Big Little Kids


Wayne Goldsmith

Dear Wayne,
I am always being told I am small for my age. I train really hard but other kids my age seem to do less training and beat me because they are bigger than me. Is there any point in swimming any longer if I am always going to get beaten because I am so small? Signed,

Are you a little smaller than other kids your age?

Do you train really hard, only to be beaten by bigger swimmers who do less training than you do?

Do you give it your best every time you swim and only struggle into finals while "big kids" seem to take it easy at training and breeze through the morning swims?

Do people say "Don't worry, you'll grow sooner or later"? Are you getting really frustrated with it all and thinking that there might be life apart from swimming?

In every swimming club, in every squad, in every state or province, there are "little kids"-kids who are smaller than other kids their own age who often find it frustrating to be the one who will grow "next season."

Swimmers mature at different rates. Some swimmers at 13 years of age are almost fully mature and practically adult height. Others are much smaller and shorter at the same age and don't mature until their late teens.

Long term success will ultimately be determined by: technique and skills, attitude, and desire.

At senior elite level, where the training methods, aerobic fitness, strength, and other physiological attributes of the top swimmers are relatively similar, success will be determined by factors that are NOT related to growth.

Is Michael Klim ten feet tall?

Is Susie O'Neill the tallest swimmer in the world? Is she even the tallest in Australia?

Does Grant Hackett have the biggest muscles? Is he built like Arnold Schwarzennegger?

Does Sam Riley have size 20 feet and three-metre long arms? No.

Do Michael, Susie, Grant, and Sam have great technique, excellent skills, a great attitude, and a strong desire to succeed?

And do you know what the great thing is? You can't control how tall you are-but you can control how great your technique is, how excellent your skills are, your attitude, and your desire to succeed.

So, the things that really make the difference are totally within your control! The advantages in being a "little kid" include:

  1. You have to find ways to win other than just coming first. This might mean doing drills better than anyone else, streamlining further than everyone in your team, doing kick sets faster than anyone else can. (In other words—Win the Workout!). If you can't be the fastest swimmer on your team, why not be the fastest starter or best finisher?
  2. You can focus on perfecting one thing at each swim meet until every race skill can be done perfectly. This might mean perfecting starts. It could mean perfecting turns. It may mean concentrating on streamlining. It could be finetuning your race warm up. Aim to do one thing at each meet to the best of your ability. Warm up well, stretch, and do whatever is necessary to prepare yourself mentally.
  3. You can spend time working on mental skills like being confident, relaxed, motivated, and focussed.
  4. ou can learn to set LONG-TERM GOALS. Setting long-term goals that are related to perfecting skills is an excellent way to achieve long-term success.

Look at things you do well and not at things you can't or don't. Focus on maximizing your strengths and overcoming your weaknesses.

People who get things easily or without real effort rarely appreciate them and seldom make the most of them.

In the end, athletes appreciate most the successes they had to fight for. Countless top swimmers have been defeated in major races by poor skills developed through years of poor training habits and practice discipline. The development of these skills has little to do with inherited muscle fibre characteristics, blood chemistry, or bone length. It's about attitude. And it's about developing an attitude to do your best at every opportunity.

Little kids can have big attitudes and a big appreciation of every opportunity presented to them.

So "little kids," you have a lot to gain by training hard and swimming smart. Your time will come and man, will it be worth the wait!