Next week the Terra Linda Orcas along with most of the rest of the Marin Swim League will begin regular spring time practices. Practice will be offered five evenings a week throughout the season, so the question most parents will be faced with is, “How many practices should my child attend?”
Ideally your child will want to practice five evenings a week because they love the sport! You won’t be able to keep them out of the water and they will be begging to do double sessions. Reality is another matter, especially when the evenings are in the 50s or less and wind starts to kick up.
What I’ve learned from three full seasons on the pool deck with one daughter and a season and a half with the other is that one or two practices each week don’t help my kids swim faster. In fact they regress when they swim so infrequently. Three practices a week help the maintain their shape and times. And four to five practices a week lead to faster times almost every week. It’s pretty amazing to watch.
Some kids are happy to swim regularly. Others would prefer to swim only occasionally. Each child seems to be different, but one thing is certain: if they apply themselves, try hard and practice regularly they will get better. Like horses, you can lead your kids to water but you can’t make them drink, or swim as the case may be.
It’s not often that I dig up my surfing roots to apply life lessons, but here goes...
In the most recent edition of Surfer Magazine (April 2012) professional surfers are interviewed along with their surfing kids on the subject of nature vs. nurture. Former pro surfer Matt Archbold was quoted about his son’s development, “Ford started surfing when he was 9, but I didn’t ever push him. I didn’t want to steer him away from it. I let him do his thing.”
On the other end of the spectrum Kolohe Andino’s father took a very active role in his son’s development from an early age, “…training, coaching and guiding him to be a top-notch competitor,” according to the article’s author Janna Irons. Despite the different paths both Matt and Kolohe became professional surfers like their fathers, and at this time Kolohe is more accomplished. From the pictures these kids hardly look out of their teens, so there’s plenty of time to fill out those surfing resumes.
Most of our kids won’t become professional athletes. The vast majority won’t be offered college scholarships, much less even play on a college team other than intramural sports. I think the most cogent lesson in all this comes from Michael Ho, but not exactly in the way he thinks. Michael is a legend at the North Shore’s Pipeline.
“The main advantage my kids had is probably just going to the beach so much and surfing with me and all their uncles a lot. Kids that surf around good surfers get better.” Michael was quoted. All the professional surfers took their kids to the beach on a regular basis. They were all exposed to great surfing, and that had to make a big difference.
Have you ever heard any surfer say, ‘Jeez, I’m spending way too much time at the beach!’ Or how about, ‘I’m so burnt out on surfing.’ It just doesn’t happen because of the common denominator, most people love the beach, surfers of all abilities love the surfing and if they could they would surf as much as possible. I know I would.
That gets me back to our swimmers. All most of us really can do is encourage and expose our kids to swimming and other sports. I’ve been known to give my kids a little nudge and offer incentives, but ultimately if they didn’t enjoy swimming they wouldn’t be in the pool. I just wish they wanted to learn to surf.