At a time when communities are worried about gangs and violence I would like to invite you to come to a local Swim Meet. You could find around 100 youth involved. There are a lot of other places that this many young people could be on a Friday afternoon or Saturday morning. Multiply this by multiple different locations around the country.
Swimming in is usually administered by a State Swimming Organization Lifeguard classes as a part of a national program sponsored by United States Swimming (USS). USS is the organization that oversees amateur competitive swimming in the United States. As the National Governing body for the sport, USS is a member of the United States Olympic Committee and the International Swimming Federation.
Nationally each year over 20,000 volunteers register with USS as non-athlete members. Interested individuals donate their time, energy and expertise to serve as officials, administrators, coaches, and workers participating at every level from serving on national committees, to involvement with the local swim club. Utah Swimming currently has 240 non-athletes and 1,600 athletes registered.
All pools should develop and run a Complete Aquatics Program which would include swimming lessons and a Pre-Comp Swim Team program. These Aquatics Programs would in many cases lead to the formation of an official USS Group Swim Team where every swimmer pays a yearly registration fee to USS and a monthly fee of an additional $20.00 to $30.00. This money is used to pay for coaching fees and other expenses of the team
In a meet, six swimmers enter the pool at a time. They are grouped by age and ability. In each group of six there is an even chance of any of the six coming in first. But coming in first is not really the issue. Each swimmer has a personal best time from previous pool experiences. The goal for each individual swimmer is to decrease their own individual personal best time. As a result there are NO losers, everyone is a winner.
Swimming should have no rules about the number of swimmers that can be on a team. Anyone who wants to work and make progress can be on a team. Anyone who wants to work can be a winner. Who can put a price on the value of this experience for those youth who are positively engaged in self-improvement and hard work.
Some school districts are considering the possibility of closing all the swimming pools in the district to save money and avoid liability issues. It is interesting that no one has considered the possibility of rolling up the basketball courts or tearing up the football fields. In some states, age group swim teams are required to rent pool time. We have become a community where ALL decisions are based on the “bottom line.” Is it possible that our community values are based on money or trophies.
In many areas of the country either the communities or the schools provide pool time to USS Age-Group Swimming as a recognition of the contribution that participation in swimming makes to the individuals involved and to the community as a whole. You simply cannot find a better way to insure freedom from drugs and other anti-social behaviors in a group of youth.
Come to any swim meet and pick any parent at random. Ask them what their child has gained from the experience in swimming. Any parent will tell you of the growth in self confidence and discipline which is unmatched by participation in any other kind of sport or activity.
Swimming does not usually get a lot of glory or publicity – except perhaps during the Olympics. As a result the coaches are not as likely to have a lot of ego on the line to produce “winning” teams. Age group coaches are not usually hired or fired based on their win-loss record. They have a lot of personal time and effort invested in helping individuals to grow and develop and to help swimmers define winning in their own personal way.
Many worthwhile values have been perceived to be inherent in sports participation, yet they are not accessible automatically to everyone who participates. There are values that are not only worthwhile to pursue but need to be made available and accessible to more of our youth. It’s not a matter of saturating a community with organized sports leagues or merely upgrading physical education programs in the schools. Many youngsters, including many who participate do not really benefit from sports for a variety of reasons but at least in part because of the “win-at-all-costs” concept prevalent today.
Participation in sports should be a vehicle for all-around personal growth and the development of a positive self-image. This process includes two key elements:
1. Putting winning it its proper perspective. There are winners and there are “winners.” Everyone needs to “win” sometimes if he or she is o gain satisfaction from any sport. Winning can, however, be broadened to include progress on many levels. Each individual can learn to set their own personal goals and define “winning” in their own personal way.
2. The creation of an environment which provides the essential experiences which not only make sports values more accessible, but provides the motivation to participate in the sport, learn the necessary skills, and develop the self-esteem necessary to approach life with confidence –and that’s what it’s all about.