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Forest From the Trees
by Susan Doherty


January 14, 2005

Loren, somewhere on the path of what it means to be an athlete, you lost sight of the forest from the trees. Bad enough that swimming is year round? Is it bad that approximately 60 young people in Ketchikan choose to participate in a sport that offers year round physical activity? A sport that no one can excel at without a major commitment of time and hard work, yet a sport that offers the same potential for success whether you are 6 feet or 4 feet tall; whether you have zero eye hand coordination or can juggle knives, whether you re scrawny or from stout Scandinavian heritage; etc etc In addition to the physical and inclusive benefits swimming offers, it also is unmatched for teaching persistence, dedication, organization, prioritization, and relationship building to mention only a few.

Younger swimmers swim for an hour 3 to 4 times a week. This means it is very easy to also add soccer, baseball, or basketball, etc because those activities are generally 2 to 3 times a week, and have a short season. The swim coach is very accommodating to having kids swim early or on a different day of the week when schedules conflict. By the time a swimmer is in the 6th or 7th grade, they are swimming 6 days a week from 11/2 to 2 hour each day. When soccer or baseball seasons roll around most kids either don t participate, or just don t swim on days that practice or games conflict. If it s a Junior High or High School team where practice is everyday, they choose one or the other. There is no way to do both. They make tough choices.

As far as missing games for a swim meet. There are no more than one or two meets that would occur during any of these seasonal sports. The meet schedule is set two years in advance and should be no surprise to anyone. I would suggest that if the lack of this one player causes the demise of a team during tournament that (1) there aren't enough players on the team to start with or (2) that this one individual was relied upon too heavily in a game that is intended to be a team sport. You are right in that soccer and basketball are not compatible to do at the same time. However, swimming and most seasonal sports compliment each other well.

Instead of knocking swimming, most coaches I know that coach these other sports welcome swimmers to their teams because they usually have the best cardiovascular capacity on the squad. While the swim coach doesn't actively campaign for swimmers to participate in other sports, he realizes that these are young, developing minds and bodies, and that being able to participate in others sports, with his understanding and support, is in the best interest of the athlete, and his/her long-term commitment to the sport.

I'm sorry; my goals for my children are not to have beaten Juneau in basketball when I was a junior . My goals, and I hope one of the goals of most of the coaches, are to establish a life long love of physical activity. Along whichever sport path one chooses, to also learn about commitment, overcoming adversity, sportsmanship, teamwork, a sense of belonging and community. Winning is like having ice cream with your cake; it s meant to compliment the cake. No amount of ice cream can make up for bad cake. Participating in sport solely to win, at all costs, totally negates all the tangible and intangible benefits sport brings to your life.

Keep your kids active. Obesity in adolescences has reached epidemic proportions. Help them find a sport(s) or physical activity they enjoy and be an active supporter of those activities. Lead by example and participate on a regular basis in some sort of physical activity yourself. Physical activity should not end when you graduate from High School or College or have your own kids. Like being a life long learner, we should also be life long participants.

Susan Doherty
Avid sports fan and participant
Ketchikan, AK - USA

Related Viewpoint:

More sports. More conflicts. by Loren Stanton - Ketchikan, AK - USA



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