Finding confidence

The fear of coming last gets worst the bigger the winning ceremonies are. Especially when there is medal or point counts, if you are not in the club with the most points or medals, it is very hard not to feel inferior.

Yet when it comes to results, really only the records are the ones that get the most publications. All world records get permanently published and all major competition wins.

But looking at the journey of a swimmer, there are many competitions and they do – at any stage of age, from 10 years upwards – measure success by the most and the best at each age. .

Nobody can stop growing and goes through the ages and goes through all the age-group competitions, yet winning at all stages of age groups is literally impossible.

Some clubs do better with the younger swimmers and some do better with the older swimmers.

But when one comes last or very near the bottom of the meet results it is very hard not to feel crushed and pick up the pieces and get onto the next competition with fresh confidence.

The swimmers belonging to the club with the most points or medals, they always feel best, even if an individual comes last. As long as one belongs to the club with the best overall results the feelings of loss can be easier consolidated.

But then having to come to terms with a loss if one is in a club that is at the bottom of the ratings is very difficult. I think people have to just not feel too bad about it and feel some pride in their club and continue with training there because it is important for the sport that locally there is a club that caters for swimmers.

We can’t just all run off to the biggest, most winning club. It’s just a bit like football, do you support your local club or do you support the always winning Manchester United?

At some meets my club comes on top and that is the best feeling but when it doesn’t I just feel crushed and remember the good times.

 

Everything happens just about now

Tomorrow is the start of the MCASA age group competitions and the week after that the Youth get their chance to shine at the LAC.

Of course everyone is thinking of the forthcoming Regional qualifier meets as well, just as – for pupils in year 9 – the time comes to discuss choices of GCSE subjects.

Not all schools do this at the same time but Madison’s school does it in early February.

Parents evenings are also on the horizon and all that in the most exciting training period, when everyone wants to train hard and learn how to #swimfast and #swimskilfull.

Lets just not get nervous and take it one step at a time, keep calm and keep swimming. It is just a matter of keeping the diary in order and do all homework immediately when it arises. Don’t let things pile up. Make every minute of the day a useful one.

Competitions help to calm nerves towards school exam periods and calm nerves are essential to learn for exams.

Listen to your coach, who has plenty of experience and knows how to bring the best out of swimmers. So everything is going to be just fine.

Try not to lose sleep over catching up on apps and social networks late at night. Most important is a regular and healthy diet and regular and uninterrupted sleep. Turn the mobile off whilst resting.

Talk to non-swimming friends and make them understand that you just cannot chat at all hours and need your own sporting routine, all good friends will understand. All swimmers will definitely sympathise.

Pocket money

Recently I read a lot about how ‘sensible and responsible’ parents allocate pocket-money. That successful and well off parents often keep their children’s feet on the ground by only paying pocket-money if chores around the house are done well.

I thought about this quite seriously and came to the conclusion that it is after all a matter of time. Looking at Madison’s time-table she got barely enough time to do her home-work. Any child that is engaged in a sport at performance level spends a lot of time training.

Then being able to manage the most basic completion of home-work tasks to have enough time for training, wouldn’t allow any more time for chores around the house.

Sport and sport related activities are now a huge industry and there is always work for those committed to sport and suitable experienced and qualified to work within this field of employment.

It therefore think that it would make sense for a sporting parent to reward excellence in the sport instead of household chores.

Most importantly a child should make an informed decision whether they want to jeopardise their GCSE or A-level grades for the sport they are in. Perhaps a sporting youngster can concentrate on the sporting side of the curriculum.

Producing lower grades for lack of time must be a price worth paying for any athlete and in the case of Adam Peaty for example, who said he didn’t like school, it definitely did pay to concentrate on the swimming.

Yet the full-time training schedule Adam Peaty has is not feasible nor possible for a teenager. A young person, still in school has to juggle school and sport until such a time that it becomes possible to spend most of the time on training.

I think any young person can only develop a tendency to full-time sport with the full support of parents and supporters who encourage and are generally positive. Kids with parents who constantly concentrate on more elaborate home work, doing chores around the house, cannot turn into sporting heroes.

I think any child should have a right to want to become a sports person even in a sport that doesn’t pay huge amounts of money like tennis or football.

Aimee Willmott manages to combine university and swimming career and recently published a dissertation.

If a child is really keen on a sport and puts in 10+ hours training per week and competes in competitions regularly then why not reward them for getting target times and reduce rewards when underperformance takes place. So a child can learn that they can earn by doing well and loose when doing not so well. That is a better method to learn that excellent performance pays rather than just the medals they take home and the emotional high they get when standing on that podium.

The earning made from doing well needs to be great enough to put across the message that on a full-time basis there would be a chance to do well, but if the earning made from the sport slips into the minus because of under-performance then perhaps it is time to reduce training and concentrate more on school work.

Time has to be spend well and useful.

Swimming as a career choice?

I just received this letter in the post. apparently the government imposes onto councils to now notify all parents with pupils in year 9 that there are specialist schools University Technical Colleges available that accept pupils in year 10 with the impetus of providing specialist educational subjects.

Most schools I received as options are concentrating on

  • engineering
  • aviation
  • digital technology
  • computer science
  • Maths

No sports available at all at this stage. Why is it not possible to combine sport and technology?

Yet we keep on hearing that people do not choose healthy lifestyles at an early age, but trying to do this is immensely difficult as our education system merely pushes technology on its own.

Considering that the Leisure industry has a huge market impact, I would have thought that at least one school offers sport and recreation at the year 10 stage.

I would go as far as to say that all schools must be affiliated to Sport England and be associated with at least 1 sports club, ideally more.

Swimmers should not have to choose between school and swimming, schools should have to do more to integrate swimmers within their curriculum.

 

I avoided the rain but not the tears

This morning it was good-bye to training mates after the AM session and as swimmers are wet already and in the shower, the tears are hard to spot.

But the good-byes were heart wrenching and emotional.

Normally local swimming clubs hardly ever change but with the LACPP and its dissolving came a lot of dramas.

Coaches left, swimmers left and new club arrangements were made.

It was kind of sad to see the LACPP signs disappear both on the Web, Facebook and in the LAC. I never thought they would actually dissolve this scheme.

At least I now know that Lisa Bates can continue to enjoy her coaching career by moving to Chelsea & Westminster swimming club, Pixie, also a former LACPP swimmer went there too.

The older national swimmers went to Loughborough, Sterling, Angharad went to a residential school with swimming as main sport.

Madison is fast but not fast enough and too young to get into a national coaching scheme.

I predicted that most fast national swimmers would leave if they dissolve the LACPP and that is what happened.

Madison joins Hackney as this is the most improved club this year and also has some very good national swimmers and it is within our reach.

Swimmers of Madison’s age, need to concentrate on their education; we are just beginning the GCSE courses. I don’t think a competitive swimmer can succeed unless they are in an excellent local club or in a residential school like Millfield.

The LAC ACS is an excellent coaching scheme, yet it is geared more towards the younger swimmers who just begin their competitive careers. I am sure they will shine in competitions.

I think it is important for swimmers to get continuity with their sport and established local clubs deliver the best results.

It’s best to turn all that sadness into new energy and look forward to new endeavours. We have plenty to do in the future and look forward to seeing swimmers at competitions in the future.

More award schemes

Madison came home with a letter stating that she has to take part, COMPULSORY, in a Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

For a performance swimmer life centres around the pool and there is little time to do something else.

Of course 8 hours per day are already dedicated to school work, Madison managed to participate in Girl Guides also and takes piano lessons; but now to be told, she HAS TO take part in the Duke of Edinburgh Bronze award scheme, just about takes my senses to new heights.

I am just thinking, children are to take part in volunteering for the space of six months, must go on camping trips and meet weekly after school to plan those trips; that is on top of any GCSE course meetings of course.

I think this Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme is a brilliant activity for people who are not already otherwise engaged in focused sports but for people like Madison who trains daily, it is not suitable. I am negotiating with the school about this.

 

Just to reiterate

I do not want to be negative, I know everybody probably does their best. Previously we were advised not to join a club that isn’t part of the Advanced Coaching Scheme, I followed that advice but since I followed it and signed up for the club with the Advanced CoachingĀ Scheme, I have suddenly been presented with unforseen changes in the training schedule that were not agreed prior to signing up.

Previously we were supposed to get training at the LAC exclusively, if we sign up to become members at the newly created LAC ACS. We had to sign up by 15. September; as soon as I had signed up and entered competitions, up to November 2017, I was given a new training schedule that requires me to be at East Ham Leisure Centre at 5:30 AM. I reside in Bethnal Green and whilst I find it easy to be at the LAC for 6 AM, as it usually started with LACPP and LAC ACS training, the new host club Newham UEL suddenly changes the routine against all agreements that were formed previously with Swim England.

Additionally the cost of being a member in LAC ACS has sharply risen and it is not even quite clear now, whether the Beacon Program is included in the price as it was last year.

In fact the whole Beacon program has so far not been agreed with the host boroughs.

I am not blaming anybody, I suppose it is very difficult to set up a club from scratch and cost this, but I know what I need, I need a regular routine for my swimmer, my swimmer needs to be able to attend school, learn and form relationships and that is only possible with a predictable regular routine. That is what the Advanced Coaching Scheme cannot offer us at present.

I am now looking to join an already established well running local club, even if they are not members in the Advanced Coaching Scheme because we need peace of mind, we need affordable club swimming and we need a good routine that we can rely on.

I have contacted the parties involved in this and await responses. It is the weekend and hopefully something will have changed for the Better by next week.

The three B’s

I am very happy to have passed my final assessment and qualified as J1 judge. I joined as swimming club volunteer with Madison’s increased participation in swimming competitions and wanting to make myself useful and also wanting to pick up some good tips on how to swim better.

Like myself, many swimming parents are not from a competitive swimming background and as such getting through all the rules can take longer than if one has been into competitive swimming previously.

Competition promoters really do rely on volunteers to staff the officials required to run such competitions and the FINA rules are quite strict on the officials requirements needed. Keeping those rules means an event can be licensed and the times achieved by the swimmers are official and get listed in the Personal Best Times charts kept online for all to see.

Trying to memorize the swim order in Medley swimming for example, I noticed there are three B’s and one F.

The B’s are in a different order depending whether it’s Individual Medley

  • Butterfly
  • Backstroke
  • Breaststroke
  • Freestyle

but in the Medley relay events, which allows groups of swimmers to race the order is

  • Backstroke
  • Breaststroke
  • Butterfly
  • Freestyle

The easy way to remember this is that IM starts with Butterfly and Medley relay starts with Backstroke. I know the Breaststroke always follows the Backstroke and the Freestyle is always last.

Personally I do not like to interfere too much into the training that Madison gets, it is up to her coach to teach her the important tactics and stroke techniques. I just like to understand the racing events and so can assist the swimmers and ensure, as far as I can that the best swimmer always wins. All swimmers need to get the same chances.

It is a lenghty process to become a swimming official and lots of practise is best.

 

My conscience is clear

As a parent, I have been called all kinds of things for bringing my child to a lot of swimming sessions, starting at 6am on some days. The worst one was slave-driver. It hit me hard. I suppose some like the word couch potato more?

Having an active life should be the norm and not the exception and the concept of always keeping busy, I suppose has become alien to many.

Yet I had some doubts as to whether it is justifiable to allow Madison to spend so many hours per week at the pool, that is prolonged by travel-time to and from the LAC.

Yet so far Madison always had 100% school attendance through from Primary School. Madison never missed a day since she started Secondary school and has no late marks either.

Madison had the highest marks on the SATS exams in year 6 of Primary and now still is 2 grades ahead of target in 70% of her subjects and does not fall below target in any subjects taught at school.

I just received her interim report from school and again can only recommend swimming as sport for youngsters, as it definitely does not dim the intellect. However, having said that, I must emphasize that high quality coaching is essential. The coaches at the LACPP use the latest methods in a pleasantly professional manner, which aids a child’s development and doesn’t cloud the mind.

 

Swims can only get Better

Madison’s previous club did not have early morning training for quite a while. Some years ago Madison went to morning training twice a week. Now it takes a little getting used to again. Especially on those cold winter-mornings, when it is really dark and frosty outside. Even for me as parent, I occasionally find myself moaning and not being exactly the best role-model there is.

But, overcoming the initial hick-ups, we are getting there. The hope that it will soon be spring and we can see the sun-rise again in the morning, cheers us up. (A picture will follow as soon as we can see a sun-rise again).

Obviously after changing club there can be no sudden jump in performance, especially as it takes around 9 month to get out of bad stroke-practise.

The best effect of changing clubs to LACPP is that Madison has found the will for swimming again. Madison can see hope that her swimming performance now stands a chance of achieving something in the long-term. If I had not changed club for Madison, she would have dropped out of swimming completely this year.

We do follow the County champs results of Madison’s previous club mates who also changed clubs to various other clubs closely. Some are doing extremely well.

OK, so the 800 free didn’t go too well, but then not everyone is an 800-meter swimmer. This weekend we have the 50 sprints to come and that is going to be very exciting. As it takes place in Madison’s home-pool the LAC, she hopes to do well. I am sure she will do her best. So far we had PBs in every race Madison entered, which is a good result. What more could we want?