Swimming Hopes Dashed
I can’t get away from it; the same story over and over again, and it bothers me no end.
A young swimmer has managed to achieve “success” in the form of medals, won all the competitions he has entered and even qualified for the National Championships in his category for the first time.
You cannot ask for more as a coach; your predictions have come true and you feel on top of the world. His family, teammates… everyone – without exception – lavish praise on you and foresee great success at the event.
You feel supremely confident and are not shy in making your predictions known. Through results, you have demonstrated your quality as a professional, your enormous power of persuasion, your powers of foresight and the superb level of your training programme – planned to the very last detail with precision and wisdom.
You are a coaching genius!
But what am I saying?!
You are the GREATEST COACH OF ALL TIME and – as if that wasn’t good enough – the swimmer under your wing is the latest big thing in the water. You are a perfect team, nobody can beat you, you’ll bring home a bunch of medals from the Nationals and you aren’t about to miss the opportunity to let everyone know!
You are in no doubt, you will be the shining stars of your dreams.
The day arrives, you enter the pool and the scene overwhelms you. Over one thousand swimmers fill the aquatic centre and share a similar goal; to demonstrate their worth and achieve victory on the biggest stage there is. The incentive could not be stronger; you will be competing against the best, you will face the toughest rivals and, what’s more, your families will bear witness to your triumphs.
Could you be any more fortunate?
The competition is over and the results pale in comparison to your initial expectations. 84th out of 90 in the best race, one false start and – to top it all off – an enormous tantrum make up the final results.
Suddenly and as if by magic, all hopes evaporate; the future Olympic champion is no more, he failed to do a single thing right and is no longer any good at swimming. His trainer turns his back on him and his parents decide that swimming is boring and too demanding, that there is no future in the sport and that it certainly won’t pay the bills. The best options for him are to either give it up, find a coach that can do a better job or just enjoy a different sport that doesn’t take up so much time and fully focus on academic study.
Does this situation ring any bells?
How many similar cases have you seen?
How many excellent swimmers on the verge of becoming champions had to quit swimming for a similar reason?
When will we learn – once and for all – to build up to the moment, to see our young rising stars for what they are: children, young people in training and athletes?
The saddest thing of all is that this situation arises all too often and, although usually characteristic of those few coaches anxious to achieve rapid success early on in their careers or inexpert parents who, through a lack of knowledge or mere aspiration, place their hopes in the quality and talent of their children, these are not the only people guilty of such action. At some time or another and without realising our mistake, the majority of us have acted in this way and suffered the negative consequences first-hand in the end.
I believe, and tell me if I’m wrong, that a much better way is to respect the proper stages of training and development. Let’s purge our vocabulary of those false hopes that are impossible to fulfil and that cause so much harm to the future endeavours of our young swimmers. Let’s stop the big talk, the inappropriate and unnecessary flattery, and focus on those things that truly matter to the swimmer, those issues of genuine interest.
Teaching the correct techniques in the four competition styles, turns and starts, setting reasonable and realistic targets, educating in commitment and values, encouraging a passion for the sport, working correctly for the long term without rushing and with the necessary calm and patience to achieve optimum performance in adulthood.
Written by Agustín Artiles (“Champi”). Agustín has more than 35 years of experience as the Head Coach of some of the most important Spanish swimming teams He has been the Coach of the Spanish Swimming Team from 2008 to 2012, and has trained the 50 breastroke Spanish national recordman, Hector Monteagudo Espinosa, from 2002 to 2013 Agustín has also trained several international swimmers from the Spanish National Team and from the european and world top ten, as well as paraolimpics athletes with medals and world records in all the different categories. He has also been accomplished with the award as the Best competition swimming coach in Spain 2006, as several recognition for professional merits.