Recently on the swimswam.com website the following articles were posted:

Click on the banners to link directly to the articles @swimswam.com

The caption below the article states:

“McIntosh broke an 11-12 age group record that was set by a future Olympic medalist in the 1970s”

Seriously, have we learnt nothing?

Swim Ontario (SO) & Swimming Natation Canada (SNC) should be well aware of the detrimental impact of raising young athletes into hero status in an attempt to self promote ‘their accomplishments’ of raising another Canadian into potential Olympian status, yet whenever the opportunity arises both SO & SNC are at it again…

Since memory seems to fade fast, click here to link to the story of another Canadian teenager who went from hero to “national disappointment” (based on the pre-Olympic game hype that she would win gold for Canada). That teenager was Elaine Tanner and after returning to Canada after the Mexico City Olympics her fall from grace took a psychological toll that lasted decades.

Yet here we are again, with a young female swimmer in the 11-12 age category who has already set amazing records, but why… why do we need to put the pressure on this child – she is not even a teenager yet – of becoming an Olympian. Actually, becoming an Olympian is not the end of it… the pressure of already becoming an Olympic medalist has been placed on the shoulders of this young athlete.

“Katelyn Ohashi Was the Best in the World, Until She Wasn’t”

If you follow gymnastics then you will recognize the name Simone Biles; if not, here is a short summary:

Click on the banner to link directly to Simone Biles’ page @Wikipedia.com

Katelyn Ohashi could have been Simone Biles in terms of medals, championship titles, etc… But Katelyn didn’t. Why? Because gymnastics slowly stopped being fun and it became work, an obligation, a weight that led to injuries and eventually to Katelyn withdrawing from the highest level of competition.

Watch the Youtube video above: “Katelyn Ohashi Was the Best Gymnast in the World, Until She Wasn’t”

The story of Katelyn Ohashi is the story of Elaine Tanner and the story of many many other children and teenagers for whom sport was at one point a joy, a love, a wonderful daydream that had no end; but for whom sport became a terrible never-ending nightmare of pain, hate, regret, resentment, even isolation, depression, and in far too many cases the cause of their suicide.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Its not supposed to be this way.

Parents, coaches, assistant coaches… wake up… children have to be having fun. Sure, everyone wants to win, but even if you are winning, if it isn’t fun, the perspective on winning will become perverted to the point that perfectionism replaces excellence, heroism replaces humility, success is no longer sufficient because nothing is ever good enough – not even you as a human being – when you stop having fun.

To the parents, coaches, assistant coaches and teammates of Summer McIntosh… please let Summer be an 11-12 year old who enjoys swimming, who wants to have fun and doesn’t want (even if she says different) the pressure because she doesn’t need the pressure of being pinpointed as Canada’s next Olympic hopeful, as Canada’s next Olympic medalist (definitely not at her age, and maybe not at any age).

To Summer… congratulations on your success, I hope you had fun swimming those times. Please remember… have fun, keep it fun, work to keep it fun. Its just not worth it any other way. I encourage you to read Michael Phelps’ book titled “No Limits”, you will read how his coach Bob Bowman tore down the celebratory signs that Phelps’ mom had decorated their home with after Michael won his first national titles. His coach was concerned about the impact that this would have on Michael, and being a coach more concerned with Michael’s long term well-being (above his own popularity as a coach and the opportunity to profit from parading Michael & his early success like a trophy horse), Bob Bowman did what many coaches don’t: he put the priorities of his athletes above his own.

Many will want to celebrate your achievements, but be careful… there will be many people – many “well meaning” people – who will claim to want success for you but are truthfully only seeking success for themselves by associating themselves with you (this especially includes Swim Ontario & Swimming Natation Canada).

Don’t let anyone take swimming away from you… keep swimming fun.