The return to competitive swimming is beginning in earnest for our younger swimmers with a number of events in the run up to the end of the year. But as parents and supporters of the Otters, and perhaps one for whom these may be their first competitive events – what should we be doing?
Simply put – supporting our swimmers – and no matter what!
It sounds simple, but as with all swimming things theres a little more to it.
For first time competitors it’s natural they will be anxious, and they will need support and encouragement, both before and after the competition. The competition itself can feel like a test, with sometimes unknown official-looking officials(!) assessing technique and noting things down, but as parents and supporters its important to waylay any fears and worries.
Generally with competitions there’s a fair bit of time spent sitting with club friends, making new friends, chatting, eating (race fuel), passing the time, only interrupted by a few minutes of swimming, before a return to chatting.
Whilst competitions in this new era will be a little different for a little while from those pre-2020, that difference may be unsettling. And this is the same for all, swimmers, volunteers, officials and organizers, and in the last few galas something that is actively acknowledged at all levels in the event organisation.
For those swimmers that may have a competition or two behind them their focus may have shifted to trying to better their times. After all PB’s are a very direct way of indicating progress, but they only tell part of the story. Otters are prone to growing up(!), and if not noticeably taller, perhaps they’ve been focusing on growing their kidneys for a bit. Times could well be slower than in the past. But – what if the dive was fantastic? the turn was awesome? the underwater part felt right? the technique was spot-on? or they did exactly as was asked by the coach? All are positives to take away from the poolside, and after all a new personal best is just a sprinkle, on the cherry of a big cake.
Occasionally a disqualification (DQ) may be received. These can be quite hard for swimmers to understand and accept, especially for our younger Otters. But if the infractions observed and reported to the Referee are upheld they will be recorded as a DQ code in the meet results. The coach can translate this DQ code into something a little more understandable and so learnings can be made for next time.
As parents and supporters, we must try to be aware that each swimmer is an individual, so improvements and progress occur at different rates for each swimmer. Swimmers who achieve early success must also be encouraged to persevere if they experience periods of slow progress. So as Otter parents we should not get disheartened if they don’t win, or don’t get a top three and certainly shouldn’t be disappointed – even if it was a very early start and a 2hr drive to that pool! (Perhaps a chippy-tea on the way home will make it all worth while!?).
The only other thing to try and bear in mind is not be tempted to offer technical advice or strategy to your swimmer, especially when competing. This could undermine the relationship between the qualified Otters coach and your swimmer. And, I dont know about you, but I cannot swim Butterfly, so there is no way I would consider be able to strategise about pacing for a 100Fly event, let alone any distance events. Of course if you do feel passionate about it, then why not become more involved with the club?!
Spectating is a great way to offer support to your swimmer, although spectating opportunities in these post-Covid times are extraordinarily rare. But if spectating, and prevailing guidelines allow – CHEER! And cheer the other Otters team members that are swimming, who may not have a supporter in the audience – a little cheer can go a long way. Although swimming might seem like an individual sport, it generates huge camaraderie between swimmers and parents alike, both within Cults Otters, but also between the clubs.
So, as parents and supporters of swimmers – why not set an example of being a good team player in supporting all of the swimmers as we return to competitions!