A strong desire to swim competitively is extremely important when it comes to deciding if a child is ready for this rigorous sport (see Part 1). If your child seems eager to join a competitive swim team even after you’ve explained in detail the type of commitment level involved, they may be ready. But first, you need to evaluate their swimming ability to discover if they’re able to handle the work that will be required of them.
Try to Determine if Your Child has the Ability to Swim Competitively
If your child has never had any swim lessons, they probably won’t be able to keep up with the other kids on a competitive swim team. Since you don’t want them to feel discouraged and defeated, let them get a couple of years of swimming lessons under their belt first before letting them compete.
When Should You Start Your Child in Swimming Lessons?
Your child can start swimming lessons on their own as young as four years old, and in a class with parental participation as young as six months old. The earlier your kid is when they first get into the water, the more comfortable and ready they will be when they reach the average age to swim competitively. Starting your child in early swim classes may put them at an advantage when it comes to developing the attitude and abilities they will need to later compete.
Benchmarks That Indicate Readiness for Competitive Swimming
If you want your child to start competing in swimming, but you aren’t sure if they’re ready, there are a couple of clear indicators.
- The first deals with their technique. Your child should be able to swim well in the four most common competitive strokes.
- Second, they should be strong enough of a swimmer to easily swim for 50 meters without stopping.
Check with your local youth swim team to see if the coach would be willing to evaluate your child’s readiness and ability to swim competitively.
Don’t Forget About Temperamental Readiness
Even if your child can pass the swimming ability test, they still may not be ready for competition. That’s because there’s a certain level of mental and emotional maturity that it takes for them to enjoy the sport and be an asset to their team.
Here are some indicators that a child may be ready to swim competitively:
(1) They can exercise grace under pressure in competitive situations. This means that they don’t become overly anxious before or during swim meets to the point that it interferes with their ability to perform at their best skill level.
(2) They’re able to accept losing a competition without falling apart emotionally.
(3) They show a willingness to train hard to reach individual and team goals.
(4) They’re able to behave acceptably during competitions and meets that last for long periods.
No child who enters competitive swimming will excel at all of these mental and emotional disciplines right from the get-go. They develop over time. But they should have at least some degree of competence in these areas before they’re ready to compete.
When in Doubt, Wait
You may be eager for your child who has impressive swimming skills to join a competitive swim team. But starting them before they’re ready may end up leading to a loss of interest and enthusiasm on their part. If you or your child are unsure if they’re ready, it won’t hurt to wait until they’re a little older before they take the plunge into the exciting world of competitive swimming.