Category Archives: swim parents
March 28, 2011
News For SWIM PARENTS
Published by Guy Edson, American Swimming Coaches Association, 5101 NW 21 Ave., Suite 200, Fort Lauderdale FL 33309
The Nature of Stroke Work: Sometimes the Perception is That Not Enough Stroke Work Is Being Done
A sometimes concern among Moms and Dads is whether enough stroke work is being done. “All they do is swim. I don’t see any instruction at all,” is a typical refrain. The purpose of this short article is to explain what to expect from stroke work and to describe the different ways we coaches do stroke work and when we do it.
What to expect from stroke work: Do you remember teaching your children to tie their shoes? Some get it sooner, some get it later, some get it when you are not even watching. Each gets it in their own time regardless of your efforts. Same deal on stroke work. We hope to see immediate improvement but it is not always there. Patience is the key. Thorndike’s “laws” of learning come into play here: Is the child ready to learn? Does the child repeat the skill at the conscious level in order to move the skill from the conscious level to the automatic level? (Are they even operating at the conscious level during repeats?) With some children we notice a “delayed reaction” to teaching where they apparently make very little progress at the time and then some time later, sometimes even weeks later, magically get it. There is trial and error learning going on at the subconscious, level and it may take many repeats for things to suddenly click. So why do coaches allow swimmers to swim lap after lap with incorrect technique? Because, the hope is that a seed planted by the coach suddenly blossoms through trial and error learning after many repeats.
Where do those seeds come from? There are three basic types of stroke work. The most obvious is formal teaching where the lane or the workout group is stopped from aerobic or race pace swimming conditioning for 10 to 20 minutes and the coach explains a technique, uses a demonstrator, and then will have the athletes attempt the skill, usually one at a time with immediate feedback from the coach. This type of instruction is commonly used nearly every day with less advanced swimmers (novice), and less frequently with more advanced swimmers. Early in the season the coach may have the more advanced swimmers involved with formal teaching nearly every day as well.
A second form of stroke work is the stroke drill. Stroke drills are intended to isolate a part of the stroke so that the swimmer can focus on that particular skill. Stroke drills are often done as repeats on a low to moderate rest interval so that there is a conditioning effect as well.
The third form of stroke work is the most common – to some coaches it is the most important – and it is the most misunderstood and underappreciated by some observers (parents). This form of stroke work is the constant reminders coaches give to swimmers either verbally during the short rest periods between swims or visual cues demonstrated by the coach during the swims. The purpose is to move swimmers from an automatically wrong movement to the consciously correct movement; and if done enough, and given enough time, will effect a change. Some coaches are “always” doing stroke work of this type, even though it is not always easy to observe from the bleachers.
I meet with parent’s groups regularly and I like to do this little exercise with them: “Imagine a successful swimmer at whatever level you chose – state level, regional, national, international. Now, let’s list the factors that contribute to this swimmers success. Ready go.” When I do this exercise I get responses such as, “work ethic,” “discipline,” and “commitment” — these are factors relating to the psychology of the athlete. We usually get 8, 10, or maybe even 12 factors on the list before we get to…”technique.” I am not saying that technique is not important – it is – but every Olympic gold medalist has defects in their stroke. The pursuit of the impossibly perfect stroke is futile. Yes, stroke work IS important, but I am not sure it is the most important thing for advanced swimmers. When we observe a coach who doesn’t appear to be doing enough stroke work, step back and look at the larger picture. Is the child happy and improving? If so, then life is good.
(If not, then please see the March 14th issue on “How to Talk to Your Coach.”)
- Learning From the Best (swimmerjoe.com)
Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick? Or maybe some better advice…”Working Successfully with Swim Parents”
And, some related parent education:
Ten Ways for the Swim Parent to Sabotage Their Child’s Swimming Career (written with tongue firmly in cheek) — From John Leonard, American Swimming Coaches Association
A Few Suggestions on How to Be a Better Swimming Parent — From Michael Brooks, York YMCA Swimming
News For SWIM PARENTS
Published by The American Swimming Coaches Association
5101 NW 21 Ave., Suite 200
Fort Lauderdale FL 33309
The Praise Craze
Children are getting too much flattery and not enough moral instruction.
By Dan Mack
Even at age 12, Chris is a skilled basketball player. He scores at will for his recreational league team — but he doesn’t get many assists, because he’s a ball hog. His teammates sulk during games, waiting for passes that never come. Parents watching from courtside aren’t too pleased, either, except for Chris’s stepfather, Mike, whose pleasure in the boy’s performance is undimmed even when a parent complains to him about Chris’s selfishness. Mike later confides to the father of another player that he’s not going to talk to Chris about trying to be a more generous player. His stepson has a learning disability, Mike says, “and this is the only place where he can shine.”
Mike didn’t know it, but he was providing grist for his interlocutor’s next book. Richard Weissbourd, a psychologist at Harvard’s School of Education and the Kennedy School of Government, recounts the anecdote about Chris’s over solicitous stepfather in “The Parents We Mean to Be.” (“The Parents We Mean to Be,” By Richard Weissbourd, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 241 pages, $25) It is just one of many illustrative stories that Mr. Weissbourd has gathered over the past two decades. He and his assistants — including two high-school students, who presumably had good rapport with other teenagers — surveyed three Boston-area high schools, conducted focus groups, made “informal observations” of families in cities across the country, and interviewed sports coaches, teachers and mental-health professionals.
What did Mr. Weissbourd’s research tell him? That nowadays “well-intentioned adults undermine children’s moral and emotional development.” Parents have abandoned the “moral task” of rearing children, he says, and are more concerned about fostering their happiness than their goodness. Therapeutic interaction takes precedence over moral instruction; intimacy is maintained at the cost of authority.
“Blaming peers and popular culture lets adults off the hook,” Mr. Weissbourd writes. “The parent-child relationship is at the center of the development of all the most important moral qualities, including honesty, kindness, loyalty, generosity, a commitment to justice, the capacity to think through moral dilemmas, and the ability to sacrifice for important principles.”
Among the trends that Mr. Weissbourd finds particularly harmful is the fixation of parents on building “self-esteem” (the “praise craze,” as he calls it). A psychologist he talks to tells him that by age 12 some children have been so over praised that they regard compliments as implicit criticism: Empty flattery must be compensating for their lack of talent or be meeting a need for extra encouragement. Other children become “praise sponges,” Mr. Weissbourd says. In either case, he wonders, what’s so great about self-esteem? “Though some violent children have high self-esteem, the self that is being esteemed is immature, incapable of empathy.”
“Children’s moral development is decided by many factors, including not only media and peer influences but their genetic endowment, birth order, gender, and how these different factors interact.”
Excerpt from “The Parents We Mean to Be”
Mr. Weissbourd is also dismayed by many parents who put subtle but unrelenting pressure on their children for academic and extracurricular achievement. He talks to a 16-year-old who says that his parents make an elaborate display of saying that his getting into a “high-status school” is not important to them, that they just want him to learn and be happy. “But then they pay for SAT prep courses and expensive college counselors,” the boy says. “There’s already huge pressure on me to achieve.” Parental hypocrisy and insincerity do not constitute moral guidance.
Mr. Weissbourd rightly identifies the praise craze and the achievement obsession as a reflection of parental status anxiety. It seems that the more successful parents are, the more likely they are to worry about their children’s possible failure to live up to that success. One of the author’s most arresting contentions is that the children of immigrants “fare better than their American-born counterparts” in almost every measure of mental and moral health. American-born parents would have a lot to learn from immigrants, Mr. Weissbourd insists. They are comfortable with imposing authority and discipline, and they are optimistic about their children’s future.
As a psychologist, Mr. Weissbourd is at his best when he analyzes the all too familiar phenomenon of the overzealous sports parent. In a high-school cafeteria, the author sat in on a meeting between about 30 parents and a sports consultant, who was warning them about becoming over involved. A parent raised his hand and made a confession: “I remember my son’s last day playing youth soccer. The game was over, and I remember standing out on the field and thinking to myself: ‘What am I going to do with my life?’ ” The first step toward moral education for kids, Mr. Weissbourd says, is for parents to separate their own needs from their children’s and to start regarding parenthood as an opportunity for their own moral growth.
Good advice. But parental self-awareness is hardly more than a baby step on the path toward producing tomorrow’s productive and caring adults. Mr. Weissbourd identifies some of the more daunting barriers to healthy enculturation — among them the breakdown of the two-parent family and the decay of standards for public and private behavior — but he never really gets beyond superficial solutions to these vexing social problems. Urging pediatricians to encourage fathers to attend their children’s check-ups, or suggesting that ministers “ask noncustodial fathers how many times they have seen their child in the last month,” is unlikely to convert legions of estranged fathers into engaged parents.
The methodology employed in “The Parents We Mean to Be” similarly does not inspire confidence. We hear about Mr. Weissbourd’s interviews and surveys, but the book offers few quantitative results or analyses. Much of the evidence of parental incompetence is anecdotal — even, as with the story of ball-hogging Chris and his stepfather, based on people that Mr. Weissbourd happened to run into. His stories will no doubt resonate with many readers — who among us has not encountered an oppressively sports-minded father or an Ivy League-obsessed mother? — but such vignettes do not add up to a firm sociological thesis.
Mr. Weissbourd also tends to gloss over the institutional failures that have driven many parents to passionate advocacy for their children: the failure of public schools, for example, to uphold high academic and behavioral standards. The influence of the media and celebrity culture on children’s mores and material expectations is also far more profound than Mr. Weissbourd would admit. And just who is ultimately responsible for the excesses of the self-esteem craze — parents or the psychologists and educators whose books parents read for advice?
One effect of parents’ over-involvement in their children’s’ lives has been the demise of those arenas of childhood that were once inviolably the province of children themselves: unsupervised play, neighborhood baseball games and other settings where children first exercised their moral imaginations and were forced to cope independently with their own shortcomings. Parents who lament this turn of events may welcome Lenore Skenazy’s “Free-Range Kids,” which, like Mr. Weissbourd’s book, argues that adults should not always try to protect children from failure. (“Free-Range Kids,” By Lenore Skenazy, Jossey-Bass, 225 pages, $24.95)
Ms. Skenazy, a humor columnist, believes we should give “our children the freedom we had without going nuts with worry.” She lampoons safety-obsessed parents who see a threat-filled world, from metal baseball bats and raw cookie dough to Halloween-candy poisoners and kidnappers. She advises turning off the news, avoiding experts and boycotting baby knee pads “and the rest of the kiddie safety-industrial complex.”
“I really think I’m someone like you: A parent who is afraid of some things (bears, cars) and less afraid of others (subways, strangers). But mostly I’m afraid that I, too, have been swept up in the impossible obsession of our era: total safety for our children every second of every day.”
Excerpt from “Free-Range Kids”
Ms. Skenazy gained a certain national notoriety after she wrote a column about allowing her 9-year-old son to ride the New York City subways by himself. Even parents fed up with our child-coddling culture might blanch at the thought of turning a third-grader loose on public transportation. But Ms. Skenazy will find plenty of supporters for her contention that, in a world where the rights of chickens to roam freely are championed, it’s time to liberate the kids.
This article appeared in the Wall Street Journal. Ms. Mack is the author of “The Assault on Parenthood” (Encounter).
- Too Much Sharing of Feelings With Kids? (parenting.blogs.nytimes.com)