Choosing a Swim Club for Adults or Kids

Swimming is one of those sports that almost anyone can do. Playing in the water comes naturally, and with a bit of skill can go a long way in many many years of exercise and enjoyment.

For Adults

If you are an adult there are many masters clubs you can join. These are clubs only for adults and focus on personal goals and achievements. Most masters clubs offer training 2-3 times per week and also offer meets for those who enjoy competing. There is no maximum age for joining. And the skill level varies considerably. If you can swim at least a couple of the strokes then you can probably join your local masters club. However, even though there is usually a coach and they may give small tips on stroke improvement, this is not the place to go if you are looking for swimming lessons. If you need lesson then that's exactly what you should take — lessons. Most municipalities have swimming lessons for adults for various levels of abilities.

For Children

If you have children and want to get them involved in a sport this is ideal. It is safe, promotes team work, builds confidence, and can be done year round. Most clubs have the requirement that swimmers be able to do at least one length non-stop of each stroke before they accept them. This requirement is necessary so it truly is coaching as opposed to swimming lessons. From personal experience I would recommend that once your children meet the minimum requirement you sign them up for a swim club. They will learn much faster and become stronger swimmers than if they were to go to just regular swimming lessons. The time commitment is a bit more, but very well worth it.

There is usually no age minimum, in fact the younger the better, as long as they meet the minimum skill requirements.

Before signing up with a club do your research. Go meet the coaches and make sure they have philosophies that agree with yours. Check to see how many days the workouts are, along with the times and locations. Check ahead of time what the fees are and what the expectations are. Check to see if they have swim meets - kids love these kinds of activities. If you have high aspirations for your children check to see if the club you are considering coaches at high levels. Maybe even go and watch a couple of workouts before signing up, just to make sure it's what you are looking for.

Talk to the coaches before you register. Find out their qualifications, and number of years of experience. They don't need to be Olympic coaches to coach beginners, but they should hold at least level one coaching certification. In addition, will there be a lifeguard on duty during training? If not, is the coach a qualified lifeguard? Understand that a coach is not necessarily a qualified lifeguard. Don't be afraid to ask question and ask for proof of their certifications.

Check to see how many kids will be in your children's team? How big is the pool? If things are crowded learning is more difficult and it can also be more dangerous as the coach can not watch everyone.

Some things to watch out for:

  • coaches that yell. Yelling is not the proper way to teach and build self esteem. Coaches that do this are usually old fashioned or may have a temper.
  • Make sure the children are always supervised, especially in or near the water, regardless of how good they can swim.
  • If your child seems to lose interest talk to them and find out why. Maybe they don't like the coach. Maybe they are training too much (this is very common). There is nothing wrong in giving them a break, or even allowing them to try a different sport.

Keep Your Perspective

Sometimes coaches and parents (no offense meant to anyone) get a little bit too zelous about their child and their progress. As a former coach I've had parents of 6-7 year old, and after only a few months of training, ask me if their child will be good enough for the Olympics in a few years. These kind of questions are just ridiculous, but they are asked all the time. Sometimes coaches get so focused on success that they forget who they are really there for - the children. Sometimes parents try to fulfill their own dreams through their children and push too hard. None of these tactics will ever work. The first rule is that the child must be having fun. If they are not they will not last long. Oh sure, you can force them for a few weeks maybe a few months, but they will hate it and they will not progress. They may even start finding excuses as to why they shouldn't go to training. This will only lead to frustration for everyone involved. Remember that this experience is for the children, it is not for the parents and it is certainly not for the coaches.

Signs of over training or loss of interest:

  • Change in mood swings.
  • A drop in interest in going to training.
  • Excuses, maybe injuries, in order to avoid training.
  • A decrease in performance.
  • Always feeling tired.
  • Change in other areas, e.g. doing home work, playing with friends, etc.

If you suspect your child is losing interest talk openly about the situation. It doesn't mean you have to allow them to stop the sport, but maybe find ways to make it fun again. Find ways to take the pressure off and to reduce the stress. And maybe even take a break for a bit. Always keep in mind that if the child is not enjoying it there will not be successful at it.

Another thing to keep in mind is how far should your child continue. As they get better and older the club will expect them to train more days and become a more serious competitor. This is all fine if both you and your children feel the same. But if not then you need to make some decisions. As a former coach I've had parents put their children in other sports because they were expected to train more often, e.g. 6 workouts per week. This is a much bigger time commitment and also carries a bigger expense.

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