A note from Badger Parent Advocate, Mike Conaton:

Parents, if you were like me, you had to walk to and from school every day, barefoot, in the snow, uphill in both directions. And if you were a swimmer, you worked so hard in practice that you threw up in the gutter every other day and your chafed arm pits bled from all the yardage you did.

I guess I’m only half kidding. I saw some swimming sets growing up that boggled minds and beat up bodies. 100 x 100s on a minute, 20 x 500 meters and 5,000 meters for time come to mind. I know some of you saw the same stuff, and worse.

Many of our workouts growing up were intense as we pushed each other during sets. And there was this 15 year old girl in the next lane over who sometimes would do the entire workout…butterfly. Every single stroke (yes, that Madam Butterfly). We loved the summers especially when we had many college kids come train with us. I think the college kids hated the young whipper snappers challenging them every day, but the coaches loved it, and of course everyone benefitted from the competition. I know I have to be careful here – of course we weren’t perfect, but bear with me…

I was reminded of all this recently when I read that Michael Phelps is said to be training and doing sets that he did in 2007 and 2008. We all know what he did in Beijing in 2008 – Super human. And guess what, every aspect of his training is superhuman…and probably perfect.

It started for Phelps even at the age group level.  ob Bowman at North Baltimore started him early with very challenging sets. And you probably know Phelps made his first Olympic team at age 15. Obviously extremely extraordinary and not expected. But you better believe the age group programs at North Baltimore, Nations Capital, Palo Alto, NOVA, and many others are definitely challenging their age groupers as well as their seniors.  And they’re seeing results.

Where am I going with this?  Parents, we do all we can do for our kids (and again I’ll argue feeding, driving and loving them is enough). But we can’t train for them. Comes a time the kids need to step up to the dedication and the hard work. And it’s ok, in my opinion, to ease into it at each kids’ own pace as I have also argued in the past.  But parents, I will politely and respectfully suggest that we have to ask our kids some tough questions first before we wonder why the kids might be falling a little short of their goals here and there. The kids have to first ask themselves, before they complain to us, if they are doing everything they can in the water and doing everything the coaches tell them to do…everything. The coaches can’t train for our kids either. Are they doing their underwaters? (Yes, the coaches mean every single turn). Are they putting the effort in each day? Ok, at least consistently?  Are they swimming to each wall without standing up during a set?  Are they finishing the entire workout without bathroom breaks or getting out early? Some important stuff, some basic stuff.

And we should all know by now that generally coaches today are not screamers. If you’re like me, and this is not an exaggeration, back in the day we had all kinds of yelling, guys kicked out of workouts daily and even kickboards thrown at us. Thankfully you won’t get this at Badger. But that doesn’t mean the coaches are not coaching.  If the kids aren’t doing what they’re asked to do and taking advantage of the world class program that Badger offers, at every age group level, then there’s not a whole lot more the coaches, or the parents can do about it.

We all know this is a tough sport, and like a lot of things in life, you get out of it what you put in.  It’s great to aspire to improve times, make cuts, and swim in high school or college…or even dream of making US teams…but the kids have to put the work in. A little tough love from parents, and benefit of the doubt for the coaches, I think can go a long way.

Michael Conaton, Badger Swim Club Inc. and Badger Swimming Inc. accept no liability for the content of this article, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided.

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