Agustín Artiles Grijalba -Champi-
In 10 steps, I will now describe situations that arise in a swimmer’s sporting career that stem from family pressure and could lead to the premature end of that career. Please bear in mind that most families understand winning is not always possible, they understand the benefits brought by swimming and accept the reality involved with a sense of sportsmanship, encouraging swimmers to chase their goals merely for the sake of personal betterment.
THE EARLY DAYS
Youngsters come to the pool and enjoy themselves, they make new friends and improve their times with ease. They are more than happy to achieve goals and inspire the imagination of both their coaches (who see a rising champion in some of them) and their families (who are shamelessly proud of their child’s abilities).
THE FIRST MEDAL. MY CHILD IS A CHAMPION
After the first few wins, the family suddenly goes from knowing absolutely nothing about swimming to believing themselves the holders of all knowledge and becoming their best trainers.
They buy a stopwatch and ceaselessly monitor the performance of their children, they know all their times as well as those of their rivals, they express naive technical judgement and even sometimes lose all control and respect for the coach, believing themselves to be the most highly-qualified professionals on the planet.
“Tell your coach to work on your turns”
They harshly criticise the coach and question his working methods without being aware of the serious harm this does to the child. Their turns are always the worst and their swimming technique the most ineffective. They have no qualms in approaching the coach if necessary to express their discontent. They record the child and play the video over and over at home to highlight their mistakes.
If that wasn’t enough, this is followed by the dreaded comparisons and criticisms of teammates, who clearly have no idea, ruined a relay event or simply aren’t good enough to swim with their champion.
Come on, Luis was a whole body length in front of you on every turn
Perhaps what they haven’t considered is that Luis is 1.80 tall and their child is only 1.65
I don’t understand why you put him in the relay
The years go by, competitions happen and the first major problems start to appear. The young child has grown up and stops making such rapid progress. That teammate, who supposedly ruined the relay and who the family considered a burden, has grown up to eclipse their child.
They can’t stand their child being beaten by them so often, and much less their dreadful neighbour in the stands.
IF YOU DON’T TRY HARDER, EVERYONE IS GOING TO BEAT YOU
Some families get really tough and disparagingly blame their child, accusing them of being weak and discrediting their action. They undervalue and underrate the victory of their friend.
How can that midget beat you!
Others place all their future hopes in the swimmer and observe, with concern and distress, that they eventually stop achieving the success expected of them without considering the possible reasons that led to this stagnation. They are ashamed of this new situation and don’t know where to hide when results are negative.
FOCUS ON YOUR STUDIES, THERE’S NO FUTURE IN SWIMMING
This is when families decide to leave their child to their own fate, to stop attending competitions for fear of defeat, when they should be doing quite the opposite. They even advise the child to stop swimming and fully focus their energy on study, even though they already get excellent grades.
The family arguments start, confrontations between father and son, which the mother always tries to diffuse but in which she just ends up becoming another victim.
Shut up! You have no idea about swimming!
The swimmer can’t take any more, they’ve had enough and they’re devastated. They started swimming to enjoy their favourite sport but now feel responsible for this awful situation. He fails to understand how his family and even his coach are ignoring him when he needs them most. He decides to drop it all and quits his favourite activity.