The Plateau

I really love readers comments, I have talked about this before but it is really hard to have an authentic conversation on the pool deck.  Parents tend to act like everything is sunshine and roses all the time.   It isn’t.  I’m a pretty open book, in real life and online.  The more I open up, the more I find people around me do too.  One reader dug up and old post of mine:

 Trials and Finals

Her comment prompted me to go back and reread the original post along with several others I wrote around that same time.  I had a rush of thoughts and emotions.  I like to reply right away but I also felt that this deserved a little more attention than a line or two.  Her comments are below and my thoughts are flowing.  I’ll follow this up shortly.

I stumbled upon your blog while looking for guidance on what to do when your child (who has been struggling with swimming confidence issues) hits a plateau this season. It’s been a huge challenge coming from being one of the top swimmers to not improving times (in some events it’s been over a year) even after 4 meets so far this season. She cries after she sees her times and I don’t know what to do other than tell her to just keep trying. This has been even more disheartening knowing that she practices hard every night. She now has this mental challenge that she can’t do it when she gets to the meet. We have been working with the coaches to help her through this, but what a struggle this has been. I’ve asked if she wants a new sport? A break from swimming period? New team? She replies no to everything. If anyone has advice on what to do to get my 13 year old through this I would greatly appreciate it.
I love this blog- everything you write is absolutely the truth and the life us swim moms (and dads) endure.

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8 thoughts on “The Plateau

  1. I have seen it all too often. 13-14 is where the sport loses the girls. They stop growing. Very little technique gains. That is the time when you gain mostly from hardwork.

    If the swimmer doesn’t understand this then they will have issues with the sport for the next 4-5 years of their lives.

  2. It’s such an unforgiving sport where hundredths of a second mean everything. Training for hours and hours at ridiculous times of the day for hundredths of a second. Or lack thereof, often. You have to love it to do it.

  3. Yes – non-swimming friends and their parents and even family can’t comprehend it. I am very vague about the intensity of it with the ‘outsiders’. Thankfully my husband was a swimmer and coach so he totally gets it.

  4. Holy smokes…this is my 13-yr-old daughter!!! Used to be at the top, now, after well over a year of small/no gains, she is far from the top. Funny, though…we coaxed her through the initial “I-want-to-quits” when things stopped being all first places. And after so long, I have been just about ready to throw in the towel. And now she is the one who is committed and will. not. leave. the. sport.

    I am so happy to have found this blog (thanks, Real Simple!) and use it as a reality check often.

    Thanks so much for sharing it all!!!

    • Thank you! I’m with you, I tried to talk all three of my girls into quitting. I was thinking of the peaceful summers we could have. They looked at me like I had five heads. It’s good they are committed. They WILL survive and succeed because of that.

  5. I am the mom who frantically reached out about the plateau issue, which has now lead my swimmer to have a low confidence level about swimming. I truly appreciate the comments and suggestions. It’s somewhat of a “misery loves company” scenario. It’s been challenging for sure and I can relate to the sadness others have expressed. I may be off base, but it feels like you can almost hear others around us saying, “Wow, what has happened to ____? She isn’t swimming well at all this season!” This, too, is why I have been volunteering more at the meets. I need the distraction quite honestly as it breaks my heart when I see her face after an event that she hasn’t dropped her time, or even worse, added time.

    We have had a lengthy discussion with her coach and he said this is quite common. He commented that once she gets through this, her hard work at practice will pay off. She just needs to work through this. We are hopeful only having one invitational type meet this month will help, but we shall see. I have to admit I have tried to talk her into trying other sports- “How about volleyball? Field hockey?” I haven’t been successful. Her love is for swimming. So, I guess we just need to continue this journey, no matter how painful this is. And I will continue to say my little prayers before every event that she swims the best she can.

    Thank you so much again for the feedback!

    • My daughter is in the middle of a meet, she swam last night, today and again Sunday. She swam 500 free and was off her seed time by +.17. The time was a year old. It almost seems like some kind of cruel karma in a 500! She got in the car and said “I feel like I am wasting your time and your money”. I looked her dead in the eye and said “are you happy”. She immediately replied that she was very happy.

      She was way off her seed today in 200 free, did ok in 100 fly and swam her seed again in 400 IM. Her backstroke in the IM was beautiful – she swims that next weekend at a huge champs meet. And for the first time EVER she delivered a really respectable breast. I swear to god she was smiling when she was swimming the breast, I don’t remember the last time I saw her look so happy. She was disappointed she didn’t get a best time but left happy.

      Her new coach is fantastic with her. She tells Grace the SAME thing every other coach has ever told her yet Grace hears her.

      I agree with you, people take a sick pleasure in watching these kids. I have heard it all, Grace blew her taper, Grace doesn’t have “it” anymore, she scared to succeed, blah blah blah. Today I timed lane 1 and when the head timer left, I took over that position and still timed lane 1. I totally get where you are coming from, timing is the best! Grace got out of the pool today after her 200 free and I kissed her on the head and told her I loved her. She doesn’t usually talk to me at meets but recently she has started again. If I could make her swim faster I would.

      Please keep me posted on your daughters successes, she is going to have them. Even if it is just a best time in a split in an IM!!!!! We can do this!

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