6 Ways Swimming Helps Your Child Become a Better Person
By Chase McFadden//Contributor
There are a wide variety of activities available to youth today (quidditch, anyone?), but one of the best for developing the whole person remains swimming. Here’s how:
1. Humility: Sweet-mother-of-mermaids, swimming is humbling! Like flying, the act is in-and-of-itself an unnatural one for humans. You don’t see a whole lot of people flapping their arms madly in an attempt to take flight; that’s for the birds. We’re not ideally built to swim, either, but we do it anyway.
Think about this: Katie Ledecky -- as world-class as it gets – can swim a mile somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 minutes. A world-class runner? Around 4 minutes. Swimming isn’t easy – and it sure as heck isn’t glamorous – which is exactly why it’s good for kids.
Your child is going to struggle. Great. She’s going to get disqualified a dozen times in the butterfly. Perfect. He’s going to lose – a lot. Excellent. Life isn’t a series of first-place finishes.
2. Self Confidence: Because it’s difficult, swimming provides an elongated measuring stick for the gradual gaining of self-confidence. As a parent, that’s the type of development you desire for your child: you want it to happen progressively, and you don’t want it to come too easily. Swimming certainly fits that bill.
Your kid can’t make 11 out of 10 free throws. There is a finite limit to that development. But if your son or daughter works hard, he or she can continually improve a stroke or the distance swam or the time it takes to do so, and in so doing, self-confidence grows.
Best yet? There will come a point when they don’t drop time. (SEE: HUMILITY). But by that point they’ll have built up enough self-confidence to understand that it’s a temporary setback, and life is nothing if not a series of temporary setbacks. People with a healthy sense of their abilities and character know that they’ll move past those setbacks and succeed.
3. Work Ethic: That taste of self-confidence through self-improvement only happens with hard work. It’s a simple formula. Going through the motions is difficult in swimming, because they aren’t really motions you want to be going through unless you’ve made a personal investment in yourself. Cue the hard work.
And that work ethic tends to translate to other arenas, most notably academics. There is a high correlation between being a swimmer and being a successful student.
4. Fitness: We don’t need to spend much time here. Walk 50 meters then swim 50 meters. You’ll use muscles you weren’t even aware of. Swimming is hands-down one of the healthiest activities for physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
And it’s lifelong. Whether 7 or 77, swimming is good for the body, mind and soul.
5. Responsibility: Getting up and heading to morning practice, balancing school work and family life with a swim schedule, getting to the blocks on time at meets and keeping track of their gear are just a few of the responsibilities swimming demands of kids.
(Just kidding about that keeping track of gear part: they’re totally going to lose their towel and goggles.)
6. Healthy Self-Assessment: Your daughter may lose a dozen swim caps, but one thing she won’t lose is perspective.
There are undeniable positive aspects of social media and the technological age we live in, but one major drawback is our obsession with comparing ourselves to others. Swimming, however, offers its participants the opportunity to measure themselves against themselves.
Of course we keep track of who finishes first, but more importantly we have a tangible measure of how one swimmer competed against himself. The 18-year-old state champion and the 6-year-old newbie each have personal bests. First place or last, there is the potential for a new fastest swim. You being a better you is what it’s all about.