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Open water swimming, challenges for children and their parents – 5 suggestions for beginners

How many things do children get served on a “silver plate” and how many do they need to really fight for? Are they as persistent as the marathon runner or they give up when they encounter their first obstacle? If they are to be exposed to an environment that is a little bit different to their own, would they be able to handle it? When we are the best in what we do, whether it’s tug of war, baking cakes, laying bricks, designing shoes, writing, creating ads, or swimming, at a certain point we get too relaxed and then those new generations who are very passionate about what they do simply “jump us over”. 

Can you actually remember the last time you exposed your child to a challenge, and at the same time it was your own challenge as a parent, teacher or a coach?

Not long ago I noticed that some of my best swimmers became too up themselves, started strutting around and in the pool, as if they had won an Olympic medal. In order to prevent that I needed to find a new challenge for them, motivation, competition… to shake them up. That’s why I registered them for a swimming competition, but in a completely new environment – in the sea (open water swimming)!

This was perfect. A challenge for me, but also for them. Why? Because everything about it is different: environment, there are no clear boundaries in the sea, waves are much bigger than seldom splashes in the pool, water temperature is lower, etc… This is exactly the environment where you have to be the best, beat your competition, but above all beat yourself!

How did we overcome the challenge? With a very good preparation process, a few pieces of advice from the experienced marathon swimmers, we managed to overcome the challenges of swimming in the open sea, but also boost swimmers’ self-confidence, shake them up, jump into the unknown and swim. 

Open water swimming, my top 5 suggestions:

  • We needed to learn: Before I decided to test my swimmers, and check how much they can endure, whether they are still the best even when they are outside the pool, we needed to sit down, talk, read, and learn about the most common conditions of the open water swimming (waves, water density, temperature, etc.), as well as the rules (big crowd forming at the start of the race, that you don’t experience at the pool, pushing that happens above and under the water, which also is not the case in the pool, etc.)

  • We jumped into the unknown to get to know ourselves better: We started to have our trainings in the sea and not in the pool. After the first prep race, it was truly unbelievable that we were able to recognise who the real“marathon swimmers” are, tough, the most enduring, both physically and mentally… Mental capacity is most of the times the one that makes you a winner. Those who are the most persistent and focused manage to reach the finish line. Not just in the sea, but in life as well.

  • We learned how to orientate: Swimming in the open water, sea, lake, river, is completely different to the controlled conditions in the swimming pool. There are no boundaries, an it’s quite difficult to orientate without them. What did we do in order to make it easier for the kids? We engaged their parents and asked them to form our own boundaries. One of the dads was marking the left side, the other the right side, my colleague, who is a marathon swimmer, swam at the rear while I was leading the race.

  • We had the right equipment: Compared to the water temperature in the pool that is controlled, the one in the sea always varies. We jumped into the sea in November. The sea water temperature was around 21C, and it varied depending on the current. That’s why the kids needed to have the right swimming suit for this type of challenge. Also, the goggles and swimming caps were obligatory.

  • We overcame our challenges: When we were fully ready, we approached the start line. The final result was, in this case, completely irrelevant. What was important were the smiles that we could see on both the swimmers’ and their parents’ faces after the race. Then we decided to have regular trainings in the sea, in order to break the routine and the monotony of the pool and its navy lines. We simply replaced them with corals and fish and then we refreshed ourselves. We have also become regular participants in the open water competitions, in the sea!

Challenge yourselves and your endurance, see if there is a hidden marathon swimmer living in you!


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