By Pete Caragher, Aquatics Director and Flying Fish Head Coach
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The annual swim marathon is an important event for the YWCA Flying Fish swim team for many reasons.
The marathon raises funds for YWCA Evanston/North Shore’s programs that support our mission to empower women and eliminate racism and helps ensure we can provide equitable and inclusive access for all to the life-saving skills, physical and mental wellness, confidence-building, and social connections that our aquatics programs provide. The marathon is also extremely vital because it provides a benchmark and important measure for our young swimmers. It helps them (and us, their coaches) know how they are progressing on a yearly basis while fueling their self-confidence.
Except for 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 – these aren’t always controllable. Even though best times and places at a meet are used to motivate swimmers and serve as teaching tools, they are not always true indicators of swimming development and improvement.
A few of the best indicators of swimming improvement are the following:
- keeping stroke mechanics together with increased training workloads,
- repeating sets at faster interval levels, and
- swimming longer distances in a fixed amount of time: the swim marathon.
The very nature of swimming, from beginners in lesson to swimmers practicing and competing at a high level, 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 swimmers but as people.
We often see parents take opportunities to learn and grow away from their children because they fear their children will feel hurt or disappointed, or they will fail. 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, the swim marathon is one of the most exciting and gratifying events of the year. They are able to come together to demonstrate to themselves, friends, and family what they have accomplished with the awareness that the work they are putting in is not only beneficial to their own growth, but it helps to eliminate barriers and provide the same opportunities to traditionally marginalized communities.