Our club (Golden West Swim Club, in Huntington Beach, CA) is considering
whether age group and senior workouts should be "open" (with parents and
others allowed to watch) or "closed" (with no one allowed within the pool
complex, other than the swimmers). The club swims in a community college
50 meter pool, divided in the winter by a bulkhead, separating the senior
group from the age groupers. One group of parents tends to hang around
the senior end, while another hangs around the age group end. Some with
kid(s) in each group wander back and forth.
Arguments for having "open" workouts:
1. Improves safety factor for kids. With a hundred or more kids working
out, it is not uncommon for individual kids to get sick, or hurt, or have
to go to the bathroom, and what not. This leaves kids walking around, and
it is reassuring to have a lot of parents there to make sure that they are
safe and attended to.
2. Since age group and senior workouts end at different times, it is
difficult for families with kids on both teams to come to the pool at 2
different times to pick up the different kids. It is convenient to let
the younger kids shower and play with their friends around the pool deck
(monitored by the parents watching the workout) and to have to come only
at the later time and pick up both age groupers and seniors.
3. Promotes a "family"-type of social environment, where parents get to
know one another by chatting on the deck during workouts, which is less
easy to do at the relatively infrequent and relatively hectic swim meets.
4. It is cruel and unusual punishment to make parents who come from a long
distance away (and can't conveniently go back home) have to go out into a
dark parking lot in the early AM or late PM and wait until their kids
finish the workout.
5. For a few swimmers and parents, there is actually a degree of "quality
time" bonding which goes on when the parent is there to appreciate the
fine efforts the child is making in workout. In many respects, the most
important part of swimming is the workouts, and not the meets. Some
parents and kids may want the parent to be present for this, in the same
way that most kids and parents want the parent to be present for other
Arguments against having "open" workouts:
1. The parents disrupt the workout, by distracting the kids and
occasionally pestering the coaches.
2. The kids feel that they are under a microscope. Not only do they have
to meet their parents' expectations in swim meets (bad enough), but they
are pressured every day in practice to: (a) lead their lane, (2) swim in
the "fast" lane, and (3) consistently outswim certain of their teammates.
This creates an unhealthy situation, where kids are unnaturally pressured
by their parents, rather than only by themselves and their professional
coaches. This also may exacerbate intra-team rivalries and jealousies.
3. Even kids whose parents do NOT attend workouts may be adversely
affected by the factors listed above.
Balancing everything out, it is not entirely clear whether the "pro"
arguments outweigh the "con" arguments.
I would be very grateful to hear the experiences of other teams and the
opinions of other parents and/or coaches.