There’s no denying that swimming is one of the most demanding sports out there. Swimmers are asked to balance two practices a day, schoolwork, and long weekends filled with meets, while succeeding in both academic and athletic commitments. Beyond this, swimmers also need social and relaxation time. For many teams, this level of intensity starts around middle school. Coincidentally, this happens to be the age group of swimmers that decides to walk away from the sport they once loved.
So why are they deciding to stop? Here are a few common reasons:
1. It’s not fun anymore.
A lot of kids start swimming on summer league teams. They enjoy the atmosphere, the teammates, and the racing, so they figure the next natural step is to join a club team. The problem is that club swimming demands much more from the swimmers. A lot of times, the sport that was once filled with sunshine, games, laughter and joy becomes a chore. When this starts to happen, practices will become dreaded : ( . Not only is this hard for the young swimmers, it is also hard on the parents because it is likely that they will have to spend more time and energy encouraging their children to attend practices. This should not be a forced effort!
2. Too much pressure.
Some swimmers thrive off the intensity of competition; others will be turned off by it. Swimmers really start to excel around this young age, especially female athletes. At this point, they might also begin to feel an overwhelming emphasis on winning. Because of this, swimmers will feel that if they aren’t winning or continually dropping time, they just simply aren’t good enough to keep going. This pressure could be created internally or externally by their coaches, parents, and/or teammates. When it is created externally, these swimmers will start to think, “If I don’t win this race, my parents and coaches will be so upset.” Sometimes this pressure to perform at a high level becomes too draining, and in turn, causes many young kids to move on from the sport of swimming.
3. They choose another sport.
With high school varsity sports on the horizon, athletes in middle school feel pressure to choose one sport that they believe they can excel at. Specialization has become more common at young ages in all sports, and especially in swimming where the practices and competition are a year round effort. As demanding as swimming can be, even for high school swimmers, it is important that you commit yourself to the sport in order to see those best times and have fun while doing it. If there is a lack of commitment, goals might not be accomplished and the fun will quickly disappear. The result: Goodbye Swimming, Hello New Sport.
4. Lack of time.
Between practices, swim meets, and travel time, swimmers could be spending around 20-30 hours a week doing swim-related activities. After this, it’s hard to find time to complete school work, and even harder to find the energy to hang out with friends. Middle school is a time where kids truly value their time with friends and also a time where the intensity and frequency of swim practices will often increase. How can this important time be juggled? If it isn’t, it is possible for these teens to see swimming as something preventing them from having a social life, instead of adding to it.
As a parent, how can you help your swimmer continue to find that love for swimming?
As hard as it may be for some, it is very important that parents never FORCE their child to swim. Although we love swimming, it isn’t for everyone! Remember that this is their sport.
While we encourage you to be highly involved, don’t forget that they have to want it more than you do. Sometimes swimmers only continue to swim because their parents love the sport, or they feel like their parents would be disappointed if they quit. There’s no doubt that parents invest time, energy, and money into their sport, but don’t forget that the kids are the ones that jump in the water to practice and race day in and day out.
Trust the coaches! This will allow you to spend your time encouraging and motivating them to have fun swimming. Nothing confuses kids more when they hear one thing from their parents and another from their coaches.
It’s okay to let your child skip a practice every now and then to hang out with friends. Yes, it’s important to be dedicated and disciplined, but it’s also important to allow for those sleepovers to provide a little balance as the kids grow older.
Instead of emphasizing the importance of winning or being the best, remind your kids that as long as they are having fun and giving it their all, it doesn’t matter what place they get at the end of the day. Swimming is one of the best sports for parents to help teach their kids the importance of perseverance, dedication, discipline, teamwork, sportsmanship, and many other life lessons.
Most importantly, help them remember why they loved swimming in the first place, whatever that reason may be!