Competitive Swimming: The Commitment Factor

Written by Eric W., Making Waves Swim Instructor

So far we have talked about the necessity of learning to swim safely and what strokes and skills are required to join a competitive swimming team. Both are extremely important topics but perhaps nothing surprising or unexpected. Next, we’ll discuss something that has very little to do with swimming itself but is critical when deciding if competitive swimming is something you would like your child to pursue. Commitment.

“What kind of commitment is expected of my swimmer?”

The exact amount of commitment required varies from team to team and age group to age group. Generally, more is required as your child moves up in age groups. For example, an 8-year-old might be required to attend two 1-1/2 hour practices a week, whereas, a high schooler may be expected to go to eight or nine 2-1/2 hour practices a week! Most teams also require participation in a certain amount of swim meets (competitions against other teams) in addition to normal practices. Most kids are not ready for this sheer amount of swimming coming from a 30-minute swimming lesson once a week. I normally suggest increasing the class length to an hour, swimming multiple times a week, or even both if your child plans on trying out for a team in the near future. Your child’s swimming instructor should be able to recommend a lesson schedule best suited towards helping your child achieve their goals.

Frequently, parents ask me if practicing outside of class is a viable option in place of additional structured swimming classes. Unfortunately, in most cases it is not. Your child’s swimming instructor knows what to look for and can correct any imperfect technique before they become a habit. Additionally, forcing additional practice on your child outside of class can cause unnecessary stress and loss of interest. However, fun time spent in a pool is never wasted! Allowing your child to have fun swimming time outside of class will help them stay excited about the sport! They will also build confidence and endurance just by bouncing around and having fun (shhh… we won’t tell them that they are actually doing work.)

“What commitment is expected of me (the parent)?”

Well… remember all those practices that I talked about before? Unless your child has a driver’s license, you need to make sure you can get your child to and from practices with a high degree of consistency. So far, so straightforward? Maybe… practices can be at different locations depending on the day and time. Also, most teams require some amount of participation in swim meets, which can be quite far away. Additionally, some teams request or even require parents to volunteer at these meets in some fashion. For example, when my sisters and I were on the local township team, my parents would frequently volunteer as backup lane timers. In short, competitive swimming can mean a lot of driving and a large chunk of time out of your schedule. The best advice I have to ease this burden is to make friends with the other parents on the team. Carpooling can be a huge help! When I was a kid we would often joke about whose parents were driving the “bus” to practice that day. Teamwork and cooperation are just as important for you as they are for your swimmer.

To sum it all up, competitive swimming is a lot of work and time, for both you and your swimmer. Do your homework and know what any team you might have your child try out for requires. Communicate with your child’s swimming instructor about what kind of practice schedule would give the best chance of success. Finally, once on the team, coordinate with the other parents to help ease driving responsibilities.

Next, we will cover the spirit of joining a swim team: racing and having fun!

Swim Safe.  Swim Fast.  Have Fun!

Mr. Eric W.

Making Waves Swim School Instructor