“You should be in severe pain while training.“
“If you are not making the pace times, its your fault…”
“You should be exhausted, totally exhausted at the end of each rep”
My daughter joined her high school swim team to participate in some swim meets, to have some fun.
Above is what my 14 year old daughter was told this past week by the coach of the high school swim team.
And it wasn’t just my daughter, it was the entire group of swimmers at the pool who were instructed in this manner.
Let that sink in for a moment…
In one swooping statement, this coach has labelled all these teens showing up at 6:30am to the Burlington Y pool as slackers, as physically and mentally weak individuals, as wannabe athletes.
This is a coach who has known my daughter for no more than a couple of practices, yet proclaims to know exactly what pace times she can and cannot make and is able to already discern with certainty that my daughter and everyone else in the pool are not trying?
This is a coach who is instructing teens – kids! – that the way to improve, the path to progress is by hurting yourself, inflicting self-harm, by inducing pain.
This is a coach who is modelling for teens that the way to help someone improve is to berate them, demean them, belittle them, done while sitting atop their high horse so all can see them character assassinate the athletes who woke up early to be at the workout.
And we have bullying issues.
Gee… I wonder why?
A couple years back while coaching the Burlington Masters Swim Team (BMSC), one of the top female athletes on the team shared with me that back when she was a teen swimming on the local Burlington age group swim team the coach told her, along with other females on the team that they were “fat!”
That these comments led to body image issues should be no surprise.
That these comments led a few of the athletes to develop eating disorders should also come as no surprise.
That there are any kids still in sport with this passing as coaching… now that… that is indeed a surprise.
This mindset that “the end justifies the means” is the byproduct of ignorant coaches with over-inflated egos who need to deliver a crushing blow to someone in order to feel good about themselves. To permit this to pass as coaching is to permit our impressionable youth to be struck again and again, blow after blow with narratives, attitudes, and mindsets that will eat at them throughout their lives… first in sport and in school, then in relationships, and finally in their private and professional adult lives.
Meanwhile, sports associations, parents, educators and health professionals are dumb-founded by the stats of tweens and teens dropping out of organized sport, by the fact that tweens and teens are coming to dislike sport, even hating sport, and the array of physical, mental and emotional health issues faced by children.
Gee… wonder why?
One of the local [Burlington] Swim Ontario affiliated age group swim teams today has a policy where parents are not permitted on deck during workouts.
Gee… wonder why?
What is being said on deck that parents cannot be permitted to hear?
What is being said on deck to our children that coaches cannot say in front of the parents?
What is being repeated? That our children are… fat, slow, incompetent, weak …?
I brought this point up with Swimming Natation Canada (SNC) when I asked to be permitted to coach my own children (Gee… wonder why I would do that) and that they be allowed to compete unattached from a club. SNC replied that the “intensity of training is of such high level in the sport of swimming” that membership to a club is mandatory. As in… we need to force athletes to be in such extreme pain while swimming in order for it be considered training?
Gee, that sounds familiar… where did I hear that recently… oh yeah, my daughters high school swim team coach.
In addition, SNC defended the policy of secrecy and silence held by this swim team, endorsing the fact that there are times that a coach has to say things to the athletes that a parent may misunderstand.
Pray tell us… what would a coach have to say to my child that I as their parent could not possibly appreciate, even in the context of training?
As a parent, you mean to say that I am so ignorant in the ways of coaching that I will misunderstand and stand in the way of the ‘good intentions’ of a verbally abusive coach calling my child… weak, afraid, fat …. because its meant to be motivating, inspirational, uplifting and encouraging in some manipulative, perverted manner?
A Call To All Parents:
Organized sport associations and coaches have allowed their positions of authority and power to go to their heads.
It is time to take sport back, and return it to our children.
Our children need sport as a playing field where they can learn skills, techniques, they can learn to socialize appropriately both as individuals and as team members. Our children need to learn how to strive, excel, train and compete in an healthy manner. Our children need sport not to win ribbons and medals but to “practice” life so that when adulthood comes along… the practice, the training, the hours of learning, developing, improving and becoming have been logged and they are ready to step out into life… to perform, to compete, and to succeed.
If our children are failing to spread their wings and fly, it is because we as parents are failing them, not anyone else.
If our children are to succeed, then we as parents need to bring sport back and give it to our children as a gift to them, and to their children, your grandchildren.