Written By: Dana Skelton
It all started with an eager eight-year-old and her enthusiast parents.
This young swimmer was assigned to a meet that was only offered one day. They asked if she could attend another meet next weekend, stating she was excited and wanted to swim more events.
As her coach was explaining the situation to me and what the options were for her, my first thought was, she is 8, have her spend that extra time playing outside with friends. Knowing that would not be the best response and it would miss out on a chance to educate, I asked that we take some time to think about it.
While considering the situation, I realized something.
There was a perspective that the parents and coach involved were not seeing.
This zealous little girl was on track to move into my group next year and I WANTED her to want more.
She WANTED to swim and WANTED to race, that is the best internal motivator there is. It was not her parents pushing her or the coach’s eagerness.
It was her, beginning to love the sport.
How do we, as coaches and parents, get in the way?
We take away the want for kids that are “talented”.
We take away the want, when we tell them they have to commit to just one sport.
We take away the want, when we allow the sport to limit experiencing other things in life.
We take away the want, when we push them before they are ready (mentally and/or physically).
We take away the want, when we give in to everything they ask for.
We take away the want, when the adults control the sport.
What could be gained if we foster the power of wanting instead?
The child continues to develop a love of the sport.
The child is open to listening and learning.
The child is receptive to developing trust in the coach.
The child brings an excitement to teammates around them.
The child is willing to get out of their comfort zone.
The child is eager to venture into a new level of the sport.
The question quickly became, why would I sacrifice all of this, for her to do a few extra events now?
Don’t want to leave you hanging…no, she did not swim the extra events.
The circumstances lead to an opportunity for me to have an amazing discussion with a young coach. Allowing the coach to provide some parent education and a better understanding of our philosophy. The trust that was also gained from the parents, when we demonstrated that we have the child’s best interest in mind, has proven to be invaluable.
Dana is in her 14th season with the First Colony Swim Team. She is the lead coach for Age Group 1, where she gets the privilege to work with the 9- & 10-year-olds. She is also the Head Developmental Coach, working with the awesome coaches in the novice groups. She is an ASCA Level 3 certified coach. Dana started her coaching career with the East Bay Bat Rays in California. This introduction to USA Swimming kick-started her love of coaching, working with young swimmers, and learning what it means to be a great coach. Her coaching philosophy includes doing what is best for each child, parent, and coach in the sport. Focusing on what we can do as a collective whole to promote the sport, help everyone become better people, and have the children see the benefits of working hard. She uses an IM based training (with lots of kick) to ensure the young athletes have a solid base to keep developing through the sport. Dana has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Kinesiology from California State University, East Bay. She enjoys spending time with her husband and 3 daughters. Hobbies include being active, being crafty/creative, exploring the great state of Texas, and seeking out education to continue improving herself (on and off the deck).
FCST rep for Gulf Masters
Texas All Star Camp coaching staff
Southern Zone Select Camp coaching staff
Meet Task Force for Gulf Swimming TPC
Committee Chair for the Texas Select Camp
USA Swimming Age Group Committee Member
Committee Chair for Gulf Club Development Committee