Sara is happy. Or at least content. She knows what she has to fix – that second turn was a little off – and is excited to get back to practice on Monday. Sara warms down and smiles to herself. Sure, it wasn’t a best time, but she loves to race. It’s the one time of the week she doesn’t have to worry about tests, homework, that school dance next week…
“You missed your turn,” Sara’s mother says.
“Yeah, I know, but I think I can get better,” says Sara.
“You almost won. You should have won,” her father chimes in. “Maybe you should work on your finishes. Do you work on your finishes in practice?”
“Maybe I’ll talk to the coach.”
I’m not a fan of cliché stereotypes that begin with, “There are two types of parents in the world…” but there are definitely two types of parents in the swimming world: The parent that builds, and the parent that breaks.
The above interaction – fictional, though I’m sure happens every day on every pool deck everywhere – didn’t involve screaming, red-faced swim parents with insulting comments. It wasn’t too harsh. It didn’t involve profanity or threats or tirades.
But it wasn’t supportive, either. It wasn’t, “Hey, good race!” with an offer for a hug. Instead, the interaction involved two parents, obviously trying to be supportive of their swimmer, showing up to the race, giving advice, letting their swimmer know what happened, offering critiques.
The thing is: Critiquing is not a parent’s job — at least when it comes to swimming. Critiquing is the coach’s job.
That’s why coaches exist.
The other day, I was talking about all the emails I get from swimmers around the country and how a majority of them talk about how hard their own parents are on them. Mostly after races. I get emails from swimmers as young as 10 years old who tell me things I’m sure their parents would be horrified me finding out about. They tell me about parents who break down instead of build up. Parents who are critics and let swimmers know what they need to do to improve. Parents who yell after the race is over. Parents who threaten to force their swimmer to quit the sport if victories are in the soon-to-come horizon.
“I bet a lot of these parents, if I read back to them their letters from their swimmers, would be horrified,” I told my friend. “I bet many of these parents don’t even know how much pressure they put on their swimmers.”
No one of us wants to be that bad villain from the Disney movie. You know the kind of villain: The parent who yells at their kid and the kid goes into the bedroom and cries and music grows and we feel appropriately bad for the kid. No parent wants that to be that “villain.” And yet, I think many parents place an incredible amount of pressure on kids without even knowing it.
Many parents don’t even realize it.
Take the scenario I wrote above: It wasn’t necessarily a bad interaction. But it wasn’t good. Sara, like many young swimmers, uses the sport as a way to escape and have fun and race. Swimming, to Sara, is just a way to get away from real-world pressures, of which, at any age, are numerous. Tests, homework, social pressures, that whole “figuring out what you want to do with the rest of your life” thing… Sara, like millions of other athletes around the country, just uses sports as a secondary activity, one that is fun and healthy and vigorous and enjoyable.
Many times, though, parental expectations and pressures get in the way of that enjoyment. Let’s face it: Many kids want to impress their parents. They want good feedback. And I understand we live in a society that perhaps praises too often. There’s a joke in one of my favorite sitcoms when the student receives happy clouds and sunshine cartoon icons instead of actual grades. Too much unearned praise can, sometimes, be detrimental.
But again: There are two types of parents.
The kind that build. And the kind that break.
To borrow a line from one of my favorite movies, Stripes: Lighten up, swim parents.
This sport, while teaching many lessons to swimmers, is like climbing a mountain. You learn most lessons on your own. How to climb. How to fall. How to get back up. Swim parents: Let the rest of the world break down your child, because the world out there will gladly do so. Let it be your job to build your child up, to just say, “Great job!” and offer a hug and nothing else. Let the coaches coach. Let the swimmers swim. Let the races be raced. And while everyone needs a good push once in a while and everyone needs encouragement once in a while, this is just swimming. This is just a sport.
A friend of mine recently told me his parents finally told him towards the end of his swimming career, “We know we have been putting too much pressure on you. So now with your last season, just have fun.” And he told me just hearing that from his parents made all the difference. Just hearing those words was like a blessing — a freeing act, like now he had permission to enjoy the sport again.
And guess what?
In his last meet, he swam lifetime bests.
He sat and reflected. He then smiled and said, “If only they had told me that sooner.”
Mike Gustaffson | USA Swimming
Nutrition plays a key role in performance and recovery. But for the young swimmer, it also supports growth and development. While there are important nutrients for swimming, such carbohydrates and protein, there are also micronutrients that may be at risk for deficiency, like iron, calcium, and vitamin D.
Of course, any nutrient can fall short of needs if the diet is inadequate compared to the requirements. Deficiencies should always be addressed in the growing athlete.
Three nutrients – iron, calcium and vitamin D—stand out as high-risk nutrients for the young swimmer. One, because they are already known to be deficient in children and teens, in general, and two, because they may be harder for the growing athlete to get enough. Here’s the lowdown on each nutrient, including recommended levels of intake, and food sources:
Iron carries and stores oxygen, which occurs at a higher level during periods of growth (read: childhood and adolescence). Female athletes, in particular, are at greater risk for this deficiency due to menses and exercise.
According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), 9% of 12-49 year-old women are iron-deficient. Swimmers who cut back on their eating or consume a vegetarian diet are at increased risk for iron deficiency.
4-8 year olds: 10 mg/day
9-13 year olds: 8 mg/day
14-18 year olds: 15 mg/day (females); 11 mg/day (males)
Iron comes from animal and plant sources, with animal sources being more efficiently absorbed in the body. The less efficient absorption of plant iron can be enhanced by vitamin C-containing foods like citrus fruit and juices.
Food Sources: beef, ground beef, dark meat turkey and chicken, canned light tuna in water, iron-fortified cereals, instant oatmeal, enriched bagels and breads, black beans, white beans, spinach and raisins
4-8 year olds: 1000 mg/day
9-13 year olds: 1300 mg/day
14-18 year olds: 1300 mg/day
Food sources: ready-to-eat cereals, calcium-fortified orange juice, cow’s milk, soymilk, yogurt, cheese, salmon, tofu, frozen yogurt, vanilla ice cream, cottage cheese, turnip greens, kale, Bok choy, broccoli, and white bread (calcium-fortified).
Vitamin D partners with calcium to build bones. It has also been identified in the prevention of cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disease and infectious disease. Sunlight activates vitamin D in the skin, but sunscreen, cloud cover, dark-colored skin, and other factors may limit its effectiveness as a source of vitamin D.
All kids and teens need 600 IU/day.
It’s not easy to meet vitamin D requirements because there are few foods that are rich sources of this nutrient, and the obvious foods like dairy products aren’t always consumed in the needed amounts (6 cups of milk equals 600 IU vitamin D). The combination of vitamin D-rich foods and sunshine are key to making sure the swimmer gets enough. For swimmers who practice indoors, getting adequate vitamin D from food (or a supplement) is critical.
Food sources: sockeye salmon, smoked salmon, canned tuna, vitamin D-fortified orange juice, milk, soymilk, rice drink, cooked pork, fortified ready-to-eat cereals, mushrooms, Canadian bacon, and eggs.
Iron, calcium and vitamin D are essential to the growing swimmer’s health and wellness, not to mention his athletic performance. Keep these three nutrients top of mind and you may avoid some significant roadblocks to training along the way.
Jill Castle, MS, RDN is a childhood nutrition expert and co-author of Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School (www.fearlessfeeding.com). She is the creator of Just The Right Byte (www.justtherightbyte.com), and is working on her next book, entitled Eat Like a Champion: Performance Nutrition for Your Young Athlete.
Ryan Lochte swam with a new training partner who flew to Charlotte all the way from Arkansas to jump in the pool Tuesday.
Erik Nieman, a 15-year-old who is fighting cystic fibrosis, visited Lochte’s training base through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“My personal goal is to make it to the Olympics, but I know that making the Olympics is very hard for someone with a life-threatening disease,” Nieman, a swimmer since age 3, said in a Charlotte Observer video. “My goal is to bring hope to everybody else, because even though you have something that prohibits you from swimming, you can still make it anyways.”
Nieman spent four hours at the facility and was invited back to train again Wednesday, according to USA Today. His talent was evident in the video, when he raced Lochte.
“It was not swim lessons — it was swim improvement,” Lochte’s coach, David Marsh, told USA Today. “During practice, he had to take a break to take his enzymes, his shake he takes during practice. I think our guys saw that, and it really affected them a little bit.”
Nick Zaccardi | NBC Sports
Dana Vollmer has been absent from swimming competition since the 2013 World Championships, and it appears the four-time Olympic champion won’t be returning any time soon.
A tweet from Vollmer’s account Friday indicated she’s pregnant with a February due date. Vollmer is married to former Stanford swimmer Andy Grant.
Vollmer, 26, hasn’t discussed her future in swimming — nothing that’s been widespread, at least — while being out of competition this year, but she was still in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency drug-testing pool in the second quarter of this year. Most Olympians withdraw from drug testing upon retirement.
Vollmer won the 2012 Olympic 100m butterfly in 55.98 seconds, a world record. She also owns three relay gold medals (4x200m freestyle in 2004 and 2012 and 4x100m medley in 2012).
She won 100m fly bronze at the 2013 World Championships.
Nick Zaccardi | NBC Sports
The Argentine Olympic Committee is considering a future Summer Olympic bid, it said in a statement Saturday. It also said the Patagonia region, with the Andes Mountains, could be a Winter Olympic bid option.
The Winter Olympics have never been held in the Southern Hemisphere.
Argentina was last a candidate to host an Olympics for 2004, but it lost in the first round of voting in 1997, finishing fifth behind winner Athens.
The earliest Argentina could bid for an Olympics would be for 2024. The U.S. hopes to bid for the 2024 Olympics and will ultimately decide after an IOC session in December.
Nick Zaccardi | NBC Sports
The International Olympic Committee’s changes to the Olympic host city contract from 2020 to 2022 included a reference prohibiting discrimination, adding detail to the Olympic Charter’s anti-discrimination stance.
“Whereas the City and the NOC acknowledge and accept the importance of the Games and the value of the Olympic image, and agree to conduct all activities in a manner which promotes and enhances the fundamental principles and values of Olympism, in particular the prohibition of any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise, as well as the development of the Olympic Movement,” the contract reads, according to a version obtained by Norwegian media outlet VG.
The Olympic Charter already included an anti-discrimination policy, “to act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement.”
The Sochi Olympics dealt with the issue due to Russia’s law banning the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations toward minors passed in 2013.
The 2022 Winter Olympic host city will be chosen next year. The finalists are Oslo, Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Nick Zaccardi | NBC Sports
The other schools that participated at the event include Alex Park, Avondale, Borrowdale, St Martins and Moffat primary schools.
Pool Pump management, led by Shadreck Gumiremhete, unveiled a swimming wear sponsorship valued at US$500 whereby two top swimmers from each school were handed vouchers to purchase swimming suits.
Beatrice emerged winners after sending in a total of 178 girls and 210 boys to amass a total of 388 points. On second position was Alex Park who deployed 187 girls and 159 boys to amass 346 points.
Avondale was third with 137 girls and 178 boys to collect 315 points. Moffat came fourth with 279 points while St Martins and Borrowdale came fifth and sixth with 265 and 87 points respectively.
Speaking after the event, Pool Pump representative, Gumiremhete said it was their mandate as pool specialists to make sure schoolchildren have time to showcase what they possess in terms of swimming.
“We have to have these friendly galas time and again. We should not wait until it’s too late for the kids to show us what they can do. Again, as pool specialists, we are mandated to reward outstanding kids, that is the reason why we donated swimming wear vouchers valued at US$500,” Gumiremhete said.
Exercising on certain medications – such as chronic medication – is unavoidable. Yet many of us use painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicines to mask pain so they can continue with their training.
Why would we do this?
Well, if you’ve been training for a marathon (or other sporting event) for months on end and suddenly you experience some form of pain that interferes with your training as race day draws near, the temptation to dull the pain until after the race you trained so hard for is over can be all too tempting.
While this may help you continue with your training programme, it also merely disguises the fact that the body is experiencing pain – which could be indicative of a deeper, underlying issue that could be exasperated by continued exercise.
Risks of painkillers and exercise
It can lead to overtraining, which carries it’s own burden of risk.
If you’re considering a career as an athlete, be extra-careful before taking any painkiller medication, as many experts believe “painkillers fulfil all the requirements of a doping substance”.
Continued use of certain painkiller meds can also not only lead to long-term health issues, but also painkiller addiction.
What the research shows
In one study, researchers interviewed 4 000 runners at the Bonn Marathon in 2010 about their use of painkillers and the effect they had.
They found that runners using painkillers had a 13% increased risk of “adverse events” including muscle cramps and intestinal cramps.
This may not sound too debilitating, but this can cause colonic seepage or intestinal leakage into the bloodstream which in turn may result in higher levels of inflammation – tempting the athlete to take more medication.
They also found that the painkillers, used by more than half the runners in the marathon, blocked certain enzymes which regulate the production some hormone-like substances that play a role in the contraction and relaxation of muscle tissue. This can lead to injury over time.
Another study, in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Medicine, which you can read here, focused on the effects of taking ibuprofen before or during a workout, and found that ibuprofen (a commonly used anti-inflammatory medication) lead to an aggravated exercise-induced intestinal injury and even caused “gut barrier dysfunction” in some athletes.
The researchers of this study concluded that using anti-inflammatory pain medications before or during exercise is “not harmless” and advised that “use of such medications should be discouraged”.
Fortunately most coaches and trainers advise against the use of anti-inflamatories during exercise as they can often not only mask the problem and allow the athlete to continue exercising without allowing the body time to heal.
How other medications can affect exercise
However, exercising on some medications is often unavoidable – such as with chronic health conditions – and others don’t have such a dramatic effect, but it’s always advisable to understand the risks.
Some cold medications, certain diet pills, allergy remedies and herbal teas may contain compounds that contain caffeine, which can elevate the heart rate, leading to unwanted side-effects in some people such as heart palpitations.
Some medications can alter your resting heart rate and your maximal heart rate, and if your training programme is reliant on your tracking your progress through a heart rate monitor, this could be detrimental to your training.
If you know ahead of time that the medication you are on could affect these, your trainer should be able to adjust your training programme accordingly to take this into account.
If you have been using a certain medication for an extended period of time, while engaging in regular exercise, overtime this could also affect the way your body responds to certain medications. For example, exercise has been shown to increase sensitivity to some psychoactive medications such as antidepressants, whereas regular exercise has been shown to decrease the need for high blood pressure medication over time.
Generally however, the smart thing to do is advise your doctor what type of exercise you engage in and howregularly when they prescribe you any medication. Rather safe
The biggest and most influential sporting groups in Australia are being criticized for signing “unhealthy” and high-profile sponsorship deals with beer and liquor companies, gambling agencies and fast-food chains.
A study by the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health reveals nearly three-quarters of national and state government-funded sporting bodies are sponsored by companies promoting “harmful” products.
In a sports-mad country, that’s not the best of news. Companies promoting unhealthy food and drink were the most prevalent, sponsoring nearly 50 percent of Australia’s main sporting groups, followed by alcohol and gambling companies.
“Our research revealed a pervasive level of unhealthy sponsorship across our sporting codes,” study researcher Rona Macniven said. “Associating these harmful products with positive aspects of sport normalizes associated activities.”
The findings of the study were released a day after A-League football’s Western Sydney Wanderers were criticized over a sponsorship deal with a fast food company which will see a meal named after the club served in dozens of locations in the western Sydney region.
The “Wanderers Meal” will include chicken nuggets, a large hamburger, large french fries and a large sugary drink. Food experts said the meal accounts for 70 to 75 percent of an average person’s recommended daily calorie intake, and twice the amount of salt.
The critics said a 10-year-old child would have to play football or another similarly active sport for 10 hours to burn off the calories from that meal.
Despite an international reputation for its sporting success and outdoor lifestyle, Australia has experienced a surge in the rate of obesity.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that three in five adults in Australia are overweight or obese, and the overall number of obese or overweight people has increased by 5 percent since 1995. The institute said one in four Australian children were overweight or obese.
Macniven said the University of Sydney-funded study into sports sponsorship used a set of criteria developed by 12 health experts from government and non-government organizations to determine what constituted an unhealthy food or drink.
“It included representatives from the cancer council and heart foundation who were looking at the main nutritional content of the foods that were prominently produced by the company,” Macniven said in a telephone interview Thursday with The Associated Press. “In some cases, the companies involved did produce healthy mineral water, but their main product streams were unhealthy.”
Macniven said there were 14 mainstream Australian sports groups which had no unhealthy sponsorship tie-ins, including cycling, swimming and triathlon.
Cricket Australia, which features a large beer company logo on the shirts of its limited-overs international team, was considered by the study to be the worst offender.
A check of major Australian sports websites backs up the study. Cricket Australia’s website has a prominent beer company logo as one of its “platinum” sponsors, while smaller logos of companies representing a gambling agency, fast-food fried chicken and sugary drinks also appear.
The fast-food fried chicken company is the major naming-rights sponsor for the domestic Twenty20 cricket league.
Cricket Australia said in an emailed statement to the AP that its commercial sponsors “provide critical financial support for the game at all levels, from the grassroots to elite competition.”
It defended its association with an alcohol sponsors by saying it has a responsible drinking campaign called “Know When to Declare.”
“Our research shows that it is better to engage with the reality that most fans enjoy a responsible drink than it is to turn them off with a prohibition message that they don’t believe,” CA said in its statement. “We believe that this is a pragmatic approach.”
It also said its fast-food sponsor helped spread the game to a wider range of the Australian public, and said Cricket Australia has a range of programs in place to encourage children “to get off the couch and be active, from school education resources through to the development of our MILO in2CRICKET participation program.”
The National Rugby League has logos from companies which manufacture beer, bourbon, soft drinks and the fast-food fried chicken company on its website, and the Australian Football League has beer and a soft drink company featured in its online marketing.
The A-League is sponsored by a car company and has none of the so-called “unhealthy” sponsors on its website. But that was counteracted when one of its 10 teams aligned itself with the fast-food burger chain that is packaging the “Wanderers Meal.”
“I despair at the way some sports seem willing to sell themselves to anyone, and to promote unhealthy messages, regardless of the consequences,” Mike Daube, professor of health policy at the Curtin University in Perth, Australia, told Fairfax Media. “This is rampant promotion for the obesity epidemic.”
Macniven sounded exasperated at the thought of the Wanderers Meal.
“Sports is supposed to be linked with health, but here we have unhealthy options under the guise of health,” she told the AP. “Children, of course, are heavily influenced by this kind of material in a negative way.”
Billabong International’s chief executive, the American retail specialist Neil Fiske, is working in Australia on a 457 visa.
Mr Fiske is the most high-profile – and, at $1 million a year, best paid – worker on the controversial 457 visa covered in a leaked monitoring report by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
The unredacted version of the report, obtained by Fairfax Media, reveals the names of 1800 visa holders and the companies that employ them – or in many cases, the companies that used to employ them.
The audit, which involves less than 1 per cent of the 200,000 foreign workers in Australia, raises concerns over 40 per cent of 457 visa holders, including evidence that many are no longer working for their nominated employer or are not being paid at the rate at which they were promised.
The report also raises questions about the widespread use of the visa, which the government insists is available only to employers who “cannot find an Australian citizen or permanent resident to do the skilled work” they require.
The Fair Work log suggests that certain cafes and restaurants in populated urban areas are almost entirely staffed by foreign workers.
For example, a restaurant called Goa Indian Fusion on Queensland’s Gold Coast has five staff on 457 visas. The Gold Coast has a youth unemployment rate of 16.5 per cent.
Likewise, Cafe 21 in Darwin has six imported staff doing everything from cooking to customer service, and has one working as the accountant.
Waves Car Wash in Canberra has four staff on 457 visas while a Thai massage business in the ACT suburb of Belconnen has imported six Philippine women as staff.
The Brotherhood of St Laurence this year described youth unemployment in the ACT as at “crisis levels”, at 11.2 per cent.
The Abbott government announced this week it was making it less burdensome for businesses to apply for 457 visa workers and it would relax rules around English language competency to broaden the pool of potential workers from overseas.
Unions are fighting the expansion, saying it is not the right time to loosen visa requirements because unemployment is at 12-year highs and youth unemployment is at 13 per cent across the country.
David O’Byrne, the national secretary of United Voice, the union that represents 120,000 hospitality workers, said the restaurant and cafe industry – with the support of the Abbott government – was pushing its campaign to cut penalty rates with the spectre of more foreign workers if Australian workers do not comply.
“A system that can be abused this badly is a system that is not working,” he said.
“The migration system is supposed to support a growing economy – not shrink wages.”
Almost 350 people – nearly 20 per cent – were found to be “no longer employed by sponsor”. There are also concerns over underpayment.
The statutory minimum of is $53,900. One worker recruited as a customer service manager was found to be working as a cleaner and paid just $28,000.
Six workers employed by Great Solar, a company with operations in NSW, Victoria and South Australia that went into administration in November 2013, were all being paid $10,000 less than they should have been.
A spokesman for the Fair Work Ombudsman said: “Where the Fair Work Ombudsman has concerns that employers may not be meeting these sponsorship obligations, we refer the matters to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection for all further action.”
Assistant Immigration Minister Michaelia Cash said: “There could be a number of reasons why a visa holder may not be with their original sponsor, and this does not indicate inappropriate behaviour or a breach of an applicant’s obligations.
“If a visa holder has stopped working for their original sponsor, they have 90 days to find a new sponsor or otherwise leave Australia.”
Opposition employment and workplace spokesman Brendan O’Connor said the audit showed why Labor had toughened rules around 457 visas.
“The results show why the Abbott government should not have opposed the measures and why it should not remove these important safeguards for workers,” he said.
There were 105 cases, of the 1800 cases that were audited, in which the nominated salary was $100,000 or higher.
Billabong nominated a salary of $982,000 for Mr Fiske but the report showed his actual salary was $1 million.
A Billabong spokesman said the surfwear group was a global company and Mr Fiske had the strongest set of skills to drive the troubled company’s financial turnaround.
The log shows Canberra-based Swimming Australia imported coach Jacobus Cornelia on a salary of $411,000.
A recent report, titled Robust New Foundations, by the government proposes a “fast-track” approvals process for larger companies with good records, relaxed English-language requirements and consideration of a 10 per cent reduction in the $53,900 minimum income