by Pete Caragher
Director, Flying Fish Aquatics
In addition to raising critical funds for the YWCA, the swim marathon is an annual measure of how all of our swimmers are progressing.
When preparing daily for practice and placing swimmers within practice groups from season to season, it is necessary for us to see, on an ongoing basis, how swimmers meet the challenge of the marathon each year.
Swimmers are placed into groups based on stroke mechanics, how many seasons they’ve been on the team, maturity level and endurance/aerobic capacity. With the exception of the more senior groups, it doesn’t matter how fast someone swims in any particular event or what place they come in at a meet (those aren’t controllable).
Keep in mind the following – even though best times and places at a meet are used to motivate and as tools to teach, they are not always a true indicator of swimming development/improvement. A few of the best indicators of swimming improvement are the following: keeping stroke mechanics together with increased workload, repeating sets at faster interval levels (usually senior or pre-senior training) and swimming longer distances in fixed amount of times – the swim marathon.
The very nature of swimming from the very beginning lesson levels (tadpoles, bullfrogs …) to upper swim team levels is to help swimmers become comfortable being uncomfortable – physically, socially, emotionally, and psychologically. When children find themselves challenged in one of these areas, it is an opportunity for them to grow and mature not only as a swimmer but as a person. We often see parents take these opportunities to learn and grow away from their children because of the fear of them hurting, feeling disappointment, and/or failing. But putting children in these types of situations and challenging them to keep going even when they want to quit is one of the most valuable teaching tools we have.
It is normal for both parents and their swimmers to be anxious before the swim marathon, but each year both parents and swimmers come away with an appreciation for how far they have come in a year and a realization that they are capable of far more than they thought possible. For swimmers, parents and coaches alike, it is one of the most exciting and gratifying events of the year.