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Compiled by Late Shri Sandeep Divgikar
There is frequent confusion among parents, coaches and swimmers about what is "important" in youth athletics. The items discussed below are worthy of consideration by anyone involved in the sport of swimming.

First is the concept of IMPROVEMENT in all things. Swimming is a great sport because of its complexity and clarity. The athlete can clearly measure his improvement in time, and he alone determines his result. No official or opponent will affect the time he gets, or the degree of satisfaction with the results. It's important to recognise that improvement is multifaceted. It can mean swimming faster, it can mean swimming better, and it can mean understanding better, or communicating better, we all look at the children's times, but we should also look closely at stroke improvements, new turn techniques and starting procedures. Technical improvement is of more long-term value than dropping a half second with mighty effort! We should appreciate improvement in the athlete's ability to evaluate his race results and needs, and especially, to look for attitudinal growth into a mature competitor who is equally adept at handling the good times and the rough times of an age group career. Concentrating on personal improvement is the key to a long and happy swimming career. Each race will have only one person finish first, but everyone can be a winner everytime if you use the "Improvement" key.

A second "Important" things is accepting the concept of competing with, not against. The old Greek derivation of the word "compete" means to "strive with". The key word which gives the co-operative notion to the striving. Much too much nowadays, we think of the words WIN or LOOSE when we think of "worthiness". That misses the real idea of competition. Age group athletics is wonderful because it is an opportunity for youngsters to test their own limits with one another.

The third important philosophical consideration is recognising the concept of "The Rose within the Bud. "No one ever criticises the bud on the rose as not being a "perfect rose." We accept the bud as a stage in the development of the rose, Yet frequently we are impatient with our young athletes, and expect them to be "The Rose" right now. Children grow at different rates. Children understand and learn at different rates. Children get muscles at different ages. The only thing that is stable is that they want to have FUN.

The fourth major concept is that of "co-operative effort" or "the sum as more than the parts." Children need to learn the importance of TEAM. Not just in athletics, but in life itself. Working together is not a natural thing. It must be taught and learned. The key here is improvement, and showing the child that it comes sooner and faster when one works with other people who are interested in the same things. Sharing goals means sharing the work and hence, sharing the effort required. Humans love companionship, especially when they are trying to do something challenging. Watching a few good senior workouts would be a good example, as one sees athletes sharing the lead on whatever drill they excel in, and being pulled along by others in their weak areas. Good athletes come from good role models and the TEAM environment provides the mixture of leadership.

The fifth "Important" concept is a vital one to the overall growth and development of your youngster. Anything that takes up as much time as swimming must help in developing the positive self-image of the youngster. This is not to say that every experience need be positive (it won't!) but that collectively, the program should provide avenues for a positive growth. The self-image most people would like for their children would include things like : "I am a good learner, I am intelligent, I have compassion for others, I can lead others when appropriate, or follow other good leadership. I am healthy, strong and fit, and I will become even fitter. I can handle defeat and be gracious in victory, and remember what I am what I am because of the influences of many other people, to whom I owe a debt of gratitude." There are innumerable opportunities in competitive swimming for healthy self-image building and your athlete, with your guidance, and that of the coach, can build a strong, secure sense of who he is.

The sixth item is the simplest of all - All of the five items above should add up to Fun - Satisfaction - and Good Feelings. In the end, without fun, the rest of the items above will be useless. People will not continue things they don't get "rewards" for, and fun, in this case is the very best of rewards.

Now that we know that's important, let's go to a swim meet and see all of the other parents while the children have fun!