Does swimming teach us how to live?
Swimming – a lesson for children and parents
If we teach our children that with no effort or work they will get a reward anyway, they will expect to get “medals” elsewhere, anytime in the future, even if they do not deserve them. I believe that children should be taught to swim and enjoy it, and that they are not less precious if they fail to win a medal. Of course, we should encourage them not to give up, to give their best, since by doing so they will grow much more confident, persistent, happier, not only in the pool.
Children should have a goal and be motivated, even when it comes to swimming. The best swimmers win medals, and for the others there has to be something else to keep them motivated for further participation, because sometimes your best is not good enough for the first, second or third place.
As they swim, children learn:
To accept a defeat: Apart from always wanting our children to be the best, it is important to teach them how to accept a defeat, and the possibility of being defeated by others. That not winning a medal is not the end of the world. By participating and competing with others, we teach them how to alleviate that fear of a defeat, which might exist. And that fair play is often in the hands of the technique or an individual who makes the final decision.
To believe in themselves: Apart from having the support of others as one of the things of key
significance for the first and all next competitions, children should be guided to believe in themselves. That will help them find the motivation inside, and the drive to push them forward and learn to be better today than they were yesterday. And that being nervous is okay.
Not to give up: We need to teach our children that if they swim and compete, they should not only compete with others, but also with themselves. Sometimes, it’s more important to finish the race than give up or win a medal. Circumstantially, my son had his first «swimming competition» when he was only two and a half. His discipline was swimming with a noodle, in the 25m long pool. He was the last to finish the race, and he didn't win the medal. He wasn't sad, because we had made it all look like a good fun and a game.
Not to be selfish, but to be friends: The support among the swimmers boosts the team spirit in children, since it’s not only an individual that counts, but also a good team. The motivation is important, sometimes just an ice-cream will be enough for the smallest swimmers. It’s important that the motivation is always there, since it pushes them forward.
Swimming also teaches the parents:
To have realistic expectations: Apart from being optimistic, it’s more important to be realistic when it comes to the abilities of your children. I agree that children need to be praised, affirmed, but they should never be given a false encouragement. It happens quite often that we “falsely” cheer them, and in the end the children can’t hold back their tears due to unrealistic expectations. Why, because we imposed them.
To be supportive: The atmosphere before a competition is crucial, starting from the moment when the child is packing his/her things at home, because that is something which mostly depends on us as parents, until the moment when the child is in the shower, where friends cheer each other, before they come to the starting platform, where an eye contact with the coach may give them some extra energy. We, as parents, are expected to be supportive and the loudest in the audience.
So, don’t «push» your kids to win medals, let them have fun as they are swimming.