Twenty-eight. That is the number of medals won by Michael Phelps, putting him in the category of “Most Decorated Olympian of All Time.” Truly inspiring not only for Americans who take pride in winning, but also for the next generation of competitive swimmers. Exhibit A: the much-circulated photo of Phelps and Katie Ledecky taken in 2006. She would go on to win her own boatload of medals at the Rio Olympics alongside Michael. The young swimmers diving into the pool today might not have the opportunity to swim alongside Phelps on an Olympic Team, but that won’t diminish their hopes for the gold.
As parents, there are a lot of things you can do in support of your young swimmer beyond just dropping them off at the pool. Here’s what to know before getting your kids into competitive swimming:
You’ll Need to Start With the Basics
As with any type of sport, it is essential that your kid start with the basics. Swimming lessons are a great way to introduce your young swimmer to the various strokes and styles. They’ll quickly discover the challenges associated with competitive swimming, including the importance of a proper turn. These swimming lessons will become the foundation for all that follows in their competitive swimming career.
You’ll Need to Plan for Swim Workouts
Getting serious about competitive swimming means getting serious about practicing. You should be prepared to create a dedicated swim workout schedule. That could mean anywhere from three to five sessions a week lasting 30 to 60 minutes apiece. Unless you have a pool in your backyard, this is going to mean a lot of shuttling, but probably no less than with other sports. The big difference is that swimming is a year-round activity. In other words, there won’t be any seasonal breaks.
You’ll Need to Stock up on the Gear
Swimsuits? Check. Goggles? Check. Swim cap? Check. You’ll need all of those swimming gear items, but there are a few more pieces to pick up to support your young swimmer. Workout gear can include kick boards, pull buoys, flippers and hand paddles. The good news is, compared to other sports like hockey or football, the cost of swimming gear is relatively low.
You’ll Need to Research a Swim Team
Eventually, your kid swimmer will make the transition from swimming solo to swimming on a team. Before signing up on just any team, make sure you’re on the same page with regard to goals. Will the team’s workout schedule work with your schedule? Are the coaches also swim instructors? There will be many opportunities for competition. What are the various meets the team will participate in? You might find yourself going through a few teams before finding the right fit.
The most important thing to remember is that entering into the world of competitive swimming should be your kid’s dream, not yours. You should absolutely encourage them and cheer them on. However, if there comes a time when they want to take a break, then you need to let them. If nothing else, they will have learned how to swim, and that’s a good skill set to have.