By Jamie Barone
With the Opening Ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics commencing tomorrow, the sport of swimming gets ready to enjoy its once-every-four-years moment in the spotlight. Millions of people around the world will tune in to enjoy the aquatic spectacle put on by the premier athletes in our sport. It is easy to get wrapped up in the battle of Phelps vs. Lochte, but the real inspiration comes from the pride in seeing a fellow countryman atop the podium, eyes glassy as the Stars and Stripes are raised with our national anthem playing in the background. Sports like swimming and gymnastics always see a surge in numbers immediately following an Olympiad. Commonly referred to as the “Olympic Effect,” programs enjoy a boost in enrollment as eager children with dreams of Gold try a new sport attempting to emulate their newfound heroes.
You might be thinking, “But my child is already 11, he is probably too old to ever chase a dream like that! I’m sure these Olympians have been swimming 6 days a week since they were 5.” Well, the truth couldn’t be more different! Consider this quote from US Olympic Swimmer and American Record Holder Allison Schmitt, who started swimming at 12 when she was cut from the travel soccer team: “I can remember when I was in high school, coming in seventh and eighth at our state meet.”
I was in a similar situation; I started swimming seriously at 17 after being cut from the high school hockey team and went on to enjoy a fulfilling career in swimming. Don’t fall victim to the myth of specificity that seems to be particularly pervasive in Fairfield County. Diversity in your young child’s athletic career not only helps them develop coordination and a sense of body awareness, but allows them to try different sports while looking for their passion.