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Developing Swimming Champions
20 December 2011

by Jesse Phillips

Challenge Stadium 12:00 – 2:30pm


My passion is to share experience to those willing to learn.

That is one of the key areas of interest for me in delivering the great program, Developing Champions.


Over the years of being part of this program I have delivered workshops to many sporting groups and squads. Along this journey I have not had the opportunity to stand in front of an audience of adults - a mixture of parents, coaches and officials – it has usually been athletes between the ages of 12-18 years.


So, I found it was a pleasure to share my passion for sport and understanding of athletic life paired with the expectations of athletes and parents - having had a good grasp of my own parents and other friend’s parents.


I find the job of a parent to be far greater in importance than expected, even to the extent where the actions of a parent on a young athlete can play equal weighting as a coach.


The decision of how parents push an athlete is a contentious issue. Examples throughout time have seen a variety of negative impacts from parents on their child athlete, one such example is Jelena Dokic, the tennis champion and her father. The situation was completely unhealthy, and, extreme (rare).


But, this leads distinctly to the question of, what is too much parental guidance or involvement?


Something to think about, my thoughts are that a healthy balance of encouragement, infrastructure support and, most importantly, the ability to watch a child athlete fail (even more than once); this is when an athlete learns most about themselves as a sportsperson.


The second half of the program was to the swimming athletes, specifically the areas of body management – for an athlete, the concept of ‘Managing My Body’.


Overall the group was up to date with most information to do with the general rules of nutrition but the quickly maturing teenagers grasped more unfamiliar ideas about recovery, hydration and mobility with relevant ease.


I am constantly inspired by athletes that strive for greatness in all pursuits they choose to go after. I suppose the main difference when high achievers are referred to as ordinary people doing extraordinary things – is a mindset that sets them apart from the bulk of the population, whom allow their limits to be set a peg or ten lower than those at the top of sport.


Swimming is a very interesting sport as it is unlike those land-bound sports. Swimmers are supported by the water within which they swim, meaning the impact on their bodies is less than in higher impact sports; running-based sports. The benefits of this are that swimmers can handle a greater load of work, with programs often consisting of 90-minute to 2-hour sessions in the water and 2 sessions per day, 6 days a week. A great achievement for a young athlete still at school, dealing with growing and the numerous teenage stresses. However with this high level workload - athletes and their support network must be wary of overuse injuries and burnout. Hopefully through effective recovery and managing their bodies (as we spoke about) – these risks can be minimised and help these hard working swimmers reach their peak and stay there for as long as possible!


Elite swimmers are a group of athletes that know how to train hard and are exclusively respected for their ability to follow a black line beneath them. This takes a patient and unwavering temperament. Well done so far to all you diligent swimmers and best of luck for a long successful swimming career ahead.


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