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Dadto2

Swimming burnout

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Dadto2

My kids swim and DD11 competed at the WA state champs recently. She wasn't in contention for any medals, but was stoked to qualify. I was a bit torn after seeing some of the kids swim; there were very young kids swimming some very impressive times, but then it left me thinking, what are they doing in training? How much training are they doing a week? 11 year olds swimming times not that far off Olympic qualifying times... The times were too quick for young kids, IMO. Obviously you do get some very talented kids that can swim quick of very little volume. But I would imagine they are the exception. 

I was speaking to a coach from another club and he was proudly talking about how some of his top junior swimmers were swimming up to 18 hours a week! That's great if they can maintain that through their teenage years, stay competitive, injury free and still enjoy the sport. But we are seeing a significant amount of kids that show potential at 11, 12, 13 then burn-out, lose interest and never swim again. Many develop a healthy hatred for the sport which then gets passed on to their kids. What are the goals of Swimming Australia, clubs and coaches? Shouldn't the main goal to be providing kids with a life long love of the sport, something that they carry on into adulthood rather than a 3 - 4 year career that ends before they turn 14? 

Do you think they needs to be stricter controls over how much kids swim per week? And of so how would that be implemented?

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nom_de_plume

It depends on the particular club. Your big, elite clubs that turn out Olympians and WR holders are going to run an elite program which involves high volume training. I swam in one of those (in Vic) and at that age I was doing 12 hours a week training plus competitions. I was swimming 6-7 days a week. The workload increased as I got older and had to include gym work as well.

There are more social clubs where the volume would be half that and/or training every other day, and clubs in between. It's about finding a club that suits your child and their goals.

The AIS and Swimming Australia has guidelines on this sort of thing and I highly doubt they are training 18 hours in the pool. That time probably also includes stretching, Pilates, nutrition, video reviews of stroke technique and race tactics.

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3rd time lucky

A kid that age doing 18 hours of any one sport seems ridiculous to me - but I am no expert. I’m not particularly sporty or competitive, and my kids only do one extracurricular sport, once per week. So I’m not sure I’m the best person to ask! 

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Bam1

It depends on the child though, doesn’t sound like it would be good for your children, and quite rightly you don’t have them doing this level of training. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for others.

Swimming is one of those sports that time in the pool makes a real difference.

I sometimes wish my DS did swimming he does  slightly less hours but after school/weekend - it might help reduce his seemingly indefatigable energy  for school.

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BusbyWilkes

I agree with PP who said that amount of training usually includes land based fitness too. Swimming is a young persons game - those who make Nationals/Olympics are often in their teens/early 20s. The kids I know who do it, choose to do it. They also tend to be strong academically and fit in other extra curricular activities too. 
I guess I would like to see more psych support for kids at that level of any sport - not for helping achievement but for dealing with losses/putting them into perspective. Many kids will put in those hours but only a few make a career.
I don’t see it as too different from kids doing a couple of hours of homework/study a night to improve their chances of being successful in their chosen field in the future. 

Edited by BusbyWilkes
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JRA

Those hours are no different to huge hours many many kids do in dance or gymnastics.

 

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purplekitty

I think way too much pressure and training is done by children and young adults.

The number of knee and shoulder reconstructions ,back injuries and chronic injuries I saw when my children were at school was astounding.

What the fallout will be when they get older I don't know.

My daughter did dance(and coxed rowing), not the same amount of injuries although going on point started problems.Anorexia would be of concern.

There is the ability to not be all in,it doesn't happen before daybreak either but I have issues with the amount there as well.

 

I think it is part of a general discussion of how much organised activity children should do and the effect of elite training on immature bodies considering the % that actually progress.

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seayork2002

It depends on the child for our 30 mins of swimming lessons too much he had no desire at all to do it so when he got to certain stage he stopped.

It is turns I went to school with a swimming Olympian (but only found recently who he was) and he swum a lot thinking back when he was little his choice. But sometimes kids are pressured to do things by their parents because the parents have a drive for their kids to succeed.

So like any sport or interest it is only too much if the kids doesn't want to do it

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Fennel Salad

In short, excessive swim training from a very young age is very likely to burn kids out. DH's coach (a former Olympian) does not recommend more than 2 sessions a week for under 12s .. in his experience they just burn out and quit altogether.  There are a number of kids in my boys squad that train 5/6 times a week (1.5 hours per session) even though the school recommends 2 (and what we're doing) but the coaches don't turn them away so i think what I'm seeing is parent led. But here's the thing: these 12 year olds are not getting faster with more training .. my 8 year old is beating many of them especially at the longer distances (he has unbelievable determination and a perfect 2 beat kick). The problem is though (and something I'll raise to the management) is class sizes are getting unwieldy because there are so many kids in each lane and session. We'll just stick with 2 per week for quite some time until we're told otherwise.

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nom_de_plume
40 minutes ago, BusbyWilkes said:

I guess I would like to see more psych support for kids at that level of any sport - not for helping achievement but for dealing with losses/putting them into perspective. Many kids will put in those hours but only a few make a career.

This is something that has improved since I competed. I know the club I was part of employs a psychologist now. It could always improve more though, particularly in relation to transition to retirement.

Swimming is relatively low impact and most injuries are repetitive strain type injuries. Everyone I swam with that had serious injuries sustained them playing another sport or skateboarding, bike riding etc.

I do get some inflammation and my muscles get really tight in my shoulders, which is partly caused by a rotator cuff tear from a car accident when I was in my early 20s, but isn't helped by years of elite swimming. I never had any injuries during my swimming career and I think the strength and conditioning I built through swimming has actually stood me in good stead. I still play sport at a state level and have less injury issues compared to some other athletes because I understand the importance of warming up, cross training, nutrition, proper technique etc.

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Dadto2
2 hours ago, nom_de_plume said:

 

The AIS and Swimming Australia has guidelines on this sort of thing and I highly doubt they are training 18 hours in the pool. That time probably also includes stretching, Pilates, nutrition, video reviews of stroke technique and race tactics.

Yup the 18 hours would include land work so not 18 hours of swimming. 

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DQMission

A good friend of mine had her DD in a serious swimming club for several years. Nearly every swimmer burnt out by age 14; even the exceptional swimmers who were winning a lot. They were doing 7 to 9 swimming sessions a week (with punishments for not doing all 9 sessions each week) and then strength and strecthing exercises, motivational speaking sessions for swimmers and other speakers for their parents and personal technique review sessions etc etc. It ended up destroying her love of swimming, which was a real shame. I was surrogate mum and helped out getting her to and from training and attending meets with her mum etc. There were parents fat shaming their kids, parents and coaching staff forcing kids with shoulder and elbow injuries to 'push through' despite a child crying in pain. The rest break between short and long course seasons became smaller and smaller. Parents also became so burnt out from so much effort that they needed their kids to 'succeed' to make it all worth it (a generalisation - obviously not all parents).

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Prancer is coming

My kids started squad swimming with a club this year - they are 14 and 8.  They both do other sports with a swim component.  They usually do 3 hour sessions a week.  Sometimes 4, sometimes 2.  Their club is a competitive one with elite programs.  We just sort of fell into it and they were willing to take my 8yo who was not proficient in all strokes.  Swimming lessons were not working for him, so I am appreciative of this.  I don’t think the junior squad is too full on.  I think they recommend 2 sessions a week when you start out and then bump it up a bit if you are in the swing of things and enjoying it.

 

The elite program involves gym work and minimum number of sessions.  It would be an invite only program I imagine and I think the youngest would be about 11-12.  There are a few 6-7yos swimming good times, but they certainly don’t go to all of the 6 sessions on offer a week.

 

i think this is an issue for any sport, not just swimming.  My 8yo has ADHD so I try and wear him out!  People will be judge on whatever you do.  Too many activities is bad, but plenty of info out there about the importance of exercise with ADHD and if we were at home more my kids would only be fighting or whinging for screens.  My 8yo also loves running.  He ran 5km a day in lockdown of his own accord and last holidays decided to run 14km.  I actually think swimming is better for his body than distance running.

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AllyK81
2 hours ago, JRA said:

Those hours are no different to huge hours many many kids do in dance or gymnastics.

 

Yes this. I know lots of kids who dance 15+ hours a week as tweens. My DD is 5 and dances 6 hours a week plus an hour of gymnastics. She keeps trying to pile on more activities, too....!!

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AnaBeavenhauser

I was swimming training most of my primary and secondary school life,  out of bed at 5am riding my bike to the pool with my kinect light (there no way I would let my primary school child do that theses days - lol). It was 100% me wanting to be there put in the hours. I trained every morning and most afternoons,. I wasn't winning any Olympic medals but I just loved it and was pretty good at it. I stopped at approx 16 yo as I discovered there was more to life than swimming,  not really burn out, although I can see how that happens with pressure from others, I never felt that. Looking back, swimming is a lonely sport, especially when you are distance swimming, I just wanted to spend my time being more social with my peers.

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Soontobegran

My girlfriend's son is on the Olympic Swim team, well he was, he will have to re qualify I am presuming for next year now but he has been going to swim squad training since grade 3 in primary school ( where we met). She was also a nurse and her mornings 6 days a week started at 4 am even when he was just at junior state level, she would drive him then come home have breakfast and go to work and her husband would pick him up to get him to school by 9am then he would go to work.

She did this for 10 years until he managed to get his licence and could drive himself.  There were two other children with their own interests and all I can remember of that time is her being exhausted every single day but he was good and his future was constantly talked up as being Olympic level so they just forged ahead.

I think it would have been quite a different experience for them if she did not have good support from her DH and a decent income. He left for the AIS before he did his VCE but completed it up there, there were scholarships available and now sponsors provide some income for the Olympic Squad and his rental on his unit money is paid by Swim Australia but money is short and there is little chance of earning whilst training at this level. He is doing a Uni degree at the same time but it is slow going but he is very driven and in love with every aspect of swimming which I think is a must to continue on with the terribly restricted life he leads.

Edited by Soontobegran

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Ruf~Feral~es

Yeah, I think it really depends on the kid, not so much the parents.  (Although there are always 'those' parents in everything).

My kids don't do any one thing to that extent as none of us are that sporty , however in the average week my DS does:

4 hours school tennis training + 2 hours game time (summer, terms 1 and 4).  Winter is a different sport that he doesn't like as much.
1 hour Tennis lesson + 2-3 hours club pennants  comp
2 x 1 hour music lessons (different instruments)
2 hours school choir + 2 hours combined schools choir
2 hours Music instrument ensemble
2 hours school band
2 hours combined school band

That's around 20 hours a week on activities, all of which he has done since year 7 - 11 years old.   

I think it is WAY too much, but he loves each thing and doesn't want to give anything up.    He also manages to do well academically - so far.  

The bonus in that is if he does decide to drop something, it is fairly easy.  When kids are fully focussed on one thing - swimming, gymnastics etc - I can imagine the pressure not to drop down from elite level is harder.  But for DS, no band or group would care if he dropped out of another one.    So maybe the burnout risk is decreased?

I do think some kids are just wired to be able to cope with different levels of stress and commitment.  But they need to have a passion for whatever it is they are doing as well.

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nom_de_plume
1 hour ago, AnaBeavenhauser said:

I was swimming training most of my primary and secondary school life,  out of bed at 5am riding my bike to the pool with my kinect light (there no way I would let my primary school child do that theses days - lol). It was 100% me wanting to be there put in the hours. I trained every morning and most afternoons,. I wasn't winning any Olympic medals but I just loved it and was pretty good at it. I stopped at approx 16 yo as I discovered there was more to life than swimming,  not really burn out, although I can see how that happens with pressure from others, I never felt that. Looking back, swimming is a lonely sport, especially when you are distance swimming, I just wanted to spend my time being more social with my peers.

This was pretty much my experience. I was also a distance swimmer.

Around 16 yo I had to make a choice between other sport, social activities and a part-time job, or committing to national level swimming. I chose to drop swimming because I would have to give up everything else and there was no gaurentee I'd make it.

I still love distance swimming and now compete in triathlons and train with a social swimming squad instead.

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CallMeFeral

Unfortunately I think this is just the way sport has gone now (not just swimming). It's no longer something kids can just do in their spare time and if they are talented, do well in competitively. It's now a thing they have to get 'serious' in if they want to have any success at it, and that's likely to lead to burnout. 

I found out that if DD wants a future professionally in dance, she pretty much will have to drop out of school in year 8 and study dance full time from then. She's not going to reach the appropriate level otherwise. Not these days. 

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seayork2002
Just now, CallMeFeral said:

Unfortunately I think this is just the way sport has gone now (not just swimming). It's no longer something kids can just do in their spare time and if they are talented, do well in competitively. It's now a thing they have to get 'serious' in if they want to have any success at it, and that's likely to lead to burnout. 

I found out that if DD wants a future professionally in dance, she pretty much will have to drop out of school in year 8 and study dance full time from then. She's not going to reach the appropriate level otherwise. Not these days. 

Off topic but this is why we never bothered enrolling DS in cricket/football etc. or even encouraged him to try out for PSSA too much. If he wanted to do it we would have and we did mention a few things but let the decision up to him.  He does  not  have the drive to compete and we were not going to travel all over Sydney on the weekends taking him to matches unless he wanted to actually compete.

We did look out for play for fun sport but not many in our area and now he is in highschool he will have to really want to do anything additional now himself (sorry no point to this post really!)

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**Manning**

That is crazy!

I've heard gymnastics is pretty bad once you've hit a certain level. 

IMO Kids should be experiencing a variety of sports and activities growing up.  

I have seen it first hand myself  (multiple times) where kids compete in one particular sport and they burn out.  In a couple of these situations, it's really the parent not the kid that want them to play at rep level & get into the 1's.   There a lot of 'tiger' parents out there.

I was scoring at my daughter's domestic basketball game once.  The guy I was scoring with (other team) was telling me that his daughter plays rep basketball.  He said he keeps an excel spreadsheet of her stats each week and he monitors it very carefully.  He also pays for professional coaching (one on one) each week, as well as her two training sessions and two games for domestic & rep basketball. He said he wakes her up early  during the week so she can do 45mins of shooting  every morning before school.  Yes, she was a  good player but not an outstanding IMO - I've seen a lot of more highly skilled players who do 1/2 the training.   

She was 11 years old. 

I look at someone like this girl and think who is she doing this for - herself or her dad??  Maybe she loves it but I just got the feeling from what he told me and how he spoke it was more about him than her.  I hope she doesn't lose the love for the game because of potential burn out.  

 

 

 

 

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Dadto2

I don't know if there is a solution. Or do people even see there is a problem? I know that Australia's success in the pool has been in steady decline for the last 20+ years. In the Sydney Olympics we got 60 medals in the pool, Rio, 16 years later we got 28. So if Swimming Australia's main goal is to succeed at major events like the Olympics and World Championships, they are clearly failing in that department. We've got young kids hitting amazing times at 12, 13, which is great, as along as they're enjoying their swimming and as long as they are still in the pool 2 years later. And that's the issue, they're not!

Is that something that needs to be addressed?  Perhaps young kids should be restricted as to how much training they do, slowly and gradually building volume as they get older. Peaking in the amount of time and distance they do when they are in the late teens not when they're pre-teens! This might mean we are not as competitive at a junior level with the rest of the world, but at a senior level we would be. We would have a larger pool (pardon the pun) of swimmers to choose from. As it stands, that pool is being reduced every year. 

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RynandStompy

I can speak from personal experience from decades ago  that the dad (or parent) is not always the best trainer! 

Tween and early teen years I was running, swimming, cycling and just slog training for my middle distance running speciality. I burned out around age 15 when it became apparent due to body shape that no matter how many km he made me run each week, I was starting to lose my races. I quit pretty much everything by age 16.

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MadMarchMasterchef

As well as burnout I guess kids training that many hours increases the gap between the haves and the have nots.  Not every parent can afford or facilitate that many training sessions for a sport.  But life is always going to be unfair I guess. 

 

ETA - probably feel like this as I know so many families that cant afford swimming lessons at all.  I wish they were more affordable. 

Edited by MadMarchMasterchef
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liveworkplay

Swimming at the elite level requires hours and hours of training. I feel the same as you OP, I think it is pushing too much too fast.  But unfortunately it happens in all sports to some extent. I have seen it with my DD's swimmer friend. Train intensively, win, reach national championship level...multiple times and then at 14 drop out all together and refuse to play any sport at all, meanwhile struggling with an eating disorder as a direct result from swimming participation.  It is sadly a common story.

Pre covid my kids were doing a heap of training, DD1 over 10 hours a week between two sports, DD2 the same over 3 sports, not to mention school sports thrown in. The difference being they are spreading the hour over different disciplines and have kept their love of keeping active and healthy from it. This is what junior sport should be about, success at competition is an added bonus. 

Edited by liveworkplay
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