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Swimming with children: My dad is not my coach!

My dad is not my coach!

This is a sentence of a four-year-old boy I’m very proud of.

Ever since they were born, my children have been in the water. The pool is their playground, they’ve been growing up with it since they were four months old. To be honest, I used every single moment to spend the time with them in the water. And also, to be a dad. When it wasn’t me, their mom played the main role there. They relaxed together, learning about the water surrounding during the baby swim lessons. I observed them. Day by day, they were growing safer in the water.

Coaching your child has its pros and cons. That’s a choice having both positive and negative sides. My choice was to be only their dad and «bite» my nails from a distance.

From the moment my Little Fish and Little Shark met the water for the first time, my task, as their dad, was: to inspire them to relax in the water, to play, to gain self-confidence, but also to teach them about the red lines in the water, what they can and what they must not do. I think I did a good job.

When he was less than two, my Little Shark was laughing as he was diving. He was so self-confident that he dared to challenge the water with his jumps and underwater flip turns. It was a pleasure watching him playing in the water. When he was two, he made independent strokes all by himself and swam 12m of the pool as he was playing. It was then when he started swimming with other children and he also had his own coach at that time. It wasn’t me. By chance, he had his first «experience in competitions» when he was only two and a half. His discipline was swimming with a noodle, in a 25m pool. I was a proud dad cheering from the audience.

Once I had a day off which is always reserved, as my kids like to say, for spending in a beautiful place. Of course, we went to the pool, to the beach, playing, diving, going down water slides, making sand castles, collecting seashells....At the end of the day, as we were getting ready to leave, the kids were standing at the pool watching a six-year-old boy learning how to swim. My Little Fish, who was barely three then, said: «Dad, look, that nice man is teaching the little boy how to swim, the way our coaches Jeca and Ivana teach us». Having heard that, my wife added: «Yes, the same way you swim with your dad too...» With a fierce disapproval in her voice my Little Shark replied: «Dad is not my coach!» We looked at each other. It was a compliment I had always wanted to hear. I was so proud.

This is why it is important that, if possible, their dad is not their coach. Isn’t it much better to play with your children than coach them? Why should we bring the coaching discomfort home spreading it over the other children who haven’t started enjoying this sport yet? Isn’t it better to just sing with children in your car than analysing the moves they made in the pool? Would you feel pleased with your dad-coach shouting criticism at you in front of other children? Parents and coaches should be partners, but each of them should know their own role.

5 lessons I have learnt about swimming and growing up as a dad:

How to adjust my communication and reaction at the moments I should react and give a professional piece of advice as a coach.

How to react properly when my child is in the negation phase and we are at the pool and I want to motivate him to do something.

How to encourage additional development and motivation for swimming in the surrounding which is far below meeting the desired standards.

What are the situations when it is best to ''step back'' and chill out.

I got a solid confirmation that swimming is the best FIRST sport for children.

If my Little Shark and Little Fish decide to swim in the future, they will swim. My task will remain the same, to respect their decisions, to encourage them, listen to them, and be their dad, not their coach. I’m sure that only then will they come back to the next training and swim. Perhaps, they will win a medal in their first real competition, it is up to them.

Every child should learn how to swim, and feel safe in the water, but first of all, the child should enjoy it, play, get in and out of the water with a smile on his/her face, pleased and relaxed. The parents are key «coaches» for that.


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