PARENT EDUCATION – November 2009–April 2010

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April 2010

Key To Goal Setting: Parent Support

The goal of goal setting with young swimmers is to learn how to set goals. With 10 and unders it is important that they are successful at achieving the goals that the coach and parents help them set.

However, part of learning how to set goals, and also a part of growing up, is an occasional failure at achieving a goal. Failing to meet a goal can have disastrous effects, or, can be part of a healthy growing experience, depending on the support of parents and coach. While it is probably not a good idea to allow 10 and unders to set goals that they probably cannot reach, with 11 and 12 year olds, one approach is to give them more freedom in selecting goals thus allowing them an occasional "opportunity to fail".

When properly guided, a young person who fails to achieve a goal can learn that success is often built upon failure. What would be the parent, coach, swimmer relationship for goal setting for 11 - 12's? For parents this can be a very challenging time. These young people are beginning to experiment with independence. You may find that your influence does not have the immediate impact that you are accustomed. When suggesting goals to your young swimmer, regardless of how appropriate the goals are, you are likely to find some resistance. However, the emotional support a young swimmer needs at this age from you is as great as ever. While the swimmer may not want to hear your suggestions for what to do in the pool, they sure need your support for what they are attempting to do, and sometimes fail to do.

Here are some questions you might ask your goal setting young swimmer.

bullet Have you and Coach Andersen talked about your goals for the season?
bullet What are the goals you have decided on?
bullet Did you write them down?
bullet What did Coach Andersen say you needed to work on in order to reach your goals?
bullet Did you get any closer to your goals today?

The coach begins to take on a more influential role in the swimming development of the young swimmer at this time. Swimmers sometimes think, eat, breath, sleep, and swim according to the direction of the coach and they may respond better to suggestions made by the coach than those made by you. For example, you may be trying to improve the nutritional aspects of your young swimmer's breakfast only to find a typical bit of standard 11 and 12 resistance. However, when the coach suggest the exact same advice to your swimmer he is ready to change his breakfast routine the next day. For this reason, plus the fact that the coach best knows the swimming abilities of your child, the primary influence in goal setting for 11 - 12's is the coach.

The coach acts as a guide, asking your swimmer appropriate questions to help him decide on goals. When your child has a goal in mind and is convinced he can achieve that goal, coaches (and parents) should accept it as a goal even if it seems too ambitious.

What happens when he fails to meet the goal? From you, he needs unconditional support and careful guidance.

Let's consider a situation where 12 year old Bobby has a best time of 1:07.5 in the 100 free, a "B" time. He has several "B" times in other strokes but no "A" times. His coach feels that a good goal for Bobby would be to make an "A" time in the 100 free, 1:03.19. However, Bobby has set his own goal of breaking a minute in the 100 free in the final "B" meet of the season. He knows if he breaks a minute he will qualify for the Junior Olympics and gain a spot on the relay. Contributing to Bobby's desire to qualify for Junior Olympics this season is the fact that he turns 13 shortly after the meet and he knows it will take a 55.3 to qualify for the next Junior Olympics as a 13 - 14 year old. Bobby also set three other goals which fall within the coaches expectations so the coach allows Bobby this "opportunity to fail".

During the season, Bobby makes steady progress as he drops his time in the 100 free to 1:04.0 and he is still hoping to break a minute. At the final "B" meet he goes a 1:03.0, a new "A" time, and wins the event. The coach and Bobby's parents are very pleased with his performance. Bobby, however, is dejected because he did not make his goal of breaking a minute.

Bobby's parents, sitting in the bleachers, observe him speaking with his coach. His mood does not noticeably change despite his coaches' congratulatory gestures, smiling face, and reassuring words. Now Bobby is on his way up into the bleachers to visit his parents. What's important to say to Bobby?

bullet First, attend first to Bobby's physical needs, "Are you warm enough? Please put on your warm ups. Do you need something to drink?"
bullet Then, do not deny him the opportunity to express his disappointment and do not minimize his feelings. You know it was a best time, and you know it was a good race, but you will not be able to MAKE him feel better by contradicting his feelings. Listen to him.
bullet Empathize with Bobby. Say, "I know how disappointed you must be."
bullet Allow Bobby to find the solution to his disappointment. "Why do you think you didn't make your goal?" Bobby can respond to this question in one of several different ways and your follow up will be based on that response. It is hard to generalize a conversation here, but what is important to remember is that through your questions and his responses, you want Bobby to realize that while his goal for breaking a minute is a good goal, his timetable for breaking a minute was too short and there are more things he needs to work on.
bullet Support Coach Anderson. Ask Bobby, "What did Coach Anderson say?" "That sounds like a good idea, do you think you can do that?"

The desired net result of the parent and athlete relationship in this type of goal setting situation is that the athlete receives support for his feelings and he comes to realize how to adjust his goal setting in order to be more successful next time. With this result, you'll find your young swimmer better equipped to establish his next set of goals with the knowledge that he has your unconditional support.

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Stunned, Shamed, Thankful and Finally... Helpful!

[Editors note: a letter from a club’s newsletter]

My Fellow Parents:

The word “ignoramus “ comes to mind, but then I realized I wasn't sure what an ignoramus was. After consulting Webster’s, I confirmed that I was one. You see an ignoramus is a person who simply doesn't know.

My wife and girls have been involved with the team for almost two years. With all their coming and going, I occasionally found myself tagging along, usually reluctantly, timing a race, helping out at the snack bar for a few hours, but not much else. It wasn't until our last home meet when I offered to help cook at the concession stand and do some prep work Friday night before the meet, that I realized how much of an ignoramus I really was.

I was amazed at how much work went into simply setting up the concession stand, and the shade areas for timers and judges. That night I got home at 10:30 p.m. After the meet on Sunday, all the stuff that got set up had to come down. I spent at least 3 more hours helping there as well as all day cooking and selling at the concessions.

That weekend left me stunned, shamed, and thankful all at once. Stunned because of the tremendous amount of man hours required to put on an event like that. Shamed, because where was I in the past when a dedicated few could have used some help to shoulder the load? I was also thankful for these people who were fun to work with and who had quietly and diligently served my children those past two years.

Well those of you who were like me, you can't be an ignoramus anymore because I just blew your cover. Maybe you'd like to come along at our next home meet and pitch in? There'll be plenty to do and there's a chance we could have some fun doing it.

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Weight Training for Age Group Swimmers

By Jack Wilmore, Ph.D., Physical Education professor at the University of Texas and Austin.

Generally, youngsters adapt well to the same type of training routine used by the mature athlete. One area of concern, though, is the use of weight training to develop muscular strength and muscular endurance. For many years, young boys and girls were discouraged from using weights for fear that they might injure themselves and prematurely stop their growth processes.

Results of animal studies suggest that heavy resistance exercise leads to stronger, broader, and more compact bone. However, since it is nearly impossible to load these animals to the same extent as youngsters, it has not been practical to design an experiment that accurately defines the risks associated; therefore the potential for injury and structural damage from heavy resistance appears to be extremely low. Still, since the future of the youngsters is at stake, it is appropriated to take a conservative approach until additional studies can be conducted.

Thus, to strength-train a young athlete, a program using low weights and high repetitions would be preferred to one using high weights and low repetitions. One of the safest techniques for strength training in youngsters would be to use the isokinetic concept of matching resistance to the force applied, so that the youngster does not have to contend with actual weights, such as barbells and dumbbells. Cybex, Orthoton, Mini-Gym, and Hydra-Gym are examples of isokinetic equipment.

It has been suggested that since young prepubescent boys have relatively low circulating androgen levels, there is no reason to expect them to benefit from strength training prior to adolescence. Several recent studies have demonstrated that prepubescent boys can not only participate in this form of activity but also can gain substantial increases in strength.

In a study conducted by Sewall and Micheli, prepubescent boys and girls took part in a nine-week progressive resistance strength training program, 25-30 minutes a day, three days a week (J Pediatr Orthop 1986;6:1234-6). They experienced a mean strength increase of 42.9%, compared with a 9.5% increase in a non-training control group.

Weltman and his colleagues followed 16 prepubescent boys (mean age 8.2 years) through a 14-week strength program using isokinetic techniques with hydraulic resistance (Med Sci Sports Exerc 1986;18:S55). Isokinetic strength increased 18-37% in these young boys. Only one injury was recorded causing the boy to miss three training sessions. In the control group of 10 boys six injuries were recorded as the result of activities of daily living. None of the boys had any evidence of damage to bone, or the muscle structure as a result of strength training. Form the results of these studies, one can conclude that young, prepubescent boys and girls can increase strength from using resistance exercise, and that few risks of injury are associated with such exercise. However, it should be noted that in both of these studies, free weights were not used. The resistance was provided by pneumatic (CAM-II), hydraulic (e.g., Hydra-Fitness and Orthotron), or fixed stacked weights (e.g., Universal Gym or Nautilus). The use of free weights provides a much greater potential for serious injury.

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One Day in the Life of an Age Group Parent

Guy Edson (from a 2003 Newsletter)

My wife was off to a continuing ed class. My 12 year old daughter was at swim practice. I had the much needed chance to spend a couple extra hours catching up with some work at the office. That is, until my cell phone buzzed at 5:30. “Dad, can you come pick me up?” “What’s wrong?” I asked. “I got kicked out of swim practice,” she said. I was stunned! My daughter is a fairly standard 12 year old, as fully capable of getting into trouble as any other 12 year old – except at swim practice where she is unusually compliant and very coachable. I decided we would talk about it later and said, “Well, just come home with Coach Rob like you always do and we will talk about it when you get home.” “Rob said you have to come pick me up now,” she said.

The pool is 18 miles from my office by way of the most congested interstate in the whole metropolitan area. The last thing I wanted to do is drive 45 minutes out there and another 45 minutes back. My building anger focused on Coach Rob. I thought to myself, “OK, my daughter screwed up but just let her swim. It’s no big deal. Besides, why do I have to pay the price? If it really is that bad he should just make her sit out and then bring her home like usual. After all, that is what I would do.”

Important note: I am also a swimming coach and have been for nearly 30 years. Nevertheless, the parent side of me had taken over my thought process and I wanted to blame the coach for the inconvenience I was facing. “…the inconvenience I was facing.”

Looking for a way out I asked, “What did you do?” She told me she was three minutes late to practice and he wouldn’t let her in the water. “Three minutes? THREE minutes?” I asked. In my mind I was cursing at the coach. “How could you be three minutes late to practice? You get there 45 minutes before practice time!” I said. She told me was doing homework in the locker room and lost track of the time. “And he kicked Jackie out too,” she said. I asked, “Jackie was doing homework also?” “No, she was changing her swim suit and we came out together.”

At that point distant memories started coming back and with them rational thinking crept back into my brain. In my 30 years of coaching, how many times did multiples of 11-12 year old girls emerge from the locker rooms 3 minutes late and how many ridiculous excuses had I heard? Plenty. And how many times was it the same group of kids? All the time.

“If I were to ask Coach Rob if this was the first time you were late, what would he say?” I asked. I heard a faint “what?” I repeated, “If I were to ask Coach Rob if this was the first time you were late, what would he say? Have you been late before?” “Sometimes.”

And what did I do years ago with those who became chronically late by 3 minutes? I sent them back to the locker room, and told them to call their parents. This scene is all too familiar to me.

“OK,” I said, “I’ll be there in 40 to 45 minutes. I’ll be thinking of the consequences along the way.” As a last ditch effort for clemency and a play on my fatherly love, I heard my daughter faintly say, “I’m sorry.”

When I picked her up I was all smiles. And she lighted up right away. She might have been thinking I was going to be cool about this. I asked her what homework she was working on in the locker room and she told me it was math. “You’re pretty good at math, aren’t you?” I asked. “Get out a piece of paper and pencil and solve this problem: a man drives a car that gets 15 miles to the gallon. He has to drive his car 36 miles. If gas costs $1.79 a gallon, how much did the trip cost him?” She loves these kinds of problems and started dividing then multiplying and proudly came up with, “Four dollars and twenty nine cents!” “That sounds correct,” I said. That’s what it cost me to come pick you up and it’s coming out of your next allowance.” The rest of the trip home was on the quiet side.

The next day, Coach Rob reported to me that she was on the deck 15 minutes early and ready to go.

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March 2010

The Marginally Motivated Swimmer

Guy Edson, ASCA Staff

The other day I was remembering a time when I was a much younger coach and the day I asked a swimmer to leave practice and “not to come back.” In recalling and thinking about this incident I believe there is a message for parents of older, aged 13 and above, lesser committed swimmers.

What was this swimmer doing that was so terrible? Nothing. He was doing nothing; and that was the problem. For whatever reason, he simply decided he wasn’t going to do the set I had prescribed and decided he was going to leave practice.

This 13 year old had a dismal attendance record making just a couple of workouts a week and when he did come there was minimal communication with me. He would arrive seconds before we began the first set and he would immediately leave after the last set. I only saw the mom one time; the dad, never. Quite simply, it appeared that he didn’t want to be there.

I thought about the incident throughout that evening and it was the first thing on my mind when I woke up in the next morning. I hated kicking a swimmer out of practice. I asked myself these questions:

bullet  Did I need to permanently dismiss him from the team?

bullet  Should I have just let him go without comment at the time or should I have taken the time to find out what was bothering him?

bullet  Should I have had a discussion with the parents long before the incident about what my expectations were and to find out what their expectations were?

Before I tackle those questions there are a couple of concepts I would like all parents to consider.

First, one of the primary duties of the coach is to provide adversity for the athletes. That may sound like an unusual way to describe it but the reality is that a workout is not meant to be easy. It is meant to be a physical and mental challenge. Good coaches throw the challenge out there and then attempt to provide the environment where the athlete’s will to meet the challenge is high. At older ages and upper levels, say 13 and over at sectional and above level, coaches sometimes design entire workouts meant to make the athlete fail – temporarily fail. At lower levels, right down to novice level swimming, swimmers need to be exposed to sets that are difficult, perhaps so difficult that no one can achieve the set. Good coaches use these sets to build a desire in the athletes to achieve higher levels of physical and mental toughness. Good coaches know that being successful requires a combination of challenge and success in the workout environment and that the relative amount of each will change as the swimmer ages.

The second concept has two parts: the coach’s time and effort; and the athlete’s submissiveness – best described as the athlete’s willingness to release themselves to the coach. To whom should the coach give their time and effort? Answer: to those athletes who give themselves to the coach. The coach has limited time and energy and the fairest behavior of the coach is focusing on those who are ready to meet the adversity. Coaches simply do not have time to coddle and convince reluctant swimmers to do work while there are other swimmers willing and ready to go.

Now, back to the questions at hand.

Did I need to dismiss him from the team entirely? In this case, Yes. But it should have been discussed with the parent the next day rather than shouted to him across the pool. Why dismiss him from the team? He had a poor history of effort, bad attendance, and it was not worth the team’s time to try change his work ethic. In a case where a swimmer had a history of good effort, and had shown a high degree of coachability – well, this situation wouldn’t have been an issue in the first place.

Should I have let him go without comment at the time? Yes. Running a workout where emotions are high is not the time to get into it with an athlete or the parent. It is better to discuss such things in a different environment at a different time.

Should I have take the time to find out what was bothering him? No. That would have been taking time from those in the water who were doing the work and that is where the coach’s focus needs to be.

Long before the incident should I have had a discussion with the parents about “expectations”? Absolutely Yes. This was a failure on my part – and the parents.

The bottom lines: There are adolescent swimmers who are of marginal ability who come to practice for a variety or reasons. Sometimes it’s friends. That’s a pretty good reason, but there has to be the willingness to work as well.

Sometimes it’s Mom and Dad making the child go to practice. There are good reasons and bad reasons for this. Good reasons include a sincere desire for the child to be involved in a wholesome activity. Bad reasons include a parent’s desire for the child to be a champion swimmer and earn a swimming scholarship when the child doesn’t have that talent.

Whatever the reasons, it is important for parents and swimmers and coaches to discuss their respective expectations with each other. Frankly, sometimes expectations just do not match up with what’s being offered or what is being done. And then it is time to think about moving on to another program or another activity.

Guy Edson is a Level 5 Age Group Coach and has enjoyed 5 years as a part time age group coach, 2 years as a full time age group coach, 8 years as a full time head coach, and 20+ years coaching novice/intermediate swimmers. (In that order.) And, 7 years as high school coach mixed in with the above. He has served as an ASCA staff member since 1988 where his favorite role is helping young coaches with everything from teaching techniques to designing workouts. He also manages ASCA’s Job Service program helping both coaches and employers with a wide range of needs including contract reviews, interviews, and relational and club structural issues.

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Training Aids: Legitimate Tools Or Frivolous Fads?

If you talk to parents of swimmers from other teams, if you read swim publications, or if you watch swimmers during warm ups at swim meets, you will notice a variety of training aids that swimmers lug around. Let's see, there are kick boards in every size and shape imaginable; there are tire tubes; there are paddles -- boy are there paddles!, round ones, rectangular ones, contoured ones, ones with holes, incredibly large ones, ones that cover the forearms, ones that inflate around the whole lower arm, etc, etc.; there are webbed gloves made out of lycra or latex rubber; there are fins - standard department store types, expensive scuba shop types, short stubby ones, monofins, and fins cut in a variety of shapes; there are ankle weights, wrist weights, and even head weights; there are fiberglass rods velcroed to the legs; there are suits with pockets in them; there are plain old sneakers used on kick sets; there are plain old t-shirts; there are plain old, really old, swim suits - two or three or four worn at the same time; there is tubing; there are stretch cords; there are short pull buoys, long pull buoys, and pull buoys that can be filled with water; and on and on and on.

When you notice a 10 year old star swimmer from another team lugging around a training bag with surgical tubing exploding from the torn end of the bag, you ask, "Could this be the reason she always wins?" Do you want to go out and buy surgical tubing for your young swimmer?

Or, between long course and short course season you are contemplating your child's swimming successes and short comings of the past season while you read an ad about a "revolutionary new" buoyancy device. Do you want to equip your child with it in time for the start of the season?

Who invents these things? What things really work and what things are commercial contrivances of questionable value? Can some of these devices do more harm than good? Should your child use some of these devices?

Most training aids are invented by coaches. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of training aids invented by coaches but only a few make it to commercial production. Most coaches do not invent a training aid for the profit potential but rather they are invented for the sake of improving an individual's or team's strength, speed, endurance, and/or technique.

Many coaches would add that training aids can do more than improve strength, endurance, and/or technique. They also add variety to a workout and help motivate swimmers.

What things really work? There are very few published independent studies done on specific training aids to test their effectiveness in speed, strength, endurance, or technique enhancing qualities. (Actually, I could not find any published independent studies -- but there might be some out there.)

But good coaches do not need studies to know that some things really do work. Most coaches use kickboards. Most coaches use pull buoys. Many coaches, but I'm not sure most coaches, use paddles. Same for fins. Fewer coaches use surgical tubing. Almost all coaches try nearly every training aid at least once but almost no one uses all the training aids all the time.

So what things really work? The answer is: most training aids, whether commercially produced or coach/home made, are effective to some degree when the coach and swimmer properly use them with respect to the developmental age of the swimmer, the psychological needs of the swimmer, the appropriate time during workout, and the appropriate time during the season. The answer also is: no training aid will work if not used properly.

Can some of these devices do more harm than good? The answer is a definite yes. No training aid is safe when improperly used. Most training aids are designed to increase resistance or to increase training speed. Excessive workloads with training aids can lead to overuse syndromes and injuries especially in younger children not physically mature.

Should your child use some of these devices? Who decides IF they should use training aids and if so, which aids to use? Questions like these are the reasons you and your Board of Directors hire a qualified professional coach. The coach makes these decisions based upon his or her experience and coaching education. If your coach is having your child use a training aid and you are concerned that use of that training aid may cause an injury, then speak directly to the coach about the extent and intensity of use for that training aid. If your coach is not using various training aids that you've seen or heard about and you are curious about, then once again speak with the coach.

When speaking with the coach keep these things in mind:

1. Approach the coach after practice or during office hours quietly and sincerely with an attitude of "Could you help me understand...". Many of the communication problems between coach and parent arise from abrupt challenges to coaches judgment calls.

2. Coaches have selected favorite training aids and don't like to be told they should be using additional or different methods. There is more than one way to accomplish a desired training effect and it is the coaches area of responsibility and authority to select that method.

3. There is a limited amount of workout time in the water and a coach must make decisions about the type of training aids to use and the amount of work using training aids. These things must fit in with an overall daily, weekly, and seasonal workout plan.

4. Smart coaches are not quick to jump on the bandwagon when a revolutionary new training device comes along. They want to speak with other coaches, observe its use, perhaps try it themselves, begin using it on a limited trial basis, and evaluate its effectiveness before using it on a regular basis with the whole team.

5. One of the great strengths of American Swimming is in the diversity of approaches coaches use to develop young swimmers. From this diversity comes great new ideas. Your coach may be a future Olympic coach and her use, limited use, or lack of use of a training device is her special approach to training your young swimmer.

6. Many training aids are not designed for young age groupers to use. Coaches like to introduce various training aids in a progression following the swimmer's developmental age and ability to handle greater workloads.

7. Some training aids have a dual purpose, they can be used at low resistance for stroke development, and they can be used at high intensity for speed, strength, and endurance development. A coach may use this type of training aid primarily for skill development with younger ages and gradually use it for more intense work as the swimmer grows.

8. Motivation is a large factor in the use of training aids. If a swimmer gets to use all the "toys" at an early age they will become bored in years to come as they keep using the same "toys". Smart coaches use this as a reason for the gradual introduction of training aids.

These are not easy issues for coaches, athletes, and parents. Questions about "how much", "how hard", and "what type" are part of the sport. Coaches will make decisions based on firsthand experience, information from other coaches, and published reports. Whatever the decisions are, one thing stands out, there are no quick answers and no short cuts. A new super duper revolutionary training aid will not transform your age group swimmer into a superstar. And even if there was such a thing, what would it mean? In age group swimming we want steady growth, a sound aerobic base, excellent stroke development, and an appreciation for the relationship between day to day effort and the realization of goals.

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After Your Child Swims the Event

By Guy Edson, long time age group coach

What’s the proper process immediately following the conclusion of the swimmer’s event? In this article I am going to talk about the age group swimmer who does not have the same immediate physical need to warm down as a senior swimmer does.

Many coaches want to be the first person to speak with the young swimmer immediately after their event is swum. Why? First, the longer the time between finishing the event and receiving constructive comments, the less the swimmer is going to remember about the swim. Being lead away by a loving and well meaning parent for treats or hugs or high fives from Grandpa, lessen the opportunity for immediate feedback from the coach. Secondly, the coach has critical commentary on the quality of the swim which is vital for the learning process and needs to be the first person to review the swim with the swimmer. If the swimmer hears either overflowing positives, or in some cases, harsh criticism from the parents before he or she visits with the coach it is very possible the swimmer is going to be receiving conflicting messages.

After an event I first ask my swimmers, "How did you like your swim?" I want to hear their feelings first. In some situations, when a swimmer displays excessive anger or crying after a swim I will ask them to warm down first, or to sit quietly in private for a few moments before talking about the swim. In these cases I am wanting them to learn how to manage their feelings and I prefer they not visit with Mom or Dad yet.

After listening to them I proceed to analyze the swim in three basic areas. Was it a best time? A best time is not the only issue but it is important. I make a pretty big deal about best times and I want the swimmers to recognize the importance of always trying for best times. However, I also look at how they swam the race – was it technically correct with proper pace and a good start, good turns, good stroke mechanics and a good finish? Sometimes a best time is tempered by the fact that the swim wasn’t really a “best swim.” I also look at the race. "Winning the race" refers to beating whoever they are close to in the heat. Sometimes it means winning the heat, sometimes it means winning the event, sometimes it means out touching the swimmer in the next lane for seventh place. The sport is a competitive sport and the ability to race is important. If a swimmer is successful at one of the three objectives I tell them they did a good job. If they are successful at two of the three, that's a better job. If they are successful at all three, then they did the best they are capable of at that point in time. I avoid using words like “unbelievable” or “great” preferring to leave them with a sense that they can always improve.

How can the parent respond? First, if the child forgets to go directly to the coach, please give them a quick hug and sent them straight to the coach. Afterwards, I think the most important thing is to simply love your child and provide emotional comfort. Congratulate them. Console them. Ask them how they felt about their swim before you tell them anything. Ask them what the coach said. But please, don’t add a technical critique, leaving that for the coach.

There is no doubt that a healthy parent-coach-athlete relationship is vital to the long term success of the athlete. Stay in touch with the coach, support him or her, and direct your children to the right places at the right times.

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February 2010

My Man Dan…

By Mike McCauley, Head Coach of Premier Aquatics, Houston Area

I drove to the pool that Monday afternoon, and I got a text from one of my swimmers. “I won’t be at practice today…I’m at the hospital…”

And as I come to the end of the season, with all my swimmers in prep mode for their various championship meets, it always gets a little tough. We, coach and athlete, are plagued by the unforeseeable. What’s going to happen?

I always get excited during this period because I know that, in the end…succeed to a certain degree or fail big…my kids will be forced to handle the outcome, no matter what. And how they handle each outcome is what helps to drive their character development and long-term success chances. Maybe they will be arrogant, maybe they will throw a fit…or maybe, just maybe, each of my athletes will use their various experiences as motivation to become better. Become better where? In school, with their parents, in training, in their future jobs…everywhere! If I can get them to solve a riddle that plagues most, then I get to taste a little success as their coach. What’s that riddle you ask? Here it is: How do you turn success, failure, or hard times, into an empowering situation?

Back in my car…naturally I called him right away. No answer. Dang it! What’s happened? I got a text response to my call. “They think I have diabetes.” What?!?! DIABETES?!?! You can imagine all the things that went flying through my head. That’s impossible. It can’t be right. That’s not fair. He was just tearing up last Friday’s workout, shook my hand, told me thanks for the workout, and went home…nothing out of the ordinary there. What’s going to happen?

Now I find it interesting that I asked myself the same question, only now, I suddenly didn’t care about what used to be at the forefront of my mind. Swimming, what? My priorities shifted quickly, a 180-degree turn to say the least. My man Dan…what’s going to happen?

Obviously my role was to relax my swimmers when I drove up to the pool. I was sure they already knew something. So I walked in, gathered up my kids, and told them about their teammate. We had a good workout that day…a tribute to my kids rolling with something unexpected but able to stay focused on the task at hand. They all wanted to help, but understood that there was nothing at the immediate moment to do for him, except complete a good workout.

The next morning, I drove down to Texas Children’s Hospital. On the way down, I called a dear friend of mine, one that could give me some good information on diabetes, then another for directions. I finally found my swimmer lying in a hospital bed on the 14th floor…room 1435.

When I walked in, Sudoku book and a goofy pen in hand, I had a plan for my man Dan: Laugh, talk shop, and then show him that the lessons he learned through swimming were being tested right here, right now.

I was fortunate enough to sit with his parents and listen as doctors and dieticians delivered a barrage of information. We all asked questions, trying to wrap our minds around the depth of this unfair diagnosis. Unfair. That’s what it was. If I could, I would have reached into his body and ripped it out…everyone was thinking the same thing.

We talked about the Olympic swimmer Gary Hall, Jr., and how he has diabetes. We looked through the Regional psych sheet, and talked about Sectionals. We discussed the lessons of swimming applicable to this scenario. And then I tried not to look while he gave himself his first injection.

And yet, through all of this, he was calm, not panicked. What? Could this be right? I watched a little more. He’s rocked that’s for sure, but he was unbelievably calm. My mind did a back flip! Are you kidding me? Here he is, learning how to cope with an unexpected, life-long disease…yet he’s not crying, he’s not shouting, he’s not blaming anyone, he’s not arguing; He wasn’t looking for a way out; he was looking for a way through!

I smiled all the way home from the hospital. What a remarkable young man! Put through an emotional gauntlet and still, he did not back down. My man Dan…he solved the riddle! Right there in that hospital room, under the most unlikely of circumstances, he solved it. What’s going to happen? I think I know…and so does he.

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Teaching Technique – What We Know, What We Think We Know, and What We Do

By John Leonard

One of the more common questions that parents have, is when/how the coach teaches the technical aspects of swimming to the athletes. First of all, we know that swimming is a “technique limited” sport. Which means that without good technical strokes, starts and turns, effort and hard work will only carry you a very limited way…..the fact that water becomes more resistant as you go faster, means that perfect technique is rewarded and impaired technique is punished with less speed for more effort. This is age old wisdom that is accepted by all experienced coaches and athletes.

We think we know, that we can teach good technique. Coaches spend countless hours learning not only WHAT a swimmer should do, but HOW to teach them to do it. It appears, in non-scientific terms, that when coaches spend time teaching technique, technique improves. We hope that means there is a direct correlation between our teaching and the athletes learning. It’s a reasonable belief.

Our friend Dr. K. Anders Ericsson at Florida State University, is the world’s leading authority on “becoming an expert” in any domain. Part of his research, written about in popular literature, is that it requires 10,000 hours of dedicated practice (which he terms “Purposeful practice”) in order to acquire “expert” status in any domain. Interestingly, if the ordinary swimmer begins practice at age 8 and follows a normal curve of increasing practice hours each year to age 17-18, they will have put in approximately 10,000 hours……which is a nice coincidence with the long held “truth” among coaches that it takes 10 years to “make a swimmer.” Science meets experience right in the middle, and both are validated.

Now “purposeful practice” is time that is focused on specifics and exacting detail in performance. It has constant and realistic and expert feedback from the teacher, and feedback again from the athlete to the teacher. The entire effort is hard work, not much fun, and mentally focused and exhausting effort.

Is that what we do in swimming? Not for most of us. When swim coaches teach technique, it is typically “to the team” or a group of the team, almost never in a sustained 30-60 minute burst of one on one teaching. (essentially a private lesson.) My friend Guy Edson, who edits and distributes this newsletter, describes it as working to “get in the same neighborhood” as a good stroke, with most of his novice swimmers. Not necessarily in the right house, much less in the right chair in the living room….just getting in the neighborhood. Swim Teams, by their very nature, of being “A TEAM”, do not allow much one on one teaching….or what Dr. Ericsson would call “deliberate, or purposeful practice.”

Of course, years of successful age group swimming would tell us that we’re being successful “somehow”. Perhaps at certain ages, “getting in the neighborhood” of a great stroke is enough. As the child matures, additional purposeful practice gets the athlete more finely tuned, and eventually, if they are purposeful and studious enough to warrant a lot of one on one attention from a coach, they will have the opportunity to personalize that perfect stroke for them….deliberate and purposeful practice at its best.

To be successful in swimming, we need to not only learn, but also to improve our physical state…training. Both are needed for top performance at all ages. So those 10,000 hours of practice we put in may not all be “purposeful and directed learning”, but many of them qualify as contributing to our eventual expertise.

The question for coaches? How to incorporate more of that deliberate and specific practice to improve strokes? And the question for parents and athletes? How to best apply the “training time” to swim the strokes in the patterns that have been taught by the coaches… they become habit and ingrained skill.

Improving the quality of our practices will improve the speed of our performances.

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Developing Swimmers Progressively

We develop our swimmers progressively with great patience. Winning is not an issue with our younger age groups. We want swimmers to be their best in their later teen and college age years. We spend the majority of time with our youngest swimmers developing technique, some time developing endurance, and very little time developing speed. As swimmers become older and more skilled we increase the amount of endurance work, continue to develop technique, and introduce “race preparation.” Racing preparation means learning how to race more than it means high volumes of quality speed work. At older ages and higher levels of skill the emphasis is on racing speed and competition while continuing to build long term endurance and continuing to refine technique and race strategy.

On the mental side we want the swimmers to learn to take responsibility for their own performance and to learn the importance and the thrill of meeting challenges straight forward. We also teach swimmers to; learn to read a pace clock and understand time relationships; learn about setting goals and the relationship between work and achieving goals; learn that everyone on the team contributes to each other's performance; and learn a sense of control in pacing swims, sets, and practices. Control allows for the highest levels of work without counterproductive out of control struggling. We feel this learned sense of control is applicable to other areas of life as well.

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Training Versus Learning

By John Leonard

Last week I was speaking to a young coach who had just taken a new job.

His specific problem was that the coach that was there before he was, had everyone “training hard” and had done a great job of selling that concept. Everyone from 8 and unders to seniors was pounding the yardage daily.

The new coach wanted to spend 6 weeks or so concentrating on skills development, because in the first few days on the job, he noticed that many of the swimmers were deficient in the types of stroke, turn and start skills that would support them as they aged into older swimmers in the program.

He’d laid out that plan to his parent group, including cutting back practices from 2 and one half hours per day to just 90 minutes for the older swimmers and 60 minutes for the middle groups and 45 minutes for the youngest swimmers. This, consistent with today’s best advice to dedicate oneself to “purposeful practice” of new skills if you hoped for optimum learning….shorter periods of intense concentration, with little to interfere with the concentration process.

He immediately faced rebellion.

Moms and a few Dads, called him to complain that important swim meets were coming up and their little darling needed to “train” in order to be successful. Interestingly, more than 70% of the calls came from the parents of younger children. The coach asked my advice on how to educate the parents on this issue.
Here’s my answer.

“Long practices, with high training volumes will make all swimmers VERY good at what they are doing. Repetition builds habit. Habit stands up beautifully under the pressure of competition…when in fact, nothing else does….as the pain of competition effort removes all traces of thought from the brain… becomes habit that the swimmer relies upon to get him home to the finish.

“Unfortunately, if they are practicing poor technique, that will be learned and habituated, just as well as good technique. And poor technique makes you biomechanically inefficient at the time of greatest stress. Hence you struggle more, go slower and your stroke collapses at the end of races.

“This makes swimming a technique limited sport. Your child will be severely limited by the degree with which they can perform the strokes with good habits, instead of poor habits.

“Lots of training with poor habits will make a very poor swimmer. A little training with good habits, will result in a good swimmer and one that is “unlimited” in their future.

“Which one do you want for your child?

HINT: Get the strokes right FIRST instead of purposefully practicing mistakes.

All the Best for Great Swimming Experiences!
John Leonard

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January 2010

Glycogen Depletion

By Keith B. Wheeler, Ph.D. and Angeline M. Cameron

Q. Can age-group children (9 12 years old) become glycogen depleted? How can a parent detect glycogen depletion and what should be done to correct it?

A. Yes, just like their older counterparts, age-group swimmers can deplete, or significantly lower, the glycogen (carbohydrate) stores in their muscles. If the body's need for energy to support growth and training consistently exceeds the supply, the athlete will become chronically fatigued. This fatigue is due, in part, to an inadequate supply of glycogen in the active muscles. Until the physical demand is reduced (training is cut back) or the supply of dietary fuel (mainly carbohydrate) is increased, the athlete will continue to be fatigued.

Detection of glycogen depletion is not easy because the symptoms are similar to those elicited by other physiological problems. However, chronic tiredness and/or early fatigue in a swimmer's normal training or exercise routine are the most obvious signs of glycogen depletion.

If the young athlete wants to regain his or her normal endurance and cannot realistically reduce daily activity, an increase in daily calories, especially carbohydrate calories is a must. Meals and snacks containing high-carbohydrate foods, such as bagels, potatoes, pasta, and fresh fruit, should be consumed. Concentrated liquid carbohydrate supplements, such as EXCEED\ High Carbohydrate Source, are also very useful in this situation. Liquid supplements provide needed carbohydrate calories without providing the bulk that would be in an equivalent amount of solid food. Additional bulk may not be well tolerated during an aggressive training program.

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Watching Your Child at Swim Lessons or Swim Practice

By Guy Edson

For many years I watched my daughter swim under the direction of other coaches. I have also watched her at basketball practice and games, and dance, and figure skating. I know the joy of watching her in these activities. I also know and understand the overwhelming desire to direct, correct, encourage, and sometimes scold her at practice. But these are not proper parental behaviors once I have released her into the care of a coach or teacher. As a parent, I am not to interfere with the practice or attempt to talk to my child during the practice session.

At swim practice coaches want the children’s attention focused on the coach and the tasks at hand. Occasionally children miss an instruction, or have a goggle problem, or are involved in some other distraction, or are simply playing and having fun – which are all normal behaviors for young children. Coaches view these little difficulties as opportunities for the children to develop good listening skills, ability to reason, and self discipline. Sometimes we allow failure on purpose -- a missed instruction leaving the child confused often results in the child learning to pay better attention the next time. We endeavor to provide an environment for the children to develop these skills. A well-intentioned and over-enthusiastic mom or dad sometimes has difficulty allowing their child to miss something and wants to interfere. It’s understandable.

We know it is common in many other youth sports for parents to stand at the sidelines and shout instructions or encouragements and sometimes admonishments to their children. However, at swim practice coaches ask parents not to signal them to swim faster, or to tell them to try a certain technique, or to offer to fix a goggle problem, or to move away from some other “menacing” swimmer, or even to remind them to listen to the coach. In fact, just as you would never interrupt a school classroom to talk your child, you should not interrupt a swim practice by attempting to communicate directly with your child.

What’s wrong with encouraging your child during practice? There are two issues. First we want your child to focus on the coach and to learn the skill for their personal satisfaction rather than learning it to please their parents. Secondly, parental encouragement often gets translated into a command to swim faster and swimming faster may be the exact opposite of what the coach is trying to accomplish. In most stroke skill development practices we first slow the swimmers down so that they can think through the stroke motions. Save encouragements and praise for after the practice session! This is the time when you have your child’s full attention to tell them how proud you are of them.
What’s wrong with shouting or signaling instructions to your children? When I watched my old daughter play in a basketball league I felt an overwhelming desire to shout instructions to my child and so I understand the feelings that most parents have. But those instructions might be different from the coach’s instructions and then you end up with a confused child. Sometimes you might think the child did not hear the coach’s instruction and you want to help. Most of us do not want to see our own kids make a mistake. The fact is that children miss instructions all the time. Part of the learning process is learning how to listen to instructions. When children learn to rely on a backup they will have more difficulty learning how to listen better the first time.

As parents, many of us want our children protected from discomfort and adversity and we will attempt to create or place them in an environment free from distress. So, what’s wrong with helping your child fix their goggles during practice time? Quite simply, we want to encourage the children to become self-reliant and learn to take care of and be responsible for themselves and their own equipment. Swimming practice is a terrific place to learn these life skills. Yes, even beginning at age 6 or 7.

If you need to speak to your child regarding a family issue or a transportation issue or to take your child from practice early you are certainly welcome to do so but please approach the coach directly with your request and we will immediately get your child out of the water. If you need to speak to the coach for other reasons please wait until the end of practice.

Thanks for bringing your children to swim practice. Every swim coach I know coaches each child with care for their safety and concern for their social, physical, learning skills, and life skills development.

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Learning to Prepare for the Best

John Leonard

As I write this in early January in Fort Lauderdale, the air temperature is a “balmy” 42 degrees….well, balmy if you’re from Green Bay, Wisconsin, maybe. Here in South Florida, that’s a cold wave. We swim outside, and the water temperature is 75 degrees…..the heaters can’t keep up when the air is this cold. The wind chill factor, according to Channel 7, is…well, we don’t want to know the wind chill with a nice brisk 20 mile an hour wind coming off the Everglades.

My phone rings at 5 AM and a small voice on the other end asks plaintively, “Do we really have swim practice, Coach John?” Yes, we really do.

WHY? Is the next question, which I wrestle with myself on the 15 minute drive to the pool….why put teenagers in the water on this cold and nasty morning when both they and I would prefer to stay snuggled in at home for another hour or hour and a half.

Now, I KNOW why, but can I express it to my swimmers? Yes, I’ll try. Everyone, on the day after the high school state meet, vows that “next year” they will A) make a final, B) make the meet C) win an event or D) write in your own goal here.

It’s easy to vow to do something the day after, when you are excited, full of the promise of life and get up and go. It’s a lot harder to REMEMBER what you wanted to do in early January when it’s 5 AM and cold outside. Then it’s a lot harder and a lot easier to rationalize, “it’s just one workout”.

The problem is, when teenagers begin to learn to rationalize, they get really good at it really fast, and pretty soon, the ACTION required to fulfill the commitments to those goals/dreams, falls prey to the rationalization. And after you rationalize the decision you want to make the first time, it’s so much easier to do it the next time, and the time after that, and pretty soon, the goal is just a dream, because you’re rationalizing yourself into thinking, “I’d like to do that if everything could be perfect for me, and it would never be cold in the morning, or no social events would ever conflict with practice, and time with my friends always went the way I want it to.“

But things never go perfectly. The ONLY thing you can successfully predict is that obstacles to your goal WILL come up, and little or nothing will go smoothly. And that consistency in preparation is the only way to raise the percentages of the chance you will reach your goal.

Read that again….”raise the percentages of the chance…” Not a guarantee. If it’s a good goal, there are no guarantees, EXCEPT that if you don’t prepare correctly, according to the plan, you won’t raise your chance of success, you’ll lower it.

So why go to practice at 5 AM in the cold? Because it’s part of the plan, and it raises your chance of success. But most of all, because you have told yourself that you will commit to doing it. And if you let yourself down, who won’t you let down? Prepare for a chance for success. And feel really good about doing that.

Because not very many people do.

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Gain Weight To Gain Strength

By Keith B. Wheeler, Ph.D. and Angeline M. Cameron

Should young (9 to 11 years old) male swimmers try to gain weight to gain strength? If so, what is the best way?

No, young male swimmers in this age range should not be too concerned with increasing their muscle mass to increase strength. Until they reach puberty, usually between 12 and 15 years of age, young men cannot increase their muscle mass rapidly because of the lack of the male hormone testosterone. However, studies have shown that with the appropriate weight-training program prepubescent boys can significantly increase their strength, despite the lack of muscle growth. The primary reason for this is that strength is regulated by factors other than muscle size -- namely, various neurological controls that are influenced by weight training.

For more detailed information on this subject, write to the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), Box 81418, Lincoln, NE, 68501, and ask for the position paper titled "Prepubescent Strength Training." This paper discusses benefits and risks of strength training and gives guidelines for a good program.

Additionally, ASCA sells a book written by two very well respected sports physiologists and published by Human Kinetics entitled “Strength Training For Young Athletes.” This book directly address the concerns of parents and coaches regarding strength training for young athletes, dispels the myths, and offers correct advice for properly administering a dryland training program. The book is available here.

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December 2009

What Motivates the Coach?

It's obvious that it's the coaches job to motivate the swimmers, but the question has come up as to who or what motivates the coach on a daily basis? We asked Coach Steve Bultman, ASCA Level 5, what motivates him. His answer:

"One of our problems has been that lots of good coaches have left the sport for various reasons and loss of motivation is a big part of that. I've found motivation in various places. First, I think the swimmers, above all, motivate the coach. One of the neatest things about our job is working with outstanding young individuals to help them reach their goals. When you have that kind of relationship, it's highly rewarding.

"The performance of the team also motivates the coach. There are days where you just have a great practice and everything goes well, and it's a great feeling.

"Other things also help keep a coach happy and involved with swimming. Parents who really believe in what you're doing and pitch in and help out where they're needed definitely make the job go better. I've also found that going to the ASCA Clinic gets your batteries charged and fills you with energy and ideas."

Another way to motive your coach is to give him or her a chance to be an "explorer"; a chance to maintain or improve their creative ability. Roger Von Oech, author of A Whack on the Side of the Head and A Kick in the Seat of the Pants spoke at the ASCA World Clinic in 1987. He said:

"I believe that in order to create anything, whether it’s an idea for a new swimming project, or a new business, or a new recipe for chicken, or a new fund raising idea, you have to have the materials in which to create. That means having facts, information, concepts, knowledge, experiences. Now, I find that a lot of people tend to look for information only in their own area. I do a lot of work with computer companies and I find computer people spending most of their time talking to other computer people. I work with bankers and they spend most of their time talking with other financial people.

"I would imagine there is some of the same thing in the swimming community. That's fine initially. Talk to your colleagues and peers, that is what this clinic is all about. Early on, I also encourage you to do this: put on the hat of the explorer and get outside your box. Venture off the beaten path and look for ideas in other fields, other sports, and other industries. Again and again, I've seen people poke around in outside areas, find something and bring it back to their own sport, give it a twist, and come up with something highly innovative.

Too often we expect coaches to be coaches 24 hours a day. Not only should we allow them time to be explorers, we should actively encourage them to seek activities, hobbies, and professional seminars to help them be better coaches. (Why not send your coach to a sales seminar?)"

In addition to encouraging and financially supporting coaches to attend seminars, coaches appreciate and are motivated by the Board of Director’s respect for their well being. Due to competitive schedules and over lapping seasons coaches often go weeks and sometimes months without a single day off and some coaches rarely take vacations. This week after seeing University of Florida’s highly successful football coach Urban Meyer step aside from his duties as head coach to attend to personal health and wellness issues is a reminder that our coaches need time to renew, re-energize, relax, and recreate. There is an excellent column by USA Today’s Mike Lopresti regarding Meyer. You can read that article here.

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Fast Food: How to Lift the Guise on Healthier Choices

Reprinted from Mayo Clinic Nutrition Letter with permission of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Rochester, Minnesota 55905

By changing menus and methods of cooking, fast-food restaurants are making it easier for you to eat more healthfully. But don't be fooled by products that sound healthy. Here are our suggestions for how you truly can trim calories and fat:

Be salad savvy -- Avoid the mistake of thinking "salad" is synonymous with "diet food." Salads can be sneaky about fat and calories. The taco salads offered at Wend's and Jack In The Box each deliver 500-plus calories, more than half of which come from fat. The meat and cheese in chef salads invariably overpower the vegetables to increase fat. Chicken and seafood salads usually are lower in fat and calories, averaging less than 200 calories.

It's the dressings that provide the crowning touch. They can add as much as 400 calories to any salad. Watch out for packaged dressings that contain more than one serving.

The calories and other nutrients are given for a one-half ounce serving, yet some packages hold up to 2.5 ounces. Ask for reduced or low-calorie salad dressing.

Choose chicken carefully -- Chicken may be naturally lower in fat than hamburger, but when breaded and fried, it loses its nutritional edge. At 688 calories and 40 grams of fat, Burger King's Chicken Specialty has 100 more calories and 20 percent more fat than McDonald's Big Mac. Chicken chunks, strips and "stix" have fewer calories than chicken sandwiches, but still carry a heavy load of fat.

The leanest chicken sandwich we found is Jack In The Box Chicken Fajita Pita for 292 calories and 8 grams of fat -- if you skip the guacamole.

Be suspicious of specialty sandwiches -- Even non-fried sandwiches made with lean turkey or ham can be deceiving. Hardee's Turkey Club packs more calories and as much fat as McDonald's Quarter Pounder. General clues to keep in mind when deciding about this type of sandwich are its size and the amount of cheese, mayonnaise or special sauces.

Order burgers plain and non-imposing -- You know you're headed for calories and fat if you order a burger billed "jumbo," "ultimate," "double" or "deluxe." You may have to search the menu board a bit, but all major franchises offer a plain hamburger for under 300 calories. At Hardee's and Roy Rogers, the roast beef sandwich is one of the leanest items you can order.

Don't read too much into the hype about healthier fat -- Switching from animal to vegetable fats is one step to lowered dietary cholesterol and saturated fat. But it doesn't transform fried foods into healthy options. Large orders of McDonald's french fries (cooked in an animal/vegetable blend) and Hardee's french fries (cooked in vegetable oil) have about 20 grams of total fat. Hardee's fries have no cholesterol and a bit less saturated fat. But the key to your heart health is trimming total fat, and all fried fast foods still fail to do that.

You make the call -- Fast food has come a long way since the days of only burgers, fries and shakes. More food options can make it easier for you to elude excess fat and calories for speed and convenience. Nevertheless, it all comes down to what you say when the person at the counter asks, "May I take your order?"

Here are the leanest and fattest fast foods you can eat

We* reviewed products offered at six popular fast-food franchises. In terms of fat and calories, here are the best and worst choices you can make:

Best Picks


Fat (grams)
Burger King Chicken Tenders (6 pieces)
Hardee's Chicken Stix (6 pieces)
Jack In The Box Chicken Fajita Pita
McDonald's Hamburger
Roy Rogers Roast Beef Sandwich
Wendy's Plain Single

Worst Picks


Fat (grams)
Burger King Whopper with Cheese
Hardee's Bacon Cheeseburger
Jack In The Box Ultimate Cheeseburger
McDonald's McD.L.T.
Roy Rogers Bar Burger
Wendy's Bacon Swiss Burger

Note: Calories and fat are based on the most recent printed information provided to us by each company.

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Fast Food: Breakfast Choices

Warm-ups for the morning session start at 7:00 am, your two children need a breakfast, you're in a strange town, and the only place you can find for breakfast is one of the fast food places. What to do?

The most important thing to do is avoid fats for two reasons: 1) Fats have an immediate and dramatic effect on the ability of the circulatory system to carry nutrients, especially oxygen, to muscle cells. For young people about to participate in a swimming meet this is a definite handicap. And 2) As part of developing lifetime habits for long term health, people of all ages should keep their daily fat intake to less than 30 percent of the total calories consumed.

The Mayo Clinic Nutrition Letter offers these tips:*

You don't always have to nix nutrition for speed and convenience. Fast foods may not make ideal meals, but some do offer healthful carbohydrate and only moderate amounts of fat. You also can downplay fat excesses by sorting out subtle differences among items. Consider these points the next time you're grabbing breakfast on the run:

Keep it simple -- The fewer ingredients you order in breakfast sandwiches, the lower the fat, sodium and calories. Hold the sausage and bacon.

Order it "drier than a biscuit" -- The English muffin is the lowest-fat breakfast food on most quick-service menus. Order it dry and substitute jelly for the butter; this virtually eliminates fat. When other ingredients are equal, a sandwich made on an English muffin is lower in fat than one on a biscuit. Croissant sandwiches are highest in fat. "Croissant" may sound light and airy, but it contains twice the fat of a biscuit and six times the fat of an English muffin.

Choose "cakes" instead of eggs -- Pancakes, even with a little butter, offer more energizing carbohydrate and less fat and cholesterol than egg dishes.

Below are three of the lowest-fat breakfast options found by the Mayo Clinic Nutrition Letter: These meals supply 20 to 30 percent of daily protein for the average adult, about 25 percent of daily calories for the average women, complex carbohydrates, vitamin C, and, in one example, calcium.

1. McDonald's Hotcakes with butter and syrup, orange juice,coffee: 493 calories,16% of calories from fat.
2. McDonald's English muffin with butter, orange juice, low-fat milk: 384 calories, 23 % of calories from fat.
3. Jack in the Box Breakfast Jack (egg, ham and cheese on a hamburger bun), orange juice, coffee: 387 calories, 30 percent of calories from fat.
*Reprinted from Mayo Clinic Nutrition Letter with permission of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Rochester, Minnesota, 55905.

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November 2009

Turning Obstacles into Opportunities: Coping with Adversity is the Key

Dr. Scoresby, Ph.D

Nothing in the world will take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan, “Press on” has evolved and always will solve the problems of the human race. -Calvin Coolidge

Some parents think they can make sure their child has good self-esteem if they can shelter or protect her from trials, frustration, uncertainties and setbacks. The opposite is true. Their continual attempts to make their child happy and to protect her from every potential unpleasantness will most likely undermine her self-esteem. Allowing your child room to grow, make mistakes, deal with defeat and overcome problems is essential in the development of healthy self-esteem. You cannot bestow self-esteem, but you can help your child develop it by:

1. Helping your child set goals
2. Encouraging your child to challenge himself and improve his talents
3. Giving your child chores and responsibilities appropriate to his age and ability
4. Teaching your child that he is responsible for his own happiness and accomplishments
5. Providing academic and psychological support

By allowing your child a controlled amount of frustration, you’re showing confidence in her. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should leave her to deal with a hopeless situation alone. There are certainly times she will need your assistance. You can continue to be concerned and involved while encouraging independence.

Strategies to Promote Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem

In School
If you believe your child lacks self-esteem and/or self-confidence because of problems he is having at school, talk to his teacher. If he is having difficulty academically, perhaps the teacher can suggest ways to give him opportunities to improve his self-confidence. For example, he could be encouraged to work on projects that will utilize his talents. School achievement is very important in the development of self-confidence.

At Home
Create and environment in your home that encourages the development of self-esteem. According to Dr. Ida Greene, an expert on developing self-esteem, the ingredients of such a home are:

1. Express love
1. Encourage goal-setting
1. Communicate honestly
1. Encourage independence
1. Define your family’s values
1. Create security and stability
1. Establish reasonable standards
1. Be consistent in your discipline
1. Create opportunities for success
1. Express faith in your child’s abilities
1. Praise your child’s accomplishments
1. Require age-appropriate responsibility
1. Provide emotional and academic support

If these ingredients are present in your home, your child will feel more secure, will like and respect herself, and will consider herself to be worthwhile and competent.

2. If your child’s poor self-esteem is chronic, she is probably suffering from emotional problems. The reasons for these problems need to be examined in counseling or psychotherapy. According to Greene, “Serious self-esteem deficits will not disappear of their own accord. The child who dislikes herself and feels “bad” will most likely continue to feel this way throughout her life unless she receives help from a mental health professional.” Academic success will not provide her much enjoyment or satisfaction. If you get help for her before her bad feelings become permanent you will give her a brighter future.

Dr. Scoresby holds a Ph.D from the University of Minnesota in Counseling Psychology and is the author of many books, including Teaching Moral Development, Focus on the Children and Something Greater than Ourselves: The Exercise of Extraordinary Leadership. He is the director of Knowledge Gain Accelerated Learning Center and president of A. Lynn Scoresby & Associates, a leadership development firm.

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Eating on the Road

By Linda Houtkooper, Ph.D., R.D.

What should swimmers eat when swim meet or vacation takes them on the road? Should the foods for best performance be sacrificed for popular, convenient, fatty foods or is there something else they can eat?

Swimming success depends on ability, top-notch training, coaching, and good nutrition. Proper nutrition for swimmers includes foods that provide all essential nutrients in the proper amounts for good health and performance.

Nutrition-conscious swimmers know that they need high carbohydrate, low fat foods to perform their best. The best diet for training and performance is the VIM diet.

V= Variety of wholesome foods that provide the proper amount of nutrients to maintain desirable levels of body water, lean body mass, and fat. These foods will also maintain good health.

I= Eat foods that are individualized. Foods should reflect personal like. They should also make it possible to follow religious food preferences. Avoid foods that cause allergic reactions, and those the body can’t tolerate. Only use nutritional supplements recommended by your doctor or registered dietician.

M= Eat moderate amounts of foods that are high in fat, sugar, or sodium.

Use the suggestions below to maintain your top-notch VIM diet “on the road.”

Order pancakes, French toast, muffins, toast, or cereal, and fruit or fruit juices. These foods are all higher in carbohydrates and lower in fat than the traditional egg and bacon breakfasts. Request that toast, pancakes, or muffins be served without butter or margarine. Use syrup or jam to keep carbohydrate high and fat to a low. Choose low fat dairy products, milk, hot chocolate, etc. Fresh fruit may be expensive or difficult to find. Carry fresh and/or dried fruits with you. Cold cereal can be a good breakfast or snack; carry boxes in the car or on the bus. Keep milk in a cooler or purchase it at convenience stores.

Remember that most of the fat in sandwiches is found in the spread. Prepare or order your sandwiches without the “mayo,” “special sauce,” or butter. Use ketchup or mustard instead. Peanut butter and jelly is a favorite and easy to make, but remember that peanut butter is high in fat. Use whole grain bread and spread more jelly, while using a small amount of peanut butter. Avoid all fried foods at fast food places. Salad bars can be lifesavers, but watch the dressings, olives, fried croutons, nuts, and seeds; or you could end up with more fat than any super burger could hope to hold! Use low fat luncheon meats such as skinless poultry and lean meats. Low fat bologna can be found in the stores, but read labels carefully. Baked potatoes should be ordered with butter and sauces “on the side.” Add just enough to moisten the carbohydrate-rich potato. Soups and crackers can be good low fat meals; avoid cream soups. Fruit juices and low fat milk are more nutritious choices than soda pop.

Go to restaurants that offer high-carbohydrate foods such as pasta, baked potatoes, rice, breads, vegetables, salad bars, and fruits. Eat thick crust pizzas with low fat toppings such as green peppers, mushrooms, Canadian bacon, and onions. Avoid fatty meats, extra cheese, and olives. Eat breads without butter or margarine. Use jelly instead. Ask for salads with dressing “on the side” so you can add minimal amounts yourself.

Eat whole grain bread, muffins, fruit, fruit breads, low fat crackers, pretzels, unbuttered popcorn, oatmeal raisin cookies, fig bars, animal crackers, fruit juice, breakfast cereal, canned meal replacements, and dried and fresh fruits.

Linda is a Food Nutrition Specialist at the Cooperative Extension Service at the University of Arizona. She was once the author of a question/answer column in Swimming World magazine and she gave a presentation on nutrition at the ASCA World Clinic.

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Competition and Children

Here are some thoughts on competition and children from Rainer Martens, founder of modern sports psychology. Martens, Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois, founded the American Coaching Effectiveness Program, and is one of the leading authorities on children in sports.

The Early Years

According to Martens: “Competitive sports evolve out of the process of social evaluation.” Children begin competing with each other from a very young age, but focus mainly on their own efforts. Each can happily claim to have “won,” simply meaning they have done something well and are satisfied. These games are very healthy growth experiences because there are no “losers.” At 5 and 6 years of age they begin to compare their efforts with others. In other words, they learn to keep score. Martens says this process of competing and comparing is part of what helps kids “find out what they can and should be.”

Problems emerge when winner/loser comparisons overshadow the importance of competing with oneself to do things better than they have been done before. At this point, competition stops building character and confidence and begins to tear it down.

Can Competitiveness Be Taught?

All coaches are familiar with the idea that some youngsters thrive on competition, while others shrink from it, but Martens thinks that in the right environment, children can learn competitiveness by being taught to concentrate on mastering specific techniques. This not only improves the mechanical aspects of performance, but is also the best way to reduce competitive stress. “If people focus on mastering specific acts they can learn to control their performance.” On the other hand, the thing over which a young swimmer has the least control – how fast competitors swim – is the greatest source of anxiety in competition.

Martens advice to coaches and parents of young athletes is to concentrate on how to improve performance rather than on what happens if the child wins or loses. “Focusing on smaller, more solvable technical challenges increases physical efficiency, and reduces anxiety and stress,” Martens says. “This increased the number of potential winners because skill instead of the final score has become the immediate objective.”

Every Child Is A Winner

In this scenario, an age group swimmer’s final instructions before a race would focus on successfully doing something he or she previously had difficulty with – keeping the hips up on the last half of a butterfly race; or pressing through to the hips in the freestyle stroke -- rather than on “beating that kid in lane 5.” After the race, the child could then be congratulated on his or her technique improvement, no matter where he or she placed. In this way, a race with 30 contestants could potentially yield 30 winners rather than 1 winner and 29 “losers.” This gives life to the credo “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game that counts.”

Martens thinks the competitive climate for youth athletics is steadily improving as more youth coaches learn to teach mastery of sports skills, and understand why it is advantageous to do so. “At the recreational level there is more and better, more useful and pleasant competition going on than ever before.”

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Thoughts on Age Group Development

We do not need to give all the available meets, awards, training time, or even training techniques to all levels and all ages of swimmers. Life is progressive. We cannot drive until we are sixteen, we cannot vote until we are 18. Just because we have seniors swimming at prelim and final meets doesn't mean that age group swimmers need to also. Age group swimmers do not need the same kind of awards which seniors receive. Our system gives too much too soon and sets up for a serious problem because every level looks the same. Let the swimmers grow through the sport rather than giving it to them. Let them experience racing, winning, and losing but they do not need twelve solid years of these things to become effective prelims-finals swimmers.

- Peter Malone
ASCA Level 5
K.C. Blazers

Sometimes young swimmers perform exceptionally well quite simply because they are "big for their age" and, or, they are capable of working harder. They do not need to depend on technique and they may, or may not have better technique than slower swimmers. If we could go back and get a physical description of all the 10 and under swimmers who were nationally ranked, I think we would find that these young athletes were all more physically developed than the average 10 and under.

Most of these children will not continue dominating their age group into the senior years as other swimmers catch up in size and ability to work. Unfortunately they may not have developed the quality of skills other swimmers have. Too often the result is a young senior swimmer who becomes frustrated at losing when he had been so used to winning.

There are two important points for parents to keep in mind:

1. Skills need to be the basis of an age group program, not distance.

2. It is a mistake to seek a distance oriented age group program to place your child in so that he can keep up with other faster swimmers.

Age group swimmers should concentrate on fundamentals and not senior oriented yardage so that they can learn correctly. There is a proper time and place for athletes to take part in a serious training program but it is not for our younger swimmers. We must accept the fact that we are not dealing with miniature adults.

- Jim Lutz
ASCA Level 5

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