FINA A, 2012 Olympic Judge & FINA Evaluator
Sports fans from all over the world pay big bucks in order to have that “front row seat” at their favorite sporting event, how would you like to have that prized seat for less than what it takes to put a tank full of gas in your car? You have that opportunity right now! You can become a synchronized swimming judge and have that front row seat!!!
Now you say – “I don’t know enough about synchro to do that!” That problem is easily resolved when you take the judges training courses offered in your area.
Now you say – “Why me?” Here are the reasons you as an athlete, coach or parent should take the training.
Athletes: In order to excel in your sport, you need to become a “student of your sport”. Rather than blindly follow what your coach tells you day in and day out at practice, why not understand what a judge is looking for when you perform your figure or routine in front of a judging panel. The more you understand what a judge wants from you, the better you can make your figure and/or routine. Plus it always looks good on those college applications to say you are a “Level 1 (or 2) USA Synchronized Swimming Official. Not to mention, it is as easy way to earn those volunteer hours at the place you love to be at anyway – the pool! And of course, your club will absolutely love that you are “giving back” to your sport by filling the role of an official as well as an athlete.
Parents: Every meet in the country could use more judges! Rather than being stuck up in the concession area selling walking tacos, get down on the pool deck and understand what your swimmer is attempting to do in the pool. Some parents sit in the bleachers critiquing the judges without any knowledge of what the judges are looking at. You could be the knowledgeable person that can explain to the other parents the alignment aspects of a ballet leg and why Swimmer A did a better ballet leg than Swimmer B. Becoming a judge is an excellent way to support your swimmer and your club. It also helps bolster your resume to have this sort of community volunteerism listed.
We desperately need judges at all levels, especially moving toward the Level 4 (national level). We cannot expect the same 40 judges to attend all of our national meets to judge your swimmers. If we had 80 national judges, we would have enough to have complete panels at every meet. Now that you have decided that this is exactly what has been missing from your life, the article below will explain how to get started with your training.
I’m ready to become a judge, what now?
Study Guides for ALL testing Levels is available on the website under Judges Resources!
Levels 1 & 1F Tests are now available online. Please note: all training and practice judging must be done in person. Allow one week for notice if you have passed your test or not.