All We Need to Know About Childhood Development by Pat Henderson, Ed.D. (2004)


Published


Patricia Henderson is currently a consultant regarding school guidance and counseling programs and a school counselor educator. Having spent 19 years as a counselor educator, she is currently teaching at the University of Texas at San Antonio and Our Lady of the Lake University. Prior to this she spent 30 years as a school counselor, supervisor and administrator. Of those years, the last 19 were as Director of Guidance at Northside Independent School District in San Antonio. By the end of her tenure in Northside, she was leading the work of approximately 200  professional school counselors. She is author or co-author of 19 articles and chapters, and 9 books and monographs. She is co-author with Dr. Norman Gysbers of Developing and Managing Your School Guidance Program  that, now in its 3rd   edition, continues to be one of the American Counseling Association’s best selling publications. Its companion, Leading and Managing Your School Guidance Program Staff, is recognized as an important text in the newly emerging doctoral programs in school counseling. She has been an active leader in professional counseling associations at the local, state and national levels and has received awards for being an exemplary counselor and supervisor, and for her writing and research. She can be reached at guidance@satx.rr.com

 

 

 

[Editors Note:  Immediately below this note is the PowerPoint Outline of the transcript that follows

 

Understanding The Developmental Needs Of Your Age Groupers

 

Shared Goals

Best/Fastest Swimmers Possible

Meeting Basic Needs

Healthy, Integrated Balanced Human Beings Of Good Character

 

Different Roles

Athlete

Coach

Parent

Team

 

Definitions

“Developmental”

“Age Groups”

“Basic Needs:”

Survival, Love, Belonging, Power, Freedom, Fun

“Team”

 

Premise:
The More You Understand The Developmental Dimensions Of Your Athletes, The Better You Will Be Able To Help Them Be The Best Athletes They Can Be.

 

Assumptions

Immunity

Connections

Beliefs

 

Presentation

Purpose

Plan

Topics

 

What The Kids Are Like

Age Levels

6-12 Years:  Children

Building Foundations

10-14 Years:  Tween-Agers

Managing The Turmoil Of Change

13-18 Years:  Teen-Agers

Becoming Adults

 

What The Kids Are Like

Developmental Dimensions

Physical Development (Bodies)

Brains

Sexuality

Cognitive Development (Minds)

Thinking

Problem Solving

Moral Development/Decision-Making

 

What The Kids Are Like

Developmental Dimensions

Personal Development (Selves)

Personal Identity

Personality

Self-Concept

Emotional Development (Feelings)

 

What The Kids Are Like

Developmental Dimensions

Social Development (Relationships)

Their Interactions

Family

Friends/Peers

Other Significant Adults (Coaches, Teachers)

Career

Cultural Identity

 

Suggestions For Coaches

To Help Yourselves

To Help The Athletes

To Help The Team

To Help The Parents

 

What The Kids Are Like

6-12 Years

Building Foundations

 

What 6-12 Year Olds Are Like:  Physically

Stabilizing

Increasing Coordination & Confidence

Issues:

Minor Injuries

Obesity

 

Suggestions For Coaches

Working With 6-12 Year Olds

Appreciate Improvements

Build Confidence

Do Not Overreact

Nutrition Education

 

What 6-12 Year Olds  Are Like: Cognitively
Concrete Thinkers

Inductive Logic

Short Attention Spans

Planning, Problem-Solving, Goal Setting

Moral Development:

Based On Authority Figures

Learn From Modeling

 

Suggestions For Coaches

Working With 6-12 Year Olds

Be Concrete

Encourage Goal-Setting & Planning

Teach & Enforce Rules Fairly

Model Making Moral Decisions Rationally

Establish A Respectful Climate

 

What 6-12 Year Olds Are Like: Personally

Self-Understanding & Self-Control

Egocentric

Self-Esteem—Goals/Accomplishments;

Perceived Parental Support

Feel Inferior By Comparison

Personalities Developing:  “Big 6”

 

Suggestions For Coaches

Working With 6-12 Year Olds

Support & Encouragement

Healthy Competition

Parent Substitute

Help The Parents

 

What 6-12 Year Olds Are Like: Emotionally

 

Experience Complex Emotions

Act Out Their Feelings When Discouraged

Goals Of Misbehavior:

Attention

Power

Revenge

Avoid Inadequacy

Suggestions For Coaches

Working With 6-12 Year Olds

Identify Goal Of Misbehavior

Respond Appropriately

Consequences:

Natural

Logical

 

What 6-12 Year Olds Are Like: Socially

Need To Belong To A Group

Peer Pressure

Expanding Circles Of Awareness: Self>Family>Friends>Coaches/Teachers

Learn To Cooperate

Same Gender Friends

Developing Their Work Ethic: Expectations & Commitment

Cultural Influences

 

Suggestions For Coaches

Working With 6-12 Year Olds

Provide Fair And Consistent Leadership

Use The Group

Conduct Parent Training: Roles & Parenting Skills

 

Suggestions For Coaches

Fair & Consistent Leadership

Show Confidence In Kids’ Ability To Make Decisions

Kids Are Responsible For Own Choices

Adults Are Encouraging

Problem Solve Together

Clear Rules, Consistently Enforced

Misbehavior Results In Natural Or Logical Consequences

Avoid Power Struggles

 

Suggestions For Coaches

Respectful Interpersonal Climate

All Individuals Are Respected

By Each Individual

Open, 2-Way Communication

The Team Is A Team

Have Fun Together

 

What The Kids Are Like

10-14 Years

Managing The Turmoil Of Change

 

What 10-14 Year Olds Are Like: Physically

Growth Spurt

Body—Another Clumsy Period

Brain—Room To Get Smarter

Releases Hormones

Sexual Development

Puberty—Self-Consciousness

“Locker Room Phobia”

 

Suggestions For Coaches

Working With 10-14 Year Olds

Educate To Minimize Locker Room Phobia

 

What 10-14 Year Olds Are Like: Cognitively

Begin Abstract Thinking

Capable Of Learning To Generate Alternatives & Consequences

“Either/Or” Thinking

Differentiation Of Learning Styles

Moral Development:

Respect Rules Established By Groups—Family, Church, Society, The Team

 

Suggestions For Coaches

Working With 10-14 Year Olds

Teach About Consequences Of Decisions And Behaviors

Problem-Solving

Expanding Options

Work With Different Learning Styles

Open, 2-Way Communication

Team Input Into Establishing Rules/Codes Of Conduct

 

What 10-14 Year Olds Are Like: Personally

Begin Search For Own Identity

Want Autonomy, But Lack Life Experiences

Feel Invulnerable

Egocentric

“Imaginary Audience”

Oversensitive: Appearance & Performance

Perception Of Uniqueness

Want To Be Unique, But Also Want To Be Like  Everyone Else

Self-Esteem Drops

 

Suggestions For Coaches

Working With 10-14 Year Olds

Help Them See Reality

Realistic Goal-Setting

 

What 10-14 Year Olds Are Like: Emotionally

Overwhelmed By Mix And Magnitude Of Feelings

Feel They Cannot Manage Them

Volatile

Increased Sexuality >>>Feelings Of Guilt, Shame

Act Out Their Discouraged Feelings

 

Suggestions For Coaches

Working With 10-14 Year Olds

Strive To Understand And Appreciate Them

Listen To Them (Attend, Reflect, Ask Open-Ended Questions)

Avoid Overreaction

Illogic Is Not Intentional

Identify & Respond Appropriately To Goal Of Misbehavior

Educate Them About Sexuality

Keep Routines And Order

What 10-14 Year Olds Are Like: Socially

Are Hard For Others To Understand

Opposite Gender Friendships

Popularity

Peer Pressure Peaks At 13-14

Cliques

Resist Authority

Distance Selves From Adults

 

Suggestions For Coaches

Working With 10-14 Year Olds

Need The Team!!!

Build The Team

Hold Team Meetings

Maintain Fair And Consistent Leadership

Have Fun Together

Help Parents Through This Rough Period

 

What The Kids Are Like

13-18 Years

Becoming Adults

 

What 13-18 Year Olds Are Like: Physically

Sexuality

Intimate Relationships

Harassment

 

Suggestions For Coaches

Working With 13-18 Year Olds

Listen To Reports Of Threats

Act On Them

Minimize The Negative Impact To The Team–Couples’ Relationships Are Not Team Business

 

What 13-18 Year Olds Are Like: Cognitively

More Abstract Thinking

Deductive Reasoning

Problem-Solving Skills Improve

Don’t Always Apply Them To Themselves

Moral Development:

Rely On Their Own Values & Principles

Self-Discipline Is Possible

 

Suggestions For Coaches

Working With 13-18 Year Olds

Use Team As A Discussion Forum For Ideas

Help Kids Think Through Their Choices

Especially Potentially Harmful Ones

 

What 13-18 Year Olds Are Like: Personally

Are Farther Ahead With Identity Search

Autonomy Is Around The Corner—Scary!

Personality Is Pretty Well Set: Negative/Positive

Increased Self-Esteem

 

Suggestions For Coaches

Working With 13-18 Year Olds

Cannot Force Conformity

Team (Positive Peer Pressure)

Individual Responsibility

Team Is Trial Ground For Identity

Be A Good Role Model Of Adulthood—They’ll Be Watching!

 

What 13-18 Year Olds Are Like: Emotionally

Are Still In Turmoil

Can Express Their Emotions

Can’t Manage Them Too Well

Mis-Steps Perceived As Failures

Goals Of Misbehavior Are A Bit Different:

Attention (From Peers)

Power (Control; Apathy)

Revenge (Want To Be Likeable, Acceptable)

Avoid Inadequacy (Not Trying)

Excitement (Want A Wide Variety Of Experiences)

 

Suggestions For Coaches

Working With 13-18 Year Olds

Maintain Consistency And Order

Avoid Power Struggles—Stay In Your “Adult”

Involve Them In Solutions

Learn That Missteps Are Learning Experiences

Respond Appropriately To Goals Of Misbehavior

Swimming As Legitimate Excitement

 

What 13-18 Year Olds Are Like: Socially

Understand Others

Conflicts With Parents

Need Adult Role Models

Peer Relationships Are Primary

Dating

Friend Selection

Post-High School Planning (Reality)

“Senioritis” = “Senior Panic”

 

Suggestions For Coaches

Working With 13-18 Year Olds

Parent Replacements

Encouragement

Team Meetings

Have Fun Together—Kids, Coaches,  Parents

Help With Future Athletic & Life Career Plans

Ncaa Rules

Fair And Consistent Leadership (Discipline)

 

Suggestions For Coaches

Fair & Consistent Leadership

Show Confidence In Kids’ Ability To Make Decisions

Kids Are Responsible For Own Choices

Adults Are Encouraging

Problem Solve Together

Clear Rules, Consistently Enforced

Misbehavior Results In Natural Or Logical Consequences

Avoid Power Struggles

 

Suggestions For Coaches

Respectful Interpersonal Climate

All Individuals Are Respected

By Each Individual

Open, 2-Way Communication

The Team Is A Team

Have Fun Together

 

What 13-18 Year Olds Are Like: Socially

Racial Identity Development

Conformity

Dissonance

Resistance/Immersion

Introspection

Synthesis

 

What 13-18 Year Olds Are Like: Socially

White Racial Consciousness

“Color Blind”

Awareness/Dissonance

Resistance/Immersion

Intellectual Acceptance

Appreciation/Involvement

 

What The Kids Are Like

Developmental Dimensions

Physical Development (Bodies)

Brains

Sexuality

Cognitive Development (Minds)

Thinking

Problem Solving

Moral Development/Decision-Making

 

What The Kids Are Like

Developmental Dimensions

Personal Development (Selves)

Personal Identity

Personality

Self-Concept

Emotional Development (Feelings)

 

What The Kids Are Like

Developmental Dimensions

Social Development (Relationships)

Their Interactions

Family

Friends/Peers

Other Significant Adults (Coaches, Teachers)

Career

Cultural Identity

 

What The Kids Are Like

Age Levels

6-12 Years:  Children

Building Foundations

10-14 Years:  Tween-Agers

Managing The Turmoil Of Change

13-18 Years:  Teen-Agers

Becoming Adults

 

Suggestions For Coaches

To Help Yourselves

To Help The Athletes

To Help The Team

To Help The Parents

 

Premise:

The More You Understand The Developmental Dimensions Of Your Athletes, The Better You Will Be Able To Help Them Be The Best Athletes They Can Be.

 

Shared Goals

Best/Fastest Swimmers Possible

Meeting Basic Needs

Healthy, Integrated Balanced Human Beings Of Good Character

 

 

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Transcript:

 

I am at the age when I talk about my kids, I cry. Do you like this title?  On the sign out front, the official title is actually Child Development, but I kind of thought understanding the developmental needs of your age groupers was kind of cute.  I am a beach person and groupers where I come from, South Texas, are food you know? Fish.  So that will give you a hint about where this is going to go, right? As George said, I am here to provide you kind of an overview of information about the developmental habits of the kids that you work with, and about their psychological and their social needs.  You are the experts in their athletic needs, and their athlete needs. Of course they come together so I would hope that I am going to remind you at least and provide you some information that you will find useful in your coaching. My ultimate goal would be that you would use this information so that you can alter your coaching style to match the needs of the kids, particularly the age level kids that you are working with.

 

I spent ten years as a high school teacher, counselor, administrator and 29 years as a supervisor of school counselors and as an administrator of school counselors at all levels – elementary, middle and high school so I professionally have had exposure to a wide range of the young people that we serve.  I can’t call them all children. For me, high school kids are adolescents and then that becomes too long a word so rather than adolescents I just call them kids. I hope you can deal with that.  My mother would be very unhappy because that is pretty slangy. I retired from the school district and I have spent four years now as a University instructor of counselors – counselors in training so that is my background.  My background is as a school counselor.  Now, the good news about that is our association is also ASCA – the American School Counselors Association – isn’t that funny?

 

My kid’s both started into swimming when they were 9.  Matthew has just retired into Masters at 31 – they are twins.  Laurel was a lifeguard until last year. Their dad was a swim coach so what can I say?  From the time they were little teeny babies they were sitting in infant seats on the pool deck – being terrified by water polo guns and start guns and you know, all that kind of stuff. Actually, swimming is pretty close to us and I do think that I have this brain damage that chlorine causes, but I think that that is something you all ought to worry about too if you do everything in indoor pools.  I did want to tell you that I am not a coach. I hope George left so I can say this – I hope I learned the distinctions and roles and responsibilities between parents and coaches. Some of my best friends are coaches, right?  And as you see – my kids have been real lucky in terms of the opportunities to work with really good coaches – including George and his staff – Eddie Reese, Dave Salo was the coach for Laurel when she swam with Nova Aquatics and a pretty good other coach I don’t know if you know Doug Andrew – I don’t know that he is real visible at the national level, but he was their novice coach when they were little kids. When they started after summer league playing in the water stuff and he was wonderful – a perfect novice coach.

 

I would like to know just a little about you. This is kind of hard in a room this size – I could have you stand up and tell me your life story and that would be the end, right?  We would just do that the whole four hours and I would never have to do another thing, but I don’t think that would be useful. So let’s do some standing up to get sort of a flavor for it.  How many of you coach kids that are 8 and under?  If you would stand up so we can see numbers – I think this will help you get some of that lunch settled down.  A bunch.  Okay, how many of you coach kids that are 11 and 12 – you can stay standing or sit down which ever works or you can bob up and down, I mean, that would be what happens when you watch those little kids, right? – bob along.  13-14’s?  15 and over?  High school kids?  So the whole range right?  Now you can sit down – thank-you.  I didn’t ask for master’s coaches because actually the master’s coaches have to go through the second childhood with these people right?  So maybe we should be backing them.  How many of you have been coaching more than ten years – stand up.  Oh wow – so you all know more than I do – I shouldn’t have done this – this is very intimidating, okay?  How many of you have been coaching between five and ten years?  Okay – and then two to five years?  Yeah – there we go and how about for who – are there any people for whom this is the first year? Let’s do geography – do you want to do that?  How many of you are from – this is the United States now – the northeastern states?  So you won’t understand how I talk right?  So I need to tell you that I was actually raised in New York and I went to college in Massachusetts and what happened to my accent?  How about the southeast?  Because now I have spent 22 years in Texas and that is what happened to my accent!  How many of you are from the Midwest?  Where we swim in the snow? Southwest?  So a little scattering – I forgot to tell the Midwesterners that I was born in Chicago so I had that accent too. Feel free if you have something to say out loud – feel free to use your own natural accent – it’s really okay.  Are there any – the first person I met at this clinic actually yesterday was someone from Leeds so that would of course have me ask – are there any people who are from – not from the United States?  Stand up please.  Let us welcome you.  You are impressed with the flatness of the land – is that right?  The gentleman said it is so flat and I said well you could go through Ohio and then go for a thousand miles and see nothing but just flat – so welcome.

 

I guess I ought to get into it don’t you think? I have a couple of generalizations that I want to provide you with ahead of time so that you know where I stand or where we should stand, or how we stand on this together.  The reality is that I think the goal of the three major players in the swimming environment are kids, the coach and the parents. They do share a goal.  Their goals are the same.  Though each may have some different priorities. There is a basic goal that all people have according to psychologists – particularly Alfred Adler – that all people really relate the goals in their lives to work, friendship and love.  So work – the contributions they make to society – the expenditure of their efforts – the expressions of who they are – are contributing to the greater good if you will.  So that jigsaw puzzle image that George used – friendship.  The sense of who they connect with – who they hang out with.  Who they like to spend time with – you all probably have coaching friends.  You also have personal friends – you know – friendship in a variety of ways, but we need those connections no matter how much of independent loners people are. Love of course – suggests the south – the partner, a much more intimate kind of relationship than a friendship, but both of those dimensions are there for sure.

 

If I think of swimming goals as work, related to the work goals, because that is where kids do those things – where they connect with people – where they actually make their contributions to the being to themselves, to the family. A primary goal for the coach of course is that the kids will come – become the fastest swimmer possible and then secondarily will have some of their needs met – some of their basic needs – the ones I just talked about or there are all kinds of ways you can list basic needs.  My own opinion about that is that everybody gets their own definition of what basic needs are, so for the coach, being the fastest swimmer possible is the primary goal and helping meet their basic needs is probably a secondary goal, although working with young people it could be the opposite because they are intertwined. For the kid – when the kid is on the pool deck their primary goal is to be the best, fastest swimmer possible and that that will somehow contribute to their basic needs and having their basic needs met which contributes to their being the best, fastest swimmer possible. Then ultimately, which is the application of learning from meeting those first two goals – a goal for the individual, the individual’s parents, the individual parents and for the coaches is to have the kids – the young person – grow into an adult person who is a healthy, integrated, balanced human being of good character.

 

The parent’s goals are to meet the basic needs of their kids first. Swimming – being the best, fastest swimmer as possible is their second goal for their kids. Sometimes that makes a huge difference in how the parent approaches the situation or the coaches approach a situation, or even how the kid approaches it. A kid sometimes gets caught in the middle of those two sort of different definitions of primary goals, but it does help if parents know that that meeting the kids basic needs is their primary goal and that swimming is a secondary goal for them, but it needs to also be a goal for them – but to understand that difference is what helps contribute to their different understandings of their roles and of course each has a different role.

 

The athlete’s goal is to succeed.  His role responsibility is to do the work necessary to succeed.  For each swimmer their swimming career is about them.  It is really their business so their role is to do it – to be it and the coach’s role is to help them.  To help them be the best athlete they can be and recognize the great influence that you have over the rest of what they do.  So, when the kid is primary – the coach is the next level of influence – this includes the swim program – swim team and the whole swimming part of their life.  This puts the parents in a little shadow because the parents of course – extremely influential as well, but in terms of the actual learning and swimming dynamic and competing in swimming dynamics they are a second – they are second class citizens?  I probably wouldn’t say it that way – I probably didn’t want to say it that way now.  I don’t think I would say it that way to the parents, but they do have a lot of influence on what kids bring to the pool. Another huge factor in what happens is the team.  Getting back to that basic goal of belonging – of having friendship.  The team really provides for that and so understanding the influence and the force of the team is also something that I am sure you are aware of, but we need to not forget about it here as well.

 

So the team is a group of people working together to achieve the same or shared goals. Their goals are to help each other and themselves to be the best class of swimmer as possible – to have their basic needs met as relates to the situation and to be of good character – go grow up to be healthy, integrated, well-balanced human beings all together. There we have it – different roles – each important, but very different and some basic definitions – we are talking about child or kid developments – we are talking about looking at generalizations about the patterns of such developments.  We do know that everybody is unique and that it is important to remember that. We also know that as people grow up from little bitty babies in their cocoons coming all the way out to being adults – people go through similar steps in the process of growing and some of those steps are a little more challenging to them and a little more challenging to the people around them than others, but that is what develops the development part in each.

 

It doesn’t stop at the end of childhood – the human growth and development is as a whole the lifespan.  It is also human nature to want to go to the next level.  People want to grow.  They want to develop.  They want to continue on the path of conquering the universe, which I guess is their kind of goals they come up with.  A potential problem actually for coaches and kids is if not everybody goes through these developmental stages successfully .We all get stuck in some places and stay in some places longer than others.  Some of us are very late bloomers.  Some of us are accelerated – have accelerated development.  I don’t know if any of you saw the movie – “Arrested Development” – you probably know a lot of adults who are really still stuck in adolescence right?  They are still stuck in their high school traumas – looking for – searching for their identity or what have you, but a caution to people who work with kids, including coaches, is that you do need to be pretty in tune with yourself about where you are developmentally in terms of these psychological and social dimensions because it is where you are stuck, when you are stuck in someplace and the kids come in contact with that place where you are stuck or they challenge it. You can fall right into the game of the child so that the kid is getting mad and throwing a temper tantrum and stomping their feet and doing all that and you tie right into that.  You just stomp your feet and if you are stuck in that phase you stomp your feet and you know, you throw a temper tantrum back and of course that is not productive for the kid and it certainly is not productive for you. Being aware of what pushes your buttons is really important if you want to be completely successful with the kids that you are working with.

 

Age groups. To the researchers in child development the age groups are

6-12 year olds, then there is an in between stage that are the 10-14 year olds and then adolescence is spans from 13-18 and we are going to go back to those in a little bit, but the reason I share those with you is that you can see that there is overlap, right?  That middle stage which shows you that some kids get there quicker than others.  Some kids start that at 10 and some last or stay in it longer – until 14 whereas sort of the typical age for the end of that is 12-13. What you need to picture is the bell curve – you know, the normal distributions – the bell curve.  I mean, kids fall within that bell curve.  The bunch of them are in the middle, but there are that 2% on either end that are faster or slower in terms of their development so please bear that in mind. Of course to me – I am an educator right and so I think about elementary school children, middle school children and high school kids.

 

To label children pre-adolescent, although I found a new word – in getting kind of up-to-date in terms of doing this presentation – that I really like because I do not like pre-adolescence because it is pretty demeaning to kids that are in the middle and being called the kids in the middle only makes them worse because they are in the middle and it is a problem, but if you label it and make it kind of like you give them permission or what, but anyway – I kind of like the “teenager” as opposed to the teenager which I can tell you really think that is a great idea. What I will do when I give assignments to my class I call them transesents which is a word about 3,000 years old – trans meaning you know, in transition – it is the same kind of prefix, but no body has ever heard of that word I don’t think it is well used.  You can’t just say puberty because that is only one aspect of it so there we have that.

 

Think about how broad those age spans are.  Think about a 6 year old you know, think about a 12 year old you know, think about a 10 year old you know, and a 14 year old you know, think about a 13 year old you know and an 18 year old – I mean, you are talking huge chunks of time in growth and development. Individuals develop at different rates and we are going to talk about basic needs because that is one of the primary areas – I sort of like this listing of what people’s basic needs are. This was done by William Glasser who says that the five basic needs of people –and we have my first typo – survival, love, belonging, power, freedom, fun – not freedom fun which sounds risqué and dangerous, right? We also know Massler’s hierarchy. There are other lists of basic needs of people, but I like this because it seems to provide a kind of a rounded definition of survival – food, clothing, and shelter. It also can mean survival of themselves – survival of their psyche as well as of their bodies – so survival is a need – the need for love – the need to belong which is where the team comes in – where all the people come in – as loves comes as well.  Power. Power over their own universe – power – some kind of power over their own destiny – freedom – freedom to do autonomy – freedom to have autonomy – freedom and then fun which he has only added in the recent times and I think this fun is a really important topic.  You can overlook its importance and we think it may be irrelevant, but we search for fun.  There are different definitions of what fun is, but it is an important need.  Finally the team, which we actually already talked about a bit and that is the team, is a place where a lot of that plays out. So, the team is a group of people working together to achieve mutual goals. When I think of a team it isn’t just the people who happen to all be signed up on the same roster or members of the same club. To actually be a team then you have to be working together productively or sometimes not productively, but trying to work together productively.

 

So the premise of what we are talking about today is that myth – the more you understand the developmental dimensions of your athletes the better you will be able to help them be the best athletes they can be. That is the basis of it and also of course the part about being good human beings.  I make a couple of assumptions as well – the assumptions are that swimmers are not immune from developmental issues.  They do not all grow up –they all go through those developmental stages – they all go through them at different rates.  They are simply not immune just because they are swimmers.  The other thing they are not immune from are the other things that impact their development which we call situational issues – I am sure you call them those too, but they do live in the world of today where kids come from abusing homes, neglectful homes – in fact – sometimes that is why you get them, right?  Homes where alcoholism and drug abuse goes on because we do know that that cuts across all social boundaries right?  In all ethnic boundaries and the rest of that. Divorce, remarriage – the divorce rate is closer to 50% than it used to be, poverty, swimming is kind of expensive so I don’t know how much poverty, but some of you probably work with kids who come from impoverished neighborhoods, hopefully, so that they get the opportunities as well and then homelessness.

 

Kids are not immune.  The swimmers are not immune from these things.  What I can say to you – those of you that are not from the United States – most of the literature that I am familiar with has to do with kids in the United States of America, but I also know a little bit about internationally and a lot of – some of the work that has been done there and the human growth and developmental stages are pretty universal to human beings regardless of geographic location. Certainly the situational issues would vary, but we are not talking much about those today we are talking about the developmental issues.  Another assumption is that there are connections between thinking, feeling, behaving and acting that what someone thinks influences how they feel and can influence how they act.  How someone feels influences how they think and how they act and how someone acts influences how they think and feel so those are interconnected in how people do things.  How we go about our lives and being aware of that is pretty important because we have a tendency to work in the head a lot with their thinking. Their feelings are there and their actions stem from those as well and then as far as basic beliefs – effective helpers – coaches, teachers, counselors believe that people are basically good – that if left to their own devices the kid or the adult would do the right thing.  In order to really help kids grow then you have to believe that.  It is also important we believe that to recognize environment situations – relationships with others can move people off these tracks of developmental health and they move them particularly if they are vulnerable, if they lack courage, if they lack self-discipline, if they have some kind of flaw if you want.

 

Another belief is that one of our goals is to help kids avoid or get rid of self-defeating behaviors that essentially interrupt their healthy growth and development.  Now we are going to go about the rest of this. Typical developmental stages of kids. We are actually going to talk about different facets or different dimensions of kids.  As we go through the day there are five of them and we are going to go through each one and talk about them.  The plan is for us to do the 6-12 year olds first and then we are going to start on the 10-14 year olds. So, the topics – it is kind of artificial to sort out these topics and separate them out because they are all interconnected, but that is how we are going to go about it. The age levels that we already talked about – the 6-12 year olds, the 10-14 year olds, the 13 to 18 year olds – in children we talk about building foundations – just like you do in swimming – it is also true about life and about them being people – 10-14 and “tweenagers” live through this turmoil of change.  Every single aspect of their humanity is changing during this age – this developmental stage so managing the turmoil of that – I think it is the most challenging age group there is actually and it is the most challenging time of life for the individual, although, going from 6-12 isn’t all that easy either and 13-18 isn’t either since the teenager’s primary task is to become adults and that is a hard row to hoe as well.

 

We are talking about what kids are like.  We are going to talk about them in terms of these six dimensions.  We are going to talk about them physically in terms of how that relates to their psychological and social development.  So the parts of their bodies that – we wait for that specifically are the brain – brain growth and of course the development of their sexuality.  The second dimension that we are going to speak and talk about is cognitive developments – their minds – how they think – solve problems – how they develop as moral human beings – their moral developments – their ethical decision making capacities. We are going to talk about their personal development as they grow into themselves which includes personal identity, personality and self-concept development and maintenance and then we are going to talk about emotional development – about their feelings and then for each of those age groups their social development, the relationships through their general patterns of interacting – their relationships with their friends – their peers – other significant adults.  I put career in here.  We are not going to talk too much about careers, but the career in the broadest definition is about helping kids look towards their future. They do carry forward lessons from swimming into their careers so I am inviting you all to go into careers in swimming. They certainly take the work habits and all the rest of that with them.

 

Also important is of course their cultural identities and how they develop their identity in terms of their culture and for each of those I am going to be so bold as to offer from my professional self some suggestions for you all.  Things that you might do, you might choose to do, might consider doing, or might not want to do. However, you feel about it. To help yourselves, to help the athletes to help the team, to help the parents given the things that we have talked about.  We are going to start with the 6-12 year olds building foundations – I would like you to take a minute and think about the 6-12 year olds that you see. Perhaps on your – if you are taking notes or have a piece of paper or whatever – think about a list – just kind of quickly – two seconds – think about the most likeable things about the kids in that age group – the 6-12 year old’s  – the most likeable thing that comes to your mind about that age group.  So, what is likeable about them?  Secondly, I would like you to think about what is most interesting about them.  And then what is most problematic about them to you? What is puzzling to you about them?  So, likeable, interesting, problematic, puzzling – and now what I would like you to do with those lists is talk to your neighbor in two-somes, three-somes or whatever and share some of the thoughts that you have had.  If you don’t have a neighbor – you may have to move.  We all want to belong you know, so talk to somebody.  I am only going to give you a few minutes here so don’t get carried away.  That is as much play time as you have.  Let me get you to share just a couple of examples – what are some of the things that you find likeable about the 6-12 year olds?  A couple of examples – one or two or three?  They are happy, fun, have high energy, and they are willing, trusting – very interesting.  How about the most interesting?  Sensitive or insensitive?  Oh sensitive – sensitive humor.  That is actually one of those things all the way through.  Other interesting things?  Yeah, get knocked down and get back up – some kind of resilience – they are literal, yes.  I have to tell you a little story – one of the students in my class is a first grade teacher or maybe a kindergarten teacher – I am not sure, but she did the thing that you always do is doing something on the blackboard and somebody is misbehaving and she says, now Reba be quiet and so a little while later they are supposed to be doing seat work and she is sitting at her desk and she feels something on the back of her head and she turns around and it is Reba and she says – what are you doing?  And she says I was looking for the eyes in the back of your head.  Isn’t that cute?

 

So, you have got to be careful, right?  Or maybe you don’t, to just be aware. How about problematic?  Their energy is the opposite – it is a good thing and a bad thing or what is problematic about it – what do you mean by that?  Yeah, focus.  Yeah, they get older – yeah is that good or bad?  Sad, right?  Attention span, right and then what are most puzzling?  Inconsistencies – so you never know quite where they are or what exactly is going to happen that day.  Other things that are puzzling?  Yeah, they are very different right?  They come different – I really believe that – not everybody believes that, but having had a boy and girl twins – I just know that they come different.  They come different genderly and they come with different personalities.  There are just some things that really are innate so there is that.  Physically is the first area of development that we are going to talk about with the 6-12 year olds. What are some generalizations that map some of the things that you have said? Not necessarily so specifically so in terms of their physical growth and development – it is a time of stabilization.  They are gaining more control of their bodies – their muscle – large muscle coordination work so then up to this point – up until six they are pretty much just growing. Which is why having little kid’s swim programs and Mommy and Me and all that is really fun, but to try and build a team of 5 and 6 year old’s – is like teaching pre-kindergarten – yikes.

 

Their growth.  They are still growing, but it has leveled off quite a bit and so they are able then to get some control over their bodies so their coordination increases – it doesn’t get perfect unless they come with some talent in that direction, but they get more confidence because they actually do have more control and their bodies do get more balance. Issues that are recurrent and certainly have implications for the athletes are minor injuries.  Of my two kids – Matthew was the injury prone one.  We took him to a swim meet – and this may have been his first swim meet and he was climbing – it was an outdoor meet – Mission Viejo and he was climbing on one of those outdoor tables that has an umbrella and the little benches all attached to it and of course he fell off and he dislocated his shoulder. You know, minor injuries.  So that is how he started and forever – he has not been very coordinated on land.  The other issue in today’s world is obesity, which I think is interesting and kind of frightening. In talking to the coaches at our club what they have noticed is the kids who start swimming at 8 and under – when they come they are physically fit.  They come from families where they actually have some direction about their physical involvement.  They have been active.  They may have been introduced to other sports already so they have some knowledge base about that.  When they come in 9 years old and older, many of them they are overweight.  Most of them or a lot of them are overweight and they are obese.  They are not active.  They have failed at other sports.  They are looking for an activity – the parents are looking for activities to get them away from their TV’s and into something that is going to help them not be obese for the rest of their life. So those are the issues that challenge them physically.

 

So working in terms of their physical development – working with 6-12 year olds.  As you see they are getting more coordinated – getting more control – doing better things – help them build their confidence.  They have been through – the rest of this period is kind of challenging to their own personal confidence and so anything that you can do to nurture them moving in the right direction.  Some of their behavior – in terms of the injuries – it is important that you not over react because that sets a whole pattern for how they are going to handle injuries in athletic competition or anywhere. You probably know that, but the parents probably do not and so there is another one of those places where the major players need to kind of connect. Of course it would be helpful if every adult that works with kids, talked about nutrition, particularly with the families and the kids who are obese or overweight. You all know a lot about that – the rest of us don’t know very much about that and it is not a subject that is done in school until actually older ages by and large.  Helping people learn about the value of nutrition is really important.

 

Moving on to their generalizations about their capacity to think and to make moral decisions – we have already said, well you said they were literal – they are – they are very concrete things.  Kids between the ages of 6 and 12 by and large are not ready to think abstractly – they think about what they can see, touch, taste, feel and not real deeply at that – they are just really concrete. You can’t have what if discussions. They are not going to go there.  They cannot project out like that. They actually are getting a broader vocabulary and so you think that they think more abstractly than that, but they may not. So you cannot assume that they are smarter than they are because you can listen to their vocabulary. How they are able to figure out what you mean about what you are saying is that they interpret from your tone of voice and your demeanor more than they do from the actual words that you say. Being careful to not send mixed messages. For example – don’t sound mad if you really aren’t.

 

Concrete – they do learn to distinguish left and right somewhere in this age span. They can read the clock and during the time span they can come to understand how it works.  They understand about speed, but not about pacing tempo because that is kind of an abstract concept. They do apparently during this time frame do/can race against themselves – come to understand that they can race against themselves for a better time, but that comes at the 12 year old end of that age span.  It certainly isn’t there at the beginning.  So what they are capable of cognitively is inductive logic – they need to have concrete examples of things, which then they can put into a true understanding. You cannot give them a generalization and then derive information from that. So you build.  If you want them to learn a concept or a thought you have to start from specifics – the more concrete you can make it the better.  If you can make it into building blocks or a game better still.  When they want to learn things they learn by questioning, by exploring and through guided participation, which is what I was getting at through games. By questioning when they ask a question – answer it, but again, you have to listen to what you think they are understanding.  You can only go so far in terms of answering the question as a whole, but you have probably had that experience where a kid asks you some question that sounds kind of deep and you go into a great explanation about it and you know, they say – can I go and play now?  I think of my first attempt to talk to my kids about sex and – aren’t we done yet mom?  So learning to read when they have had enough information and then you know about exploring, right?  This is when they hide under the bleachers and climb into lockers and lock themselves in or you know, whatever kids do as they explore the environment that you provide for them.  They do have short attention spans that are just a reality, selective attention, although they can seem to be doing a lot of things and not listening and they are actually listening. Matt has just started to coach a pre-competitive little bunch of age groupers and he can’t believe that they can be bobbing up and down in the water and still understand what he wants them to do for the drill.  I just laugh because that is how he was – that is how he is today actually. You cannot assume they are not listening, but they do have short attention spans.

 

I worry a lot. We put a lot of kids on drugs. We think that we want to call them ADD because they seem like they are difficult – they just can’t focus for very long so we prescribe Ritalin or whatever it is that they are prescribing and then suddenly we have hooked them into the drug culture.  It is really scary because a lot of this is age typical, and age appropriate. Especially for boys. So now having done that little soapbox – thank you.  They can plan, they can problem solve, they can set goals.  They have to be real simple – these step by step processes, but it is not too young to start them setting goals for their swimming times or their length of time in terms of actual training the workout. Endurance capabilities – that kind of thing. I laugh – elementary counselors teach their kids how to plan and to solve problems in steps and kind of like a scientific method, but at the elementary level – that is like three steps and at the middle school level it is about six and by the time they get to be adults of course you get a diagram that goes across the whole wall! Keeping it simple and concrete, they are capable of beginning to learn to think like that.

 

In terms of moral development – their morality at this point is based on authority figures.  If you are an authority figure and you tell them what to do they are going to do it.  They know what you think is right and wrong, what their parents think is right and wrong and by and large – they are going to adhere to that, or at least they are going to know that is what they think of as right and wrong – whether they adhere to it or not might be another issue.  They also learn from modeling.  So it is important that you model good moral development, right?  In making rules – in making sure that rules are clear, adhering to the rules as established and if you break rules that have somehow been published that they are the right rules. Being honest about that, owning it so that they just don’t see a bad example.  You can’t think that you have fooled them, that maybe they didn’t notice, they notice because you are real important to them. Advice for you – be concrete – encourage – yes?

 

I am not kidding about working with parents to turn some of that TV and stuff off, but exercise some judgment and some caution about what they are letting their kids watch. On the other hand if the parents are there with them or you are there with them, you can actually do some guided learning. What was wrong with that? What was wrong with those choices that those people really made there?  You can ask them to discuss that so that you can continue to point out that it is a bad model, but you can’t control it.  You can only try to work around it. Other things for you, you can enforce the rules fairly, model making, moral decisions, rationally – when you have to decide what is right and wrong and if it relates to what is happening with the team, doing that kind of openly and then establishing a respectful climate where everybody respects everybody else and treats each other with respect is important.  They do not have to like one another, especially as they get older. That gets to be a big thing. But you can start teaching it at this age. They need to respect each other, whether they know them or not. There needs to be a polite climate. You have a lot of responsibility in that as well. Making sure the kids are respectful of one another, respectful of their parents, respectful of you and you are respectful of them. That is a respectful climate.  So in terms of their personal developments – some generalizations about their identities – self-concept – personalities – and what have you.  Not only as I mentioned to begin with and we were talking about the physical, they have some better control and some better management of their body themselves.  They are getting more understanding about who they are.  They are out of their families now.  They are in some bigger environments and so they understand that something inside of them. They discover that they can do some things. They discover that they have brown eyes or blue eyes that they can read or they can’t read, or they can swim freestyle really well or not.  They can think about the things about themselves.

 

They are capable of self-regulation.  They don’t do that so well at 6, but they can do that pretty well by 12 and that is to manage their own interactions, their own behavior, they are not just little animals any more – they actually are developing into, thinking active human beings.  They do tend to behave according to their own ideas about things. They tend to think that things are the way they think they are rather than how they are or the way they want things to be. A swimming example about this perhaps are little kids in competition – it seems to me that for all the workouts that you do and the stroke and technique and you are helping train them in a bunch of stuff – the little boys get into a race and they just thrash their way from one end of the pool to the other because all they want to do is win.  They have not made the connection yet – they think because they are thrashing – it feels like they are working really hard so they think they are going really fast.  That is an example of a pretty confused idea that isn’t exactly right. Girls seem to want to swim perfectly. Girls are a little complacent – complacent little girls get in the water and they do their little thing, but they can’t go very fast. They don’t really care about winning which is okay, except when you are trying to teach them that the purpose of some of this is to actually do both things – it is not only do your stroke perfectly, but also trying to move quickly. They think things are how they want them to be.

 

They are egocentric.  They are the center of their own universe.  They really don’t get it that other people are out there. To them, they are the center of the world.  It is all about me and that kind of thing but this is how they are.  I mean, you can’t change that until they grow out of that.  One of the things that is a little frightening is – oh it is not frightening – it is challenging is that their self-esteem – the basic respect that they have for themselves starts now.  It is beginning to solidify. You have a lot of influence over their basic self-esteem. There is research that supports that a person’s self esteem is based on two things for children – one is the closeness or the discrepancy between their goal and their accomplishments. If there is a big gap between what they are actually able to do and the goal that they want to accomplish that is going to negatively impact their self-esteem.  So, what do you need to do there?  Right. Scale the goals down.  Bring the goals back to something that is accomplishable. Baby steps. Little small steps at a time. Because their self-esteem and their self-confidence are all interconnected remember you want them to read you. Teaching them how to set goals and be sure that they learn to set appropriate goals. Then the second one you have less control over, but if I could, I would encourage you to work this problem and that is their self-esteem is directly connected to their perceived support they get from their parents.  Not all parents are good parents.  You know, they are not all well trained. Which is kind of a strange thing so parental support can either be too much or too little or even non-existent.  Sitting on the bleachers at swim meets with fellow parents – I notice many more of the over-protective types. The ones that are actually there kind of are over-protective and over ruling and they actually do a lot of damage to kids because they do not know how to encourage them and nurture them and that kind of thing.  They do a lot of criticism. Saying things like “Oh you didn’t beat Matt” or “what did the coach say was wrong with that swim” not how great it was or good finish or you know, something positive.  The more they get hovered over and the more criticized they get of course then the less their self esteem is and then the same thing is true about if the parents don’t support them at all.

 

In meeting with our North side coaches we were talking about the parents and swimming is sort of an “invisible fort” is how one the coaches put it.  Now, fathers all want their little boys to play football and so if they didn’t make the football team then they kind of, you know, then they are not quite as into swimming.  They don’t get it.  They don’t mean to not be supportive, but in reality they are not all that interested and they are not very helpful in that respect.  So, working that problem – particularly for the 6-12 year olds is knowing that one of the most important things that they can learn here is how valuable they are as people – whether they are good swimmers or not – they are still good people.  The other thing that happens of course at this age level that you probably also are aware of is that they feel inferior by comparison.  They have gone, especially at the 6, 7 and 8 year old part of this – they have gone from their families and their families are loving it all, you know, they feel like these little perfect beings, right?  They may feel small and all that, but they feel okay. But as soon as they get with a bunch of other 6 year olds and 7 year olds whatever age it is when they first come into this, they see how people are different and that tends to work against them.

 

If somebody is better at jumping ropes than they are then you know, they don’t feel so good about themselves. Then the whole world of psychology believes that you develop that inferiority complex and it lasts you the rest of your life.  I don’t happen to believe that – we can impact that – we can help him pass that by helping them feel like they are worthwhile human beings even if they are not quite ready to do something.  The other thing that starts is that their basic personalities are developing. Defining what a personality is, is kind of a whole other game, but it may be how what they present to other people – some of it is internal who they are – how they look at life.  The Child Development Specialists talk about these facets of personality – that people are extraverted or introverted, optimistic or pessimistic, agreeable or disagreeable, egocentric or altruistic, conscientious or not, and open to learning to new ideas or not. Different people have in their personality the tendencies to be neurotic, to be irrational, to be anxiety prone, to be fearful, to get hung up on things, to be obsessed or to be emotionally disturbed – they see their actual presence.  Some of them look like normal behavior or typical behavior so you cannot over-generalize, but you can sort of see it happening.  One of the things about personality is that it isn’t completely innate.  It isn’t pre-destined how you are going to be, but dreams do come with tendencies, but the people who are influential in your life can make some impact on that and you would be influential in their lives.

 

Suggestions for you – are that you support and encourage them. Encouraging meaning having a meaning different than maybe we always think about.  Encouraging is not like a pat on the back, a little pat on the fanny, or giving them a hug. But encouragement in psychological terms. You are talking about demonstrating that you have faith in them, faith in their capacity to do things and letting them try to do things that maybe even you don’t think they are ready to do. You have to let them try you know. This is that business about being over protective, but they think they want to swim a hundred and you know they can’t get past the 65 you have to let them try and if they don’t make it that doesn’t make them bad people, it just makes them set a lower goal for themselves. If it didn’t work – maybe there was some other way to rethink that. But by letting them try it teaches them to have faith and demonstrates to them that you have faith in them. That they actually might do it – that they can do it. They come with a lot of courage – one of those writers makes a huge point about this.  I think about Gulliver’s travels. They are very small compared to everything around them, but meanwhile they are still trying to conquer their world.  They are trying to learn everything – touch, taste, feel – everything so they come with a lot of courage and then our goal is to – would be to build on that courage, not to kill it.

 

Healthy competition – competition as a whole is a topic of its own that I don’t know a whole lot about.  You probably know more about it than I do, but I do know that it is there.  Again, I don’t know whether it is innate or whether it is inbred or ingrown or partial or both, but certainly their parents are also competitive and have set some models like that. They need to learn as much as possible what it means to be healthfully competitive – competitive with their friends. The people that they are swimming with are their friends and are going to stay their friends for as long as they are together in that environment. There is a lot of impact that we had helping that be healthy as well as competitive, but I think that needs to be taught.  I don’t know that it is present in the adult cultures. One of the things that I know seems like coaches find frustrating, is that you are a parent substitute – you are parenting for the kids whose parents don’t get it or are neglectful. I know our coaches talk about frustration that comes in the middle of winter in just their Speedos with their kick boards.  Wet – you know, wet hair, wet whatever so all that kind of stuff so you know, helping the parents do a better job is of course important right?  No, you cannot assume that they know anything.  The hardest job – what is it – did someone say something good?  It sounds like it.  Would you like to share that?  We are all ready for a laugh – you don’t want to do it.  That is true – trust me – it is true.  It is a job we don’t educate for, right?  I mean, we don’t – it is not a high school graduation requirement in most states so that would be the last chance to actually get everybody so there is no training.

 

Emotional development.  These are generalizations about how people’s emotions develop. The reality is that you can’t ignore the emotional events of your swimmers. To kind of pretend like it isn’t there, like I don’t want to deal with it or whatever, but it is so basic to their being. Like I said, there is a connection between speaking, behaving and feeling. So you know, where their emotions are, how they manage them, what they are – helping them in this area is really important. So, in the 6-12 year olds they do experience the complex emotions.  They do – they can feel for your guilt, shame and pride.  They can feel all that – they can feel more than one emotion at the same time – well I am happy about this – I am sad about this and you know, they can begin to distinguish or discriminate their feelings. But they still do things like perceiving that they are loved by the amount of time or the quality of the time that is spent with them – which is why you all are parent substitutes.

 

The other things we did not hear about, but I am sure some of you talk about when you talk about what is nice about these kids is aren’t they really affectionate by and large?  The kids that haven’t been abused or something that would cause them to shy away from people. But by and large they are real affectionate – they want hugs – right?  That is why I could never have been an elementary teacher.  They don’t have much vocabulary about feelings. Try to train and teach them vocabulary words – teach them how to identify what the feelings are that they are feeling and you may want to do some of that as well because it starts out where they just say, I feel bad – I feel good, but that isn’t very descriptive.  They need to learn that there is a difference between a bad feeling and that it’s different if you are afraid, they are different if you are sad, and they are different if you are angry. They are all bad feelings, but they are very different feelings.  Pride and happiness are good feelings, but they are very different so helping them at least identify them.  When kids, because they don’t have a vocabulary and they don’t quite have a whole conceptual basis about their feelings – they just have the feelings – when they get discouraged – when they are not encouraged – they act out their feelings.

 

I need to define a couple of those terms I think:  discouraged – the premise here is that a misbehaving child is a discouraged child and a discouraged child just by looking at the root of the word is a kid who is losing their basic courage – whose self-esteem, self-confidence is being whittled away at and they are beginning to not feel like they are lovable, acceptable, capable – the things that we need as human beings to feel in order to move forward so, but rather than be able to say all that, they are losing their self-esteem – they begin to feel insufficient and ineffective, unwanted – whatever and so then they begin to misbehave.  So one of the huge contributions from psychology is for us as adults to learn to understand what the goals are of their misbehavior – what it is that they are acting out when they are acting out or acting up or however you want to describe that.  Usually we assume what they are wanting is attention.  You know, well he is just trying to get attention because there are kids – kids do – and little kids particularly – that is what they want is attention – even negative attention is better than no attention at all and if they do not get much positive attention they do not know that that is the best.

 

Goals and misbehavior are also looking for power – if they are feeling like they have no power – they have no autonomy – they have no opportunity to actually influence what is going on in their world then they try to get it.  I am thinking again about this conversation with the coaches at North side – one of the coaches was talking about the kids that -particularly little boys get in the water and they just play around a lot.  It is very hard to get them into structure because it seems like the parents, the kids that he was talking about, are so over-protected they just don’t let them do anything and it is because they are afraid they are going to be rowdy or loud. So they get in the water and they are rowdy and they are loud and then the coach has the opportunity to try to teach them some good behavior, but that is actually a power issue – they have no power to be themselves in an over-protective stifling environment and so when they get in the water and when they think no one is around – it is just them in the pool and they can do that. It is not about attention there it is about power.  Revenge some little kids are looking for revenge.  This actually happens more toward the older end of this age limit and then above, but revenge against people who make them feel unlovable, or incapable, so you make me feel this bad, I am going to get you too – I mean they don’t think that out loud – it is not a plan – it is not intentional, but that is what it is so sometimes they misbehave because you have really, really hurt their basic needs to be lovable, capable and all of that so revenge is a mode and again you would respond differently to the different modes of misbehavior.

 

Many kids – we see this in school – way too much – become discouraged in school and what they want to avoid at all costs is feeling inadequate and so these are the kids who stop trying.  If I don’t try – I didn’t lose anything because I didn’t want it. But if I go in there and I bust my butt and I don’t make this goal, or I don’t beat so and so I will have an awful feeling.  Oh, yeah, you don’t know, that is one of the things you have to kind of look for – you have to try and figure out.  With little kids, they are so little and they are so, I say short attention spans – one of the good things – it is usually pretty immediate so if it is in the context of the pool then it is probably something that you have done. Maybe you were not thinking about doing that, but you were thinking about doing something else, but it had this effect so that is a great question because that does take some thinking right?  But this – I believe this all the way through – that it is all about that. So sometimes in order to know what is – which of these goals is at stake it kind of depends on how you are responding to it.  You know, if they are trying to take your power away and you find yourself in a power struggle with a kid and you are thinking, why am I in this power struggle – it is probably because they are playing their power card. So as I said, sometimes you have to just kind of look at how you are feeling.  So, advice to you is that you do what we were just talking about – actually – is work really hard to come to understand – to be able to identify the goal of the misbehavior.  Don’t just always assume that they are just trying to get attention or they are just angry or they are just this, that or the other thing, but to try to actually figure it out.

 

There are lots of good articles about this and if you are not familiar with this concept then you probably want to do some reading on it.  As I say, it is a development from the Iberian psychology – they have web sites and you know, there are good books – Children Who Challenge is still my favorite parenting – parent’s education book, but it has applications for all adults who work with kids.  It describes this business about encouragement and discouragement and behavior and misbehavior and all of that. Identifying a goal comes mostly – you get good at it from experience – the more you learn about it – the more you think about it – the more you look at your kids and they are behaving in different ways –then learn about it.  But that book:  “Children Who Challenge” would be real helpful to you because it will help you respond more appropriately. You are going to get the kid away from that misbehavior.  Sometimes it is better to just ignore the behavior – if they are incessantly trying to get your attention and they are trying to get your attention in a negative way – it is much better if you ignore that behavior because if you pay attention to it then you are giving it what the kid wants and so then you are actually reinforcing that behavior, does that make sense?  So what you need to do then is to look for ways to pay attention to when they are acting properly – when they are acting well and not misbehaving – they are behaving, but if their recurrent goal seems to be attention then ignore the bad stuff and do the good stuff.  If the power – what you want to do is get out of the power struggle – avoid the power struggle.  It doesn’t mean give up your own power – you are the authority figure and they do – or they are morally – they want you to be the authority figures so you just re-establish – do whatever you said you were going to do.  If you misbehave this way – this is the consequence that you are going to get and then this is what is going to happen. The end. Don’t talk about it – don’t do anything don’t get into discussions, or debates.  And the same thing with revenge. If the kid is acting out of really hurt feeling – they feel unlikable or unlovable they are getting revenge.

 

Again, you don’t want to get into that game with them.  It is important that you get yourself out of it so that you are clear where you stand and then take the time and the effort to actually undo the damage that you might have done. If you can, figure out what it was or be very sensitive to what you did  so that you don’t do it again.  If it is a kid who is feeling that beaten down and you are continuing to do something or to say something that is actually being mistranslated by the kid and you need to try to stop doing that and then for the kids who are just playing I would rather do anything rather than fail again, you need of course to help them find some success so they do not feel inadequate, so they don’t anticipate that they are going to fail every time they do anything.  The discipline that is recommended is that you – when kids misbehave and you let the consequence of their misbehavior handle the feedback to them.  You don’t need to impose anything.  You need to kind of just get out of the way of natural consequences. So we talk about natural consequences and logical consequences which are the consequences that come from a kid making a bad choice so if a kid makes a bad choice – I am not eating because I am not hungry.  They go to bed hungry you don’t agonize over it, you don’t wait for them to wake up at midnight and give them little cookies and milk you just let them suffer – a dinner is a dinner and that is it. I mean eat before you go to workout or after you come home or whatever – just let the consequences take care of themselves because every time you impose a punishment – impose some kind of discipline on them, then you are actually cutting away at their own self confidence.  Their own belief that they can do things.  They think that they have to be – they think that you think that they have to be punished in order to learn how to behave well.  Is that too convoluted or – okay?  So you just have to teach that consequences flow from a bad choice – let them flow.  Don’t try to rescue them from that.  They got themselves into the problem – they need to suffer the consequences and maybe they will not make the mistake again. The other little tricky thing there is you can’t say – see – see what happened because you didn’t do that?  Because if you do that then you are actually just making them feel bad.

 

So then socially – generalizations that we would make about the 6-12 year old are several.  They need to belong to a group as we already said – I mean, that is just part of what growing up is and man is a herd animal is what I always said.  It’s like I have been going to Jones Beach in the summer. You think miles of beach and when they come to that beach they put the towel down right beside you, but so anyway – people need to be in a group. In the next stage of course, peer pressure becomes a big deal, but part of what happens as I say, when the kids come to school and come to the swimming pool they meet other kids and they start to feel inferior because other kids are different than them. Kids are not very nice to each other and so there is some peer pressure. That is the beginning of what comes and at the upper end of the age group it becomes much more powerful.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out though that the kids are going through expanding circles of awareness of other people.  I mean – they start as egocentric completely you know, and then they find they have a mother and then they find they have a father, but then it comes into a social environment day care, swimming, school, and then they begin to have friends. The coach is becoming his teacher and so it is a kind of ever-expanding circle of awareness of other people.

 

What they can do and should do during the 6-12 year old period of time is learn to cooperate, learn to work with someone else, learn to play in the sand box and share and all those things you hear about.  One of the coaches in this conversation that is interested – he used to work with 8 and unders said the problem with our world is that the sandbox is a swimming pool so if they don’t feel well they might drown and I thought oh god, you can’t just let something kind of go – you have to stay on top of something.  But they can – they can learn to cooperate.  They do begin to have same gender friends.  They are going to begin to pick out people that they like to spend time with – pretty much the girls do not like the boys and the boys do not like the girls –again, I am sure you have observed that, but that is how it is.  I mean, it is okay –it changes over time.  A really important thing is that they are beginning to develop their work ethic so that is really okay for you to be working them hard.  It is also okay for you to let them play because playing is how children learn.  Sometimes I think as adults we think that play – for us play is kind of escaping from reality, but for children that is how they learn more skills.  They wouldn’t say it that way, but they do it that way, so the work ethic.  Some parents expect that they would never play I don’t know – that people play something – what is it – something and minnows – sharks and minnows – do they still play that?  Anyway, some parents think that that is a waste of time when in reality it isn’t.  It is a learning experience.  Parents have a lot of influence along the way so these are other ways that you could educate the parents.

 

We also, our coaches, talk about some of the cultural expectations.  We have a large Mexican-American population’ Hispanic population in San Antonio and their level of commitment about time is different.  The cultural expectations about time are different and so the new swim parents need to be trained that if the kids are supposed to be at workout three days a week, they need to be there three days a week.  If they are supposed to be in the water at 4 o’clock, then they need to be in the water at 4 o’clock.  It doesn’t matter that the family wanted to get ice cream on the way to the pool or you know, whatever the distracters are so that teaching them the commitment – that is how they express the commitment that is required is important because it is the beginning of their development of their work ethic and it certainly goes out into other areas so providing fair and consistent leadership which is that business about being encouraging and not discouraging and to actually establish rules and limits and enforce them consistently.  The important part of fairness in terms of leadership and discipline is that you build as much as possible open communication channels that conversations can be two ways – kids can say things and you can say things that you know, that someone doesn’t just listen – they ask questions.  All athletes need to follow rules – you can’t forgive some athletes some of the rules and not forgive all the athletes the rules.  I am thinking now about the Hispanic kids that come late to the pool.  They need to learn about that – that that is an expectation.

 

I don’t think that this early age group is too young to actually build the team into a team.  They are egocentric, but if they have to sit in the same room and hear the egocentricities they are more apt to build into a team, particularly as they go forward.  They can be taught about a team, why teams are important because that is a cognitive thing that you can learn right?  The value about being – it also just happens and you feel good, but all of that.  The more you are willing and can spend time on training camps – this is kind of – all the other coaches that come after the coaches of the 6-12 year olds would thank you immeasurably because by the time that you get to that 13 year old stuff the parents have given up too or they are confused by the age group. So whatever ground work is done in truly involving parents – this is it so they need to know what the rules and the expectations are for them as parents, as well as for the kids and of course they are related to one another.

 

The Roles. What is the role of the swim parent?  As contrasted to the role of the coach and the kid – I know it’s the kid’s job and you are the one with the expertise to help them do that job.  Their job is encouragement and support, but not get into stroke technique.  Can you stand one more story about my daughter – okay? So my kids just started swimming on the swim team and they are going to their first meet – oh man, we are doing big stuff and she is going to swim butterfly – that was her best stroke – no, not the butterfly, yeah, no breaststroke that is what it was.  Anyway they were just learning in practice – they were learning the flip turns so there I am driving the bus down and talking to them about this – flip turns and of course they would use them in this meet, right? It was their big opportunity to practice so I tell my daughter – her big event – is the breaststroke – she gets in – swims her best and tries to do a flip turn so what happens?  Disqualified right?  It is the last coaching moment I ever had and I have never been so totally relieved in my whole life as when I went to the open house at the high school when my kids started in 9th grade and the algebra teacher said, you don’t have to teach the kids algebra, that is my job and I would really appreciate it if you would just keep out of it – thank you sir.

 

It is so amazing – to this day I ask Mattie you know, what did Coach ……… say about your swim? He finally gets fed up with my asking the question and so he decides to tell me what Coach …… said about the swim and it’s about why your little finger was too far away from the rest of the hand or you know, okay? I just think it is important that parents know that you have a curriculum – that you have a plan – for what you want kids to learn and how you kind of go about it.  You know, this week we do this and this week we do that and this is the reason we add yardage or whatever but help parents know what your plans are.  You have to have faith in them.  A lot of them will understand and I am not talking about details, but at least what your basic curriculum is.  What the kids are going to learn and how they are going to go about learning it and how you planned it.  They do have to sort out their roles and all of that.  So again show confidence in kid’s ability to make decisions.

 

This is a kind of a summary of the points of leadership, isn’t it?  I’m not sure we talked too much about that, but we talked about the consequences and kids are responsible for their own choices and the more you leave the responsibility with the kids the more encouraged they are going to feel – the more capable that they are going to feel.  Their choices are really not your problem.  If you have given them the advice or you have taught them – whatever and they are going to choose to do something else then you need to let them learn from the consequences of the bad choices or the good choices.  They are responsible for their own choices.  Adults need to be encouraging – they are encouraging in a fair system that has fair and consistent leadership.  They are building on their strength.  They are identifying their courageous moments.  They are talking about what they do well so that they continue to feel capable and lovable.  If the kid has a problem – problem solving together – if the team has a problem – working together to articulate the problem and to come up with solutions for it.  Again, that displays trust in the kids that you know that they can come up with solutions if they want to and that they can think of ways to do that.  It doesn’t mean that you don’t say anything.  I mean, you get to participate in that too – you are their leader so you can’t cave in on them.

 

Clear rules consistently enforced – we talked about that. Misbehavior results in the natural logical consequences – we talked about that.  Avoiding power struggles at all cost.  To this day – every teacher that I know allows themselves to get into power struggles with the kids in their classes and it is ridiculous.  Who has all the power in the classroom?  The teacher, right?  So do they need to struggle for that power?  Same thing on the pool deck – who has the control?  Who is the powerful person on the pool deck?  Well don’t be afraid to say me – I am.  So you feel comfortable with that I mean, it comes with its responsibilities – one of which is someone did not take and give it away.  Well, that was powerful.  Anyway establishing respectful, interpersonal climates – that is a kind of an overriding recommendation to be happy at all levels, but this one as well where everybody respects every body else and disrespect is not tolerated – it is one of the rules.  We respect each other so each individual respects each other and individuals and vice versa.

 

Open two-way communications so that you respect the kids and you give them their floor space as well as a team – the building of a cohesive human mass.  And that is really important to have fun together because as I said, swimming over the course of kid’s lives is the center of their life a lot.  It is the center of a lot of their friendships and so having legitimate friends together is a really good thing.

 

I will tell you that in my teaching career I worked with the School District and the Board passed this policy that every administrator needed to teach one full day a semester each year.  They enforced it for one year, so my first semester I taught 12th grade advanced placement.  Was I brave or what? It was like teaching my counselors you know, but the second semester I decided that I would try to work with 8th graders.  It was the hardest day of my entire professional career – I will say that to you.  So for those of you that work with this age group – Bless you my children.  As I said at the beginning – every, every aspect of their lives is in turmoil, is changing, but I want to start like we did the last time.  I want to give you a couple of minutes to kind of reflect on the kids that you know, that fall within this age group. Give a little list again of the things that you find most likable about this age group.  List some things that you think are most interesting about this age group, and then what is most problematic. I need to give you an hour and a half for this list! Finally – what is puzzling about this age group to you? Again, what I would like you to do is to buddy up in twos or threes. Some of you are going to have to move out of your temporary space in the sand box and then you can go back to it, but to be a part of the dialogue and to share the kinds of things that you thought about – what you find likable, interesting, problematic and puzzling.

 

Just a couple again – just so we kind of get the flavor here of these children; what do you find likable about the middle school age group?  Or these 10-14 year olds/ 11-14 olds.  Not a likable thing in the room?  This is definitely a bad sign.  Someone has to love these children you know.  They are challenging – that is right.  Right – they are continuing to grow, right?  They are getting stronger.  They are getting more independent in their thinking so that is a good thing.  I think that is really a good point from your perspective, right?  That the parents try to run the coach around a lot when the kids are little.  As the kids now are becoming more independent – the parents have finally figured out – they don’t know how to handle these kids.  They leave the coaches alone a lot.  They just hope to God you know what you are doing, but they are going to be telling you what it is. These kids at this age can begin to really become loyal. They really need you and so it is when you like them – not if you like them – think positively right?  How about the most interesting?

 

Yeah – the boys versus the girls – that whole thing comes out at this point and plays itself out in vivid living color, right?  For better and for worse – in sickness and in health – for richer or for poorer – what else?  Is there any thing else that is interesting about them?  They begin to distance themselves from their parents, for which you are thankful, but the parents are quite confused.  How about problematic?  Absolutely – they bounce around or what right? One moment I guess is more like it – they actually do something mature and wonderful and then they turn around and become real negative about everybody else, right? They verbalize a lot more about dislikes.  It is almost like the likes may be taken for granted which is a good point actually.  Everything really isn’t, but we can see it as a way of learning some discrimination – right?  Some of you know, good sense to be discriminating – not biased and mean.  Or a warden – he said this and she said that and he said that and she told him that and then he went and he said… for a matter of words, right?  Yeah, you are definitely well advised to manage boys and girls differently at this age, but your point about the boys is pretty interesting and what this gentleman said is that all the girls look alike – he said they all wear the same clothes, right?  That is part of the clique deal right?  They have all got to be in the same outfits.

 

How about puzzling things?  Nothing puzzling?  Their bodies are changing so it is like the perfect transition into the physical development, but I will come back to that. Would I recommend separating them by gender?  The question was would I recommend separating them by gender at this age group – I mentioned to him in the break that our local team – the Northside section of the Alamo Area Aquatics Club has done that.  They have the girls on one team and the boys on the other. It is an experiment. They are just working with it at this point. I think this may be the first year and they think they really like it, but they worry a little because they wonder if it is so different.  From my professional perspective, which is a little bit different than your professional perspective, I don’t think it is a good idea. I think that the more they can learn to work together, to grow through some of this then the better in terms of their overall life and living. In terms of male/female relationships they can learn a lot during this period. In a mixed team, the truth of the matter is, I guess I listen to the coaches and then I listen to my son who hates it because he reminded me that the genders are split at college level. The genders are split in a lot of the high schools in terms of the competitions and stuff. So you know, there is just a lot to think about, and I think you have. I have my own feeling about this. The professional thing is that they should be helped to work through these life events.  The personal thing is that I think whatever allows you to coach to be comfortable.

 

What you feel like you can manage because you have a lot of work to do with this age group. A lot depends on just how comfortable you are with them. How much you really can like them. It is something that there is a lot of discussion about actually. I believe so, yes, but it depends – well, that could be, but there are ways to still have them be together and you know in girls lanes and in boys lanes. I don’t know how you would work that out, but yeah, they probably do have different training needs. That would be something for you to think about.  I am not really a good swim parent – I have no idea about that. At North Side too they have talked about the fact that there are like 8 or 9 boys and there are 40 girls or something.  That is real interesting.  Maybe some of this will shed some light on that.  I am not sure. My off the cuff kind of thought about it actually is that it gets back to that issue that we were talking about with the little kids. Their self-esteem being based on the perception of support from their parents and if the parents really haven’t supported them when they were younger. You know this business about the fathers who think about football, but they don’t really think about swimming except during the Olympic year. The lack of support for them to continue and down in Texas middle school is when kids start playing football at school and so that causes some conflict as well.

 

I decided that if we could work at that earlier age to get the parents really hooked into swimming they would give the kids the support that they need, or feel like they need.  You know, as a fan of the Olympics I would certainly like to continue to see men swimming.  A woman back there mentioned the training needs. There is all the psychological – it goes on and on – it is so complicated, but let me just tell you what I know about it and then I will stop pretending like I know what you know about it.  So, as I say, some of this might really shed some light on things. We are going to go back through the 5 areas again – the five dimensions of development that we are talking about this afternoon – that “tweenager” period of time and as the one group mentioned, this is called the second growth spurt. This actually happens when they are between 10 and 12. Two really important things happen here.  It is rapid. Again that rapid physical change. Kind of like they had when they were little kids. They are back to this again so their bodies are growing so fast that their coordination, and their understanding of their own bodies – it just isn’t there.  It sounds like he is talking about my kids. I love them so there we have it.  Matthew is 6 foot 8 so when he was (he was not 6 foot 8 in the sixth grade), somewhere around in here he got this growth spurt and he broke more dishes in our house than I can even tell you about. He had no idea how long his arms had become.  This is another very clumsy period for the kids and it again, then attacks their self-confidence.  I mean, if their feet are size 12 and Matthew’s body is a little short – his legs are real long so he is like a walking lollipop or something like that, I don’t know – it is a real clumsy period and so their self-confidence really does suffer.  Their brain grows as well which is a good thing because actually that is the get smarter part that you talk about.

 

You can notice significantly more capacity to think and perhaps to reason. Not real abstractly yet, but to begin to understand some of the things abstractly. They become inductive reasoners as well. They can use inductive logic.  The other part of the brain that impacts this age is that the capacity grows and it is able to release the hormones. It is the hormones that most of us think about because this is the part, right after the broken lamps and dishes and all of that then the sexual development starts. Puberty – which again begins for girls at 10 ½ on the average and boys at 12 ½. There are differences in physical maturation as well as social maturation. It is pretty visible here and that speaks to these differences that you are talking about and so the increased production of the hormones – girls get breasts and hips, boys’ voices change.  With it comes a lot of the self-consciousness. Because of the difference in the rate at which kids do this and go through this period of time that if all by itself, if they never saw a physical education class or a swimming pool locker room they would still be self-conscious. Where this plays out is in what is it professionally called  “locker room phobia”, right?  Where this all begins – I hope this isn’t inappropriate, but by now we are intimate friends, right?  But boys and their penis sizes start this whole thing, which is a theme for men in my opinion. I am small, I am not big and he is big. And all that kind of stuff.

 

So little kids, I thought I was going to be real comfortable with that. I obviously am not, but it is actually true, right?  I mean, they are looking at each other and they are looking at themselves and of course, that adds a whole bunch about perspective. I think it is at the root of this whole locker room phobia kind of thing that this starts and for girls it is the who is getting to wear bras and who isn’t. The reason this age group is now 10-14 is because puberty is actually moving down, happening younger and younger in our society and I don’t know whether that is a universal across the world, but it certainly is true here.  I think it is because we eat too much.  I think it is related to the obesity thing, but I am not sure about that.  The reality is that the locker room becomes the center of their social life and their self-development.  With or without you paying any attention to it, but we see it in school – elementary counselors do lead whole little units with 5th graders getting ready to go to 6th grade about showers and showering. Then of course it starts to shave and doesn’t start to shave. San Antonio is a Hispanic town and so a lot of Hispanics are on our swim team. The Hispanics tend to mature physically, come into puberty earlier. I don’t think Matthew hit puberty until he was at the University of Texas quite frankly – so you know, he was completely intimidated by these kids that are shaving and you know, all this hair. It is just all over the locker room, shower, wherever they shave – I don’t know, but it must have made him very uncomfortable. Because he didn’t have any hair to shave. So locker room phobia, which is a serious issue and kicks into this discussion that you are having or might be going to continue to have about separating boys from girls. Obviously they are separated in the locker room, but they are increasingly interested in each other, but I think somehow providing sex education that would minimize locker room phobia would be really helpful, or at least try to neutralize it somehow so that it does not become damaging. I do think that kids can get scars in this that may last forever. They are so sensitive at this age and so it is really worth some attention and one of the things that I don’t even think I said in the first half, but I really believe that the more open – that when I talk about the open two way communications – I mean talking about this kind of stuff.

 

I think that being straightforward with issues. In fact, the woman at the break brought up a really important point that I wanted to go back to. If the coach makes a mistake or any adult makes a mistake with a child or in front of a child I think the more open and honest you are in admitting that you have made a mistake the better the kids are going to learn from that. That whole business about modeling good moral development is being able to own your own responsibilities. You just need to own your own stuff actually so the more open you can talk about things that are serious issues then the more you can do it as the issues get a little bit more complicated.  So, that is my main suggestion for you about this age.  Now positively, because their brains are growing – they are actually able to think a lot more so they begin to think abstractly at this point.  You can try to give them ideas and have them get them, but you have to be careful because there are still a lot of non-abstractions that they can do.  They can hypothesize – they can consider alternatives and predict consequences for example of their behavior. You can now enlist them in this discussion, about at this age you can begin to have them kind of project that out in their heads – well, what might happen if. So that they are actually you know, processing it. Before when they were little kids – they would make a bad choice – they would make a choice that turns out not to be a good choice and they suffer the logical or natural consequences of that.  One of the things that is tricky about them, they can think.

 

They can hypothesize, they can project, they can understand consequences, and they can do a lot of stuff. They can do it in math; they can do it in science, a lot better than they can do it with themselves because they still have some of that kind of wishful thinking that invades their objective judgments.  It is kind of more like how they want it to be than how it actually is so they continue to make bad choices, thinking that oh – one can of beer isn’t really going to make a difference even if I am only 11. They are very much either/or thinkers.  Everything is black and white.  You either did it right or you did it wrong.  You are a bad teacher or you are a good teacher.  I like you or I don’t like you. There is no gray; there is not very much gradation there.  Which of course narrows their options so that kind of gets to that point about identify all the people – the things about the teacher that they don’t like you know, but they forget to think about the things that they might like because that would confuse them in that either/or thinking.  Another thing that makes this challenging for teachers and other people who are helping them learn things which includes you guys even if you are not doing the actual teaching in the classrooms. At this age, during this age/stage/phase whatever they begin to have, their learning style differences really become apparent. There are different ways to characterize different learning styles; there are visual, auditory, kinesthetic, kinds of learning. There is concrete, abstract, that kind of differential. The random, the sequential – those kinds of differences.  Another way that people think about this some times uses the theory about multiple intelligences. If this is a new topic for you I am suggesting another homework assignment, and that is that you read about different learning styles and kind of determine that.

 

I happen to like the multiple intelligence thing. Multiple intelligences. There are people who are word smart.  There are people who are number or reasoning smart you know, who can think sequentially is what that is a parallel to.  There is spatial smarts – people who can picture things and see what the relationships are. Visualize and see what the relationships would look like. There are people that think best kinesthetically. They think with their bodies. The more their body is engaged and hopefully swimmers have a good healthy part of this because that is in the water and it is a good thing that you are helping them on.  Some people are smart musically or music supports their learning of difficult concepts. People smart are self-smart and they use those naturalistic intelligences and are smart about nature and how that all works.  The point of this is that when you are giving rules or teaching things the more of these styles that you can approach the more effectively your kids will learn. Every coach I know does the explanations of things which would be the verbal stuff and then either demonstrate within the water or help the kids get the feel of it as they are actually doing their workouts and stuff so you are doing the two, but sometimes drawing pictures makes that a little bit more visual. Just try to be creative about that and approach your learners. The percentages. Every time someone does a research study about how many, what proportions people learn by these different things the percentages are very different.  I think we have no idea, but I think that people are a lot more varied. Every adult I know, we keep going to workshops and in the school district we go to these workshops about learning styles and then for the next six months people would say, well I am abstract, or I am random, or I am this, or I am that, so we are all kind of fascinated by that. It is kind of like as adults you get permission to no wonder I did great in geometry and I didn’t do well in algebra you know, that kind of thing. Thinking of ways to broaden perhaps your styles to match the styles of the kids that you have would be a good idea.

 

Then in terms of their moral development.  You remember as little kids they make their moral choices based on what somebody tells them. Someone in authority tells them what to do. It is all about the authority figure.  Here it adds, broadens out to they try to respond. They respect the rules that are established by groups, by their family, by the church they go to, by the society they live in, the culture they live in, and the team they are on. So that they are using the team as a culture to establish rules and to enforce rules and climates. All of the rest of that is a real opportunity if you are not doing that already because they do still respond to rules established by somebody else.  Every kid has a definition of what they think is fair.  I mean, you probably could be rich if you had a dollar for every time somebody said to you – that wasn’t fair, right? They are trying to understand fairness and kind of learn about justice. The more that is a part of the discussion that you have with the team, and having the team have some kind of input into the rules, having some discussion about whatever the rules are, the social rules, the conduct rules, the punishment possibilities or not punishment, but the discipline possibilities or whatever the more they are involved in that discussion then the more it will be upheld by the group. Therefore the kids have that – not just you the coach saying things that they are right or wrong or whatever, but they have the strength of positive peer pressure from the team, which starting from now until forever has a lot of power.

 

When I talk about that I am not suggesting in any way, shape or form that you abdicate your own leadership responsibilities.  You don’t let the team decide stuff that you don’t like.  I mean, it has to be within parameters that you set.  It has to include the things that you think are important so there is this delicate balance of having kids have honest input into the discussion – most kids – it gets back to that belief that they will do the right thing if left to their own devices.  Most times, when you let kids establish the rules, you don’t have to add very many.  Do you know what I am saying – I mean, they really do kind of know what is right.  They kind of want what’s right, but they also want you to take control.  They want you to stay being a leader. Just because I believe in openness doesn’t mean I believe that you get to be a wimp. I may have already said this, but the interpersonal climate – that whole idea about being respectful and how we handle people and how do we handle situations when people aren’t respectful of one another and that sort of thing.  The open communication. “Coach, we need to talk about this” and such, “the team needs to talk about such and such”; this is what is going on in the locker room. We need to talk about it.  One of the really important pacts that needs to happen in the team is establishing the rules or code of conduct. At this age kids seem to get into bad things. Things that are really going to hurt them.  Which includes sex, drugs, rock and roll and all of that other stuff that they are distracted by and tempted by at this age level. There has to be a pact that the kids who see something bad happen to somebody else have to tell somebody. That they have to tell the kid themselves. “We know that you are having unprotected sex. You better at least get protected.  Do your parents know?”  Most kids are more comfortable telling the coach that something bad is going on – Susie has been drinking every weekend – Sammy is smoking dope, but it should be in this case when you discuss the rules for this. It needs to be the group that decides that it is really okay because this is in the best interest of the kids. Being the best, fast as possible swimmer for the team and it is in the best interest of that kid being the best human being as he can be.

 

So back to those basic rules that we have talked about at the beginning – if that is the backdrop then it isn’t about snitching and thinking and tattling and all that kind of stuff it is about honestly doing what is in the best interest of the kids who are making some dangerous choices. It is like a conspiracy to commit murder – you know that kind of thing the conspiratorial part.  One of the things about this age group is that they still do not think real well. It is bad that they don’t tell and something might happen about that, but that doesn’t necessarily make them equally guilty. If it is a part of your code that they tell somebody and there are some things you won’t know – well I told my parents and my mom is going to talk to her mom and you know, it is not really your place to actually follow through unless it really is something.  I mean if we are talking suicide or we are talking alcoholism or something that looks like really life threatening, endangering stuff then you probably do have a responsibility. Solution not part of the problem, right, they were harassed, right believe me you weren’t stepping in. I was thinking actually on a one to one basis an individual source, but you are talking about where there is a whole group of the team involved and then actually yes the ones who are standing around and watching the bullying or hassling happen then they are a part of it. They should be a part of the solution. So then that whole business is a part of the initial discussion you have, when things are going on – how are we going to know about it or what should happen when it turns out that somebody didn’t tell and should have.  I was thinking more of the individual personal issues which are a little bit different but you are talking about the team issues so that is actually two different parts of the same initial conversation – good point.

 

So there are different learning styles. Helping them in their either/or thinking – the expanding options is to try to help them just see other possibilities; well, could it be that that teacher yelled at you and gave you 50 math problems because she thought you did something else or something. Help them learn to think gray, think about the things in the middle that most things really in life are not black and white. There really are shades of gray for the whole continuum of things and so helping them model – asking them questions or whatever to get them to actually think and then problem solving.  If you have forgotten to make a rule for the team like the group harassing the little kids, and there are some kids watching that happen-if you have not covered that ahead of time then in a team meeting having a discussion about it is okay, we’ve got this problem – now what do you think is fair here?  What do you think is the right thing to do here?  How are we going to fix this and you know, what is making it happen and all of that.  Have the discussion so that the kids themselves have to come up with the solution to the problem that they are creating in the locker room.

 

Now the generalizations about their selves, their identities, their personalities, and their self-concepts. They begin the search for their own identity, which is a quest that happens from now until they get to be young adults – it about finishes in the 20’s so it is a pretty awkward at this stage.  They certainly are not going to end up to be that integrated, balanced healthy person for a while, but they are struggling, right?  They want to be unique.  They love being thought of as individuals and all of that stuff, but they – it was also said by you all is that they look, they dress, they do everything that everybody else does – they all look alike so they have this contradiction – they think they want to be respected, but they don’t want to be left alone either.  They also can make another logical error about themselves; they can either fall into self-depreciating or self-aggrandizing.  Now depending on how good they feel about themselves, if their self-concept is pretty low, and they think they are pretty bad they might think “oh I wouldn’t be able to do that anyway” or “I am no good at that” or that sort of self-negativity. Or you know the opposite; they have a lot of confidence and really maybe even inflated self-confidence. You know, they see themselves a little bit more than they really are and they fantasize – sometimes they fantasize in being the rock star or the world famous whatever and that is tricky – being in the swimming world directly, that is Olympic dreams, right?  You know, I am going be Michael Phelps when I grow up and you want them to think like that, right?  And you don’t want to discourage them by saying it is never going to happen to you, because nobody is going to be another Michael Phelps right?  So it is a tender area but you have to kind of watch for those patterns and then you don’t want to discourage them – that is one of my themes for today as you already know, but you don’t want to encourage them if they are doing nothing to make it work. They need to plan how they are going to get there – what are their long-term goals going to be because by this time if they are dreaming about the future that far out then they ought to be able to at least begin to think about the sequence of events that it would require to get there. So without knocking the pins out from underneath them you at least get them to think about it. “Okay if you want to be Michael Phelps how are you going to get there from here? – What do you need to do?”

 

Then, they want autonomy, they want freedom- they want all this stuff.  They want power over their own lives, but they have had very little experience.  They are still very young so they don’t have a lot of judgment based on what they have learned from those life experiences.  I mean, a lot of people say they just don’t have any common sense.  Well, they don’t have any common sense, but they don’t have any common sense because they don’t have any experiences on which to base common sense.  There are a lot of adults who do not have common sense either – I mean, I don’t like this expression – common sense I guess would be the bottom line about that, but this whole business of life experiences where you learn.  You know, you stub your toe you skin your knee .You learn from things right? So you have those possibilities to bring – to bear on thoughts that you are having now so they don’t have the experiences to temper their judgments.  They are still in the wanna be, what I wanna do, and a thing that is dangerous about this is that they feel pretty invulnerable – they don’t know their own mortality.  They don’t know that they might die.  They don’t know – they might really get hurt.  They might really become an alcoholic.  They might really get pregnant.  They might really you know, do things – human things can happen to them, but they think that they are invulnerable.  They do not think about those possibilities.  They are still egocentric and because they are smarter – they may not sound as much like it, but I love this concept:  David Elkins is a psychologist who has written a lot about kids and I believe in him a lot as well and he talks about the imaginary audience. These kids think because they are egocentric that everyone is watching them all the time. Everything that they are doing is under a microscope. “Did you look at me? She just looked at me funny!”  You know, all that stuff .I love this imaginary audience – it is like they are walking around the hallways or up and down the pool deck or up and down the lanes or whatever, assuming that every one else in the pool is looking at them swim so if they do something clumsy – they slip off the wall, they do whatever they are sure that everybody else has seen it and they are embarrassed.

 

If you put the clumsiness together with this little deal and it isn’t true, they are still so egocentric that they are not able to put themselves into other people’s perspective very well, so they don’t. Because they are egocentric, they are still mostly interested in their own needs and if you ever watch middle school girls in the locker room, right?  They spend a lot of time.  They are oversensitive about how they look.  They are highly sensitive about their performance.  In fact, because of the either/or thinking and the sensitivity about their performance they can get into the thinking that if I have a bad race ”I am a terrible swimmer and I might just as well give it all up”.  How they perform is just really important to them and it is really important to their continued belief that they are going to grow up to be capable human beings so missteps are scary to them and can take a really unreal toll. That is really something to be aware of.  As their bodies change, of course some of their performance levels change, right?  I mean Laurel grew boobs and couldn’t swim properly for about a year and it discouraged her really badly.  I mean, it was probably the end of her dreams of really you know, pursuing the Olympic dream.

 

I think that you do when you ask me: “What are the kinds of things that you can tell them to help them understand that one bad performance or a slump or having to redirect your stroke because your body is different” I think without making it your pet project you may have to. It depends upon the balance of your team and how much time there is, but I think that the best thing to do is to be doing it day in and day out in workout.  Doing the encouragement.  What are they doing right about the new stroke that you want them to learn or to get back to? Somehow building on what they are trying to be so that you are encouraging them that they can re-find whatever it is that they have lost or seemed to have lost. So that when they get confident and they are back to being the new swimmers at 5, 6, 7 or 8 where the way that you are encouraging them is to say what they have done So that it is a whole thing about what are you doing right. What is going right here?  How are we doing this? Then if their goals (which would be the other part of that discussion) are really unrealistic for where they are in stroke re-development, helping to get back to those goals that are like baby steps. For example, this swim I am going to concentrate on where my thumb goes. If there is some body else that wants to work on this kind of stuff they have a buddy, which works because they now know how to work in pairs – watch to see.  See if she is holding her thumb in.

 

So it is not easy because they are so fragile at this stage and they are so emotional, but if you are consistent with your approach to it and if it is basically building on what is right and not over-criticizing what they already know is wrong because by this age, this may also be true of the little kids as well, they already know when they screwed up, when they haven’t done something right.  I am not sure they use negative criticism at all.  I think they have a harder time figuring out what they think – what was good about what they had done.  Anyway, they do have this perception of their uniqueness, which is combined with this kind of sense of invulnerability and they know that bad things happen to other people, but they do not believe that something bad is going to happen to them. I think I just said that a few minutes ago so you have to be aware of that because when it gets to this age 10 is a little young, but the 14 year olds are vulnerable to feelings that lead to suicide attempts and threats.  They don’t know that they could really die.  I am going to kill myself and boy, I can’t wait to see the looks on their faces. That kind of thing. They don’t get it, but that doesn’t mean that they are not going to necessarily take out the razor blade. This whole idea that they really can’t think that far through – all the way through – they don’t have that abstract sense – that capacity to be abstract – have an idea about what death is and that they are going to die.  To realize when we talk about this that they want to be unique, but they also want to be like everyone else and so that is part of that contradiction – you get to deal with, but of course the more they change and the more they change at different rates that emphasizes their differences so they have to deal with that, right? What is kind of frightening is no matter what, their self-esteem drops during this period of time – typically.  So, they are really in a very, very vulnerable fragile place.  I mean, all of these changes – all of this self-centeredness – all of that kind of piles up together and most of your kids will not feel good about themselves and that is a sorry state of affairs so obviously you want to counter-balance that as much as you can.

 

Even the sexuality stuff – because of this release of hormones they think about sex all the time or their own sex all the time, they just think about it all the time which of course makes them feel guilty because our society is pretty prudish about all of that.  They don’t get to talk about it very much.  Of course, I live in the bible belt – maybe some more enlightened places – but there is just a lot of guilt and shame and a fear that I am crazy because I think about this.  They wonder whether everybody else feels like they do, but there is kind of a taboo about talking about it and parents aren’t comfortable talking about it unless they have been well trained. One of the things that when our kids hit middle school was done by two of our middle school counselors – it was great.  It was for the kids and the parents – separate and then bringing the kids and the parents together to force them to open up dialogue about this hard stuff so when meeting separately the parents get trained on how to respond and the kids get to feel comfortable about the kinds of things they want to talk about and then the group comes together.  It is kind of like guided practice in doing that.  It was real effective.  It was really helpful so this is a way again how you can help your parents if you want to talk about sex, but anyway – that is it.  Please – I think most of the parents that I am aware of, most of the parents that I am aware of are so delighted to get any help in this area that they loved it.  Now sometimes that means being real open with the parents about what you intend to do and I don’t know what context you work in – if you don’t have to ask for permission I wouldn’t do that, but I think I would inform them that this was going to come up because it is such huge issue and because it does have such ramifications on the swim team. They have every rationale in the world to do it – from the locker room phobia to the cliques – everything else to bullying and harassing – cross sexes – I mean, it goes on and on so and I will tell you a story about that.

 

I really do live in the Bible belt.  For a while I have had a kind of a thing with the – I call them the right wings – I am a liberal democrat – that has already been made pretty clear, but until these really active right wing religiously conservative parents – politically active wanted to rid the entire district of any mention of sex about anything, anywhere, any time.  Fortunately, it is required in several of our curricular areas and you know, it is required that we teach about AIDS and other STD’s and stuff like this. We have to uphold the law so the super parents wanted to tell us how we could respond to these discussions.  How we could have them – what kinds of things people could say and the anatomy and physiology class and the life science class and health classes and stuff like this and so on.  So the District wanted to appease these people. We are a customer/parent friendly District and so for a year – professional staff worked with the parents group to come up with protocols for what could be said and what couldn’t be said. We had a real active health and PE coordinator – actually he said, the kids need to have this information.  He also had the survey that said that 97% of our seniors in high school were sexually active so we are being absolutely irresponsible to not do things like talk about this stuff.

 

For all of these curricular areas the compromise was that letters would go to the homes for parents of kids in those courses.  To tell them that they were going to be taught abstinence only and never mention the word condom. They were never going to talk about penises and so forth and so on and if parents wanted to opt their kids into the same course where fuller information was going to be made available that would address those issues head on then they could opt their kids into this more open factual setting.  So the District sent out thousands of these letters to parents enrolling them in these classes and 98% of the parents wanted their kids in the program that was giving the full information.  So 2% of the parents cost this whole bunch of time and effort so that supports – I mean – I could hardly wait to have somebody talk to my kids about sex, but I really think a lot of us feel that so you know, what I am saying?  I think it is worth going for it and having people have a way to opt out.  If they don’t want their kids to hear that okay.  You know, let the kids opt out.  I feel really sorry. I just took 15 minutes on this sidetrack, but you know, I think we need to know, you have to trust your parents too and I am assuming you have some kind of parent leadership. If your parent leadership supports the idea then get their help to do that as well.  Any kind of help because not only the parents need help, but also it is the kids that need the help in this area. So helping the kids be in tune with reality, realistic goal setting, encouragement again – stuff that we have actually already sort of talked about.

 

Emotionally. Emotionally the kids are overwhelmed.  I mean, we think of them as a bundle of hormones – they are also a bundle of emotions, just kind of wandering around, coming in the pool. They are absolutely themselves overwhelmed by how many feelings they are having and how deep they feel or how big they feel.  Their sexuality is really all consuming.  Their sadness is all consuming.  Their happiness is all consuming.  We talked about that I think.  They are so volatile from one moment to the next, but unfortunately a lot of the emotions are negative, as we have already made that point.  The thing that is scary is that a lot of them – maybe most of them feel that they cannot manage these feelings.  That they are just there and they are the victims of these feelings and since they feel all these feelings, they feel kind of vulnerable, but they think that they are invulnerable and so they have to mask this feeling of vulnerability. What they usually choose to mask it with is anger.

 

You may see a lot of kids representing that they are angry about stuff and mad at this and mad at that.  They are throwing their stuff, they are doing whatever, but in reality they are terrified, and they are overwhelmed.  They are inundated by their own feelings and they get defensive – they are stressed out.  I mean they really aren’t managing their feelings so you add this to the volatility; they are like little roller-coasters right?  If you listen to the weather report – if it is raining and you want it to stop – wait five minutes and it will. Because of their increased sexuality they feel guilty, they feel ashamed and they don’t know whether they are in that all by themselves and still the way they handle their needs is they act out again so that same idea about – there are goals of misbehavior and if somebody is misbehaving they are probably discouraged in some area of their life and so hopefully something can happen about that.  At this time you really did ask – figuring out what their real goals are for the next year.  So working with this age group in terms of their emotional development you have to strive as much as possible to understand and to appreciate them.

 

If they can feel that you understand and appreciate them – weird as they feel like they are and guilty as they may feel about their feelings or whatever, then you will be able to help them through this rough spot and hopefully even continue to improve their swimming.  So this requires good listening skills.  After listening attentively, reflecting, asking open ended questions, letting them kind of vent, letting them get out their stuff, you can do all this without turning into a counselor.  It is unethical for you to turn into a counselor.  I just happened to open to a page of one of John Leonard’s things about this topic – about you want to be their adult – you want to be a caring friend, not a friend in any sense, but you want to let them know that you care about them and that you like them and that you feel that they will weather this storm. You can do all of that without ever once entering into a counseling relationship. Your job really is just listening to them and if they ask for free advice to give it to them.  I mean, its not going to take you anywhere that you don’t need to go.  Counseling is an art form. I mean, there are a lot of skills to counseling- to probing people’s stuff. If you are not trying to do that then you are not out of bounds. Just talking with them or listening with them like you would with a friend of your own age. I may not be using that word friend really it is not a good thing for the leader to be a friend. You don’t want to be friend and have them call you by your first name and all that kind of stuff. You don’t want to make any kind of an implication that you are on this same level in terms of your authority to the team. That is a bad exception, but in terms of their needing to talk to some adult who has some sense in a time when they do not have any sense.  If you are it please take the opportunity because you can do a lot of good without ever doing anything.  In fact, most of them are so pent up and they are so needy that all you have to do is listen.  Just give them a place to do that a bit you know, and sometimes talk about the male/female stuff.

 

Sometimes this is the time when if there are female coaches that would be a relationship that the girls would have with the females and boys would have with the male coaches – if you can divide some of that that way. Establish those kinds of rapports because a lot of the issues the kids are not comfortable talking to men about, girls are not as comfortable talking to men about their periods and boys probably aren’t comfortable talking with women about the size of their penis. Arranging it so that it is user friendly without it being too artificial is a good idea.  I am laughing. I think of our teams.  We have one, no that is not the way, we have more than one female coach, but we have one female coach that works with this age group, Laura Cox – some of you may know her. Anyway all the male coaches send the girls to her for the “The Talk”.  So there are fewer boys, but they could go to the male coach for “The Talk” anyway, so listening to them – I think you have to avoid your own over-reaction.

 

This is the age group where they can pull you into their game faster than you ever know it hits you.  You get mad at them.  You can hate them.  You want to kick them and you want to beat them, and you want to cry with them. All your little emotions can tie right into where they are and you really need to work real hard to stay in your adult mode so that you don’t do that. Actually it is easier to get stuck into the negative emotions, anger, than the positive ones although having fun isn’t all-bad either. You have to watch this so that you have to understand that they are illogical.  The stuff that they are saying and thinking – is their intent to be illogical?  It is not intentional and I find the meaning of diabolical. They don’t even know that they are doing it you know, so it is not intentional and again, identifying why it is they are doing, the bad things that they are doing and trying to figure out the real goal of that so you can respond appropriately to that. Please educate them about sex – a very important thing that they maintain their sanity. When people continue to let the things that ought to be in order stay in order.  Maintain your routines and maintain your rules, you maintain everything.  The only stable part of their lives probably is what happens with them at the pool and at school where the rules stay consistent.  The rest of their world is just a sea – a bubble of everything boiling.

 

Socially.  Well, we have already figured this out – they are hard for others to understand, right?  They are contradictory, they are emotional, they are not very pleasant.  They are defensive – they are argumentative – they are difficult.  They have trouble seeing other people’s points of view so they hurt people’s feelings, but they don’t want their feelings hurt.  You know, that kind of thing.  They are not at all objective about their own behavior.  This is the part that is really kind of serious for them. They care a lot about how other people respond to them.  They are that imaginary audience  – they want everybody to love and think they are beautiful or think they are handsome. They want to be the center of everybody’s universe, not just their own. Then they do something really obnoxious and they have no idea how their behavior causes a lot of what other people think about them. If they are obnoxious and somebody doesn’t like them they do not understand that is because they were obnoxious- they just don’t get it. Somehow again this is the time when boys and girls begin to like each other. So up to this point it has pretty much been the same set of friends. Now the boys and girls get along, but they are also attracted to each other somewhat sexually. There is all the boy crazy stuff and this is why I guess you want to separate them, but this is why I think they need to be able to learn how to do this right, but they do fall in love from hour to hour, right?  The way it is said in the literature is that the relationships are unstable.  Oh I think I am going to die, I am going to kill myself, my best friend likes somebody else, she has a best friend and so I don’t have a best friend any more – what is your best friend?  Maybe I don’t know so that is how intimate their best friends are.  I have a new best friend – I have a new best friend.  Yeah, it is just wonderful.

 

The other thing that you probably get also that can undermine a team is the little relationships. Since a lot of their social relationships are among the team, right?  They are in your camp if you have it.  I am guessing – two girls have a fight or something – whether it is verbal or some times physical. When you try figure out what happened and you get into this tale telling – well, she looked at me funny and then he told me that she did this and then I said this- to so and so and she told so and so and you get into this and you have lost track of whatever.  You would have to write it down and the spider web goes on and on.  It doesn’t matter if you suggest – not listen to the story but try to get to the kid to own his or her own behavior. To own responsibility for what they have done – what did that or indifference – what have they done?  The only thing they can control is themselves.  They cannot control any of those other friends.  They are either going to love them or hate them, but you can help them take it back – okay – I did this – that was probably really stupid.  I wish I had done this – say it – think about that the next time or whatever, but help them focus on themselves and the right things they did and the wrong things they did.

 

Their big value at this time is to be popular because they want to be the center of the stage of this imaginary audience, right?  So popularity is a big deal and some kids are popular and some kids aren’t. Some kids are outgoing, charismatic, whatever and some kids aren’t, so that is again where the team can be really positive for us because all swimmers are popular on their team, right?  There is this small group with shared goals and all of that.  Athletics really helps the boys.  It also allows them to be popular studs on campus and that kind of stuff.  The girls by and large want to be social leaders so if you have them planning parties then that gives them roles to play that they like. It gives them some encouragement that they do have some good things in that there are people that like them.  Volumes have been taught on peer pressures, I am sure that we do not need to spend a whole lot of time on that, but at this point, peer pressure peaks at 13 and 14.  That is when it is at its highest.  When they are wanting to do whatever it is that their peers tell them to do. One of the negative dimensions I think of peer pressure is the bullying that can happen. The harassment that can happen if it gets to extremes where people decide they want to make other people do bad things or feel bad. So paying attention to this 10-14 age group, I really do think somebody in the locker room ought to be paying attention to what is going on. Whether it is a coach or whether it is high school kids that take the responsibility for the team I think you have responsibility for that. The reason I wonder about it is because one of the coaches at this discussion talked about it. You know, about parents – this is again of the elementary kids – the coach herself was taking a shower in the locker room after she was through her workouts, which is really okay.  The parent went to the office and complained – do you know that there is an older woman – yeah?  I just think it is really hysterical during this hint you know, about the 1% of the parents that aren’t like you.  So, peer pressure and its damages are part of what happens in the locker room. Shifting friendships also play out in the locker room – so and so doesn’t have her locker next to me anymore, etc.  The boys and girls do not get along and so that ripples in both locker rooms. The boys have to talk about it and the girls have to talk about it.  There are some kids who develop skills along this line – social skills.  It is anyway – good luck.

 

It is the part of distancing themselves from adults.  They are now adhering and listening to their friends and the way they know they are popular is if they have a group of their own. That is how they kind of in their own mind see that they can be unique, but also like everybody else.  They can be unique, but they can be like the people they like or that like them. Like gangs for boys actually are now getting to girls too, but the gangs increase and really fulfill a huge need – a huge space in – to young people’s lives really.  Their whole needing to belong and the need to have friendships – that whole goal of being acceptable to the world happens.  I mean, they get that through these cliques and gangs and so that is when you hope that they are just not damaging cliques or gangs, which is what some of them are. Anyway, of course they resist authority which I think you all use those words exactly – I mean, they just don’t want to be told what to do by adults because now their audience is their peers and they will do anything their peers tell them to do – go and jump off a bridge – they would probably try to jump off a bridge, but let the parents say something so it is fun.  So suggestions to you all – they do need the team.  That is the positive peer pressure group – if you haven’t started a team approach by this time you really need to get it into place because I think that it is important all the way through, but you may not. Here it is like the only way to survive productively for most of the kids. So again, building the team, having team meetings, teaching them about what a team is and how teams-man-ship works and continuing to maintain some kind of leadership on your part, making sure that everything is fair and open, the rules are consistently applied, and having fun together so that they don’t have fun separately. Then the parents need your help which is actually already talked about, but help parents through this rough period because believe me – if you are confused or a little befuddled or whatever, you are the professional – think about the parent who isn’t the professional.  They have no idea what is going on and most of them get real discouraged.

 

So we are about ready to move on to the 13-18 year olds.  What I would like to do is start the same way we have started the other phases and that is to think a little bit about what is most interesting, most puzzling, most problematic, most fun and you may even want to take a little stand up break so why don’t I give you like 7 minutes to both those talks so make your list of what is fun, interesting, problematic and puzzling.  If you are soldered to the chair – so what is likable about high school kids?  13 to 18 year olds?  The teenagers – the adolescents – what is likeable about them?  Why are they fun?  Funny – energetic, blossoming – yes, the adult days are nice – they can be both, but they are absolutely getting closer so that the 10-14’s are the maelstrom.  Here, the focus is on becoming adults and they actually get closer and closer as they progress through the age of 18 – and that is fun, right.  They can think and they can do a lot of things. How about interesting?  What is most interesting?  Right – yes exactly.  As they get toward the upper end of this age group – they really do take on some leadership, right?  They feel responsible for the younger kids as they are coming through and they are young enough to remember when they were there. What you have to handle is the hard stuff – that is actually what we were talking about. How do you have the talks? Some of the kids would be comfortable having the older girls do that or the older boys do that if they are comfortable, but then you work with the leaders to see that they are comfortable with what it is that they have to present. But yeah, they are taking on some leadership. They are trying out those kinds of roles. How about problematic?  Want to drive – cant drive – need money – life is tough isn’t it?  Because they are not really as old as they want to be, right?  They just wannabe and getting into that, before they can drive – you know, and then after they can’t drive and all that sort of stuff.  Yeah, they are still on that.  That is right.  Right there, still hormonal, right and girls are still PMS – still the emotional roller coaster.

 

The difference between the 10-14 year old ages and the high school ages has to do with how much capacity they have to think.  There is so much more. Their capacity to think into abstract and draw conclusions and gather information is so much better developed. You have something to look forward to. They are just smarter so they have a lot of better insights and more control if you will, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have all those little deficiencies, but the middle school kids, the 10-14 year olds – they don’t – they can’t think yet and so they are just overwhelmed by these new feelings.  By the time kids are in this they have actually had these feelings for a while so they have come to terms with them one way or another. You know what I am saying?  They are beginning to get some kind of control or management or whatever.  Oh yes, they ask a lot of questions.  It is almost like being back when they – what age is it when they ask why all the time?  Why is that – why is – anyway it is back to that and we will talk about that in just a little bit.  It is okay.  One of the first things that I learned as a teacher actually of high school kids – it is really okay for kids to say, you know, I really haven’t thought about that yet or there is some information here that I don’t have, but I will get back to you and then give yourself that day because they don’t really expect you to know everything.  They do expect you to listen to them and to maybe want to help them answer those questions or whatever, but you can take your space to do it because most of them are not unrealistic and it is better than getting yourself – because they are – if you answer a question or don’t get back to them– they are going to look it up on the internet. You are saying they are going out challenging something you know, and then you just look like a fool because if you have made a mistake you have lied to them you know, and it just goes on and on so better to be honest than that.  I am into the free advice without giving them the information – I am sorry – wearing down my own outline.  How about puzzling things?  By now you don’t care, right.  Discussing?  Yes and they can – right – there are a lot of things pulling at them and helping them manage all of those pulls and the older they get the closer they get to adulthood they do things like odd jobs to pay for the car and the gasoline and the insurance that they finally wanted and they have to think about going to college or not going to college or going into the service and making some hard life decisions and all of that is distracting of being the best, fastest swimmer in the universe so it is not an easy time either.  They are just a little easier to work with.

 

General patterns. Generalizations about what is happening with their bodies at this point – they are still in sexuality heats, right?  The growth spurt that we talked about with the 10-14 year olds actually ends on the average for girls at 15 and for the boys by 17 so that again is the difference – the physical maturation.  Puberty continues but by 18 they have reached sexual maturity so if you have them around longer than that it gets better.  They do enter into intimate relationships.  They have figured out the best way to take care of the sexual urges and thoughts that satisfy them and so they do. It also adds to where they are socially which we will talk about in a little bit, but they may be into dates and they do develop deeper friendships with individuals and the opposite sex often – not always, but they do get into intimate relationships.  One bad thing that can happen here is because these relationships are still pretty immature, on more than one occasion they would lead to harassment – you can get into date rape and you can get into sexual harassment – both ways – boys and girls and girls or boys – girls with other girls – boys with other boys so sexual harassment is something that you need to be prepared to deal with and again. If you have the team of my dreams I guess – you know, you have the team and you are having team meetings and all that and you are setting your rules for conduct then one of the areas of conduct that you want to anticipate I think is the harassment issues.  What are we going to do about this?  Because it is going to happen and you do not know when it is going to happen.

 

In fact, when Matt came home with a story, I think this was last year.  Now that he is an adult and he is back and working out (he didn’t retire from USA Swimming until the end of this summer so he has been this ancient man in the locker room) – he learned a lot more than he ever wanted to I am sure, but one young man became obsessed with one young woman and they did date for a while and they did apparently have sexual relations, but then she couldn’t stand it. He was just oppressive and he was just so obsessed with her and so she broke it off and he went nuts actually – in the long run – he was just not acting insanely, but he just harassed her.  I mean, he would harass her all the time and he would wait for her to come out of the locker room – one time he followed her into the locker room and just did all of these really bad things, but the coaches didn’t know because kids are good you know, they are sneaky.  They know what the adults are going to do. I mean, it was really awful, but no one told the coaches until finally it had to come to an end, but someone finally told the coaches and someone finally did something about it. It can happen and so you need to anticipate and it is again, one of those tell somebody things.  The – one of the things I forgot to say about the intimate relationships – one of the things here and these kids – especially the younger kids are still feeling sort of invulnerable – they end up having sex spontaneously – unplanned I guess is the word so it is unprotected which is even stupider, right?  So helping them you know, understand the importance of if they are going to have sexual relations then they need to protect themselves from disease, from pregnancy if they don’t want to get pregnant and then you don’t know whether some of them don’t want to get pregnant. So the thing that I would like to say to you is deal with the harassment possibilities.  If someone is threatened – talk about it – don’t ignore it and do something about it.

 

Couple’s relationships by and large are not team business.  They are the business of the couples because a lot this does go into the locker room you know, they are telling tales like we talked about with the previous age – so I don’t think that that is a team issue at all.  It is an individual couple – who goes with who – who likes who – who doesn’t, but they break up or whatever and now the kids are going to be real interested in that, but as far as a team thing I don’t think it needs to be.  If it is the harassment that has terrified everybody then that becomes a team issue.  So cognitively they are capable of more abstract thinking – they can actually ponder and philosophize – I think this is just the last group that I asked that question about what is most interesting about this age group was a bunch of English teachers and of course what they find interesting about this age group is that they do want to think and philosophize and talk about everything – all these big ideas. They probably do that with you as well, but it was the first thing out of their mouths and you all were thinking about some other things – I thought that was interesting, but they do think about moral and social and political issues.  They are finally not as concrete in the way they think.  They are capable of doing deductive reasoning.  They can work on the general principle down to the specific so that rules can be set and they can be helped to apply them.  They are inconsistent sometimes in their application and their use of these, but they can see pretty far into the future.  They can see possibilities.  They can argue, offer logical rebuttals- is how I wrote that in my notes, which means argue with you about every point you ever made on some days.  Their problem solving improves – they may not always apply them to themselves, but they can. They are better at handling emotionally charged issues.  Someone is almost always going to be reasonable in a discussion, but at different times, not all at once thank God. They have a lot of emotions they can still get into that thing they got into when they were in the 10-14 year old range and they think that their problems exceed their ability to cope with them.  They really don’t think that they can manage their problems so kids just escalate in their own minds, but the problem is they are kind of still either/or thinkers so they see one or two solutions to their problems and if neither of those – tell mom – tell dad – tell the coach – if none of them are acceptable or do not work out for them then they think they are done and it is that kind of thinking that does lead to the suicide threats.

 

I used to say that I think 75% of adolescents thought/think about suicide so be aware that they think about it. Now, certainly not that percentage actually attempts it, but it is another one of those topics that is very difficult to deal with that needs to be dealt with. So talking about that and this is going to have to be you because these are your older kids, when someone is talking about it and it sounds like they are saying things that you know mean they are going to hurt themselves then you need to address that. The suicide thoughts are actually pretty frequent.

 

Moral development – they finally during this age span – toward the upper end of it can move into the highest level of moral development and that is where they rely on their own values and principles to guide their making of the tough decisions. The ethical kinds of decisions or moral decisions so when they reach maturity they explore their own principles and get some. Then they practice living by them, which is of course what we want from adults as well, and like every other aspect of development of course – people get stuck along the way.  They do – you would like to know that self-discipline is possible.  Part of their relying on, or they are all learning to rely on their own values or principles, is that they push the limit.  They want to question every rule ever set which is if you have at least done it as a team then they have the rationale before them about why that rule is a rule or why the team thought it was a good idea, but it takes it out beyond years, but the more that you can help them in their own getting self-esteem is important.  So using the team as a discussion form for ideas for principles, for standards, helping kids think through their choices – especially potentially harmful ones – becomes something that you can do.  In case you do have a student that is talking to you about suicide or about hurting himself, I hope you know that the basic rule of that is that you are supposed to ask them – are you thinking about hurting yourself?  What plans do you have for carrying this out?  If they say yes they are thinking of – they will respond – they will answer you and if they are really thinking about it though they will tell you that they are thinking about it and then it is really important that you tell somebody else, and that you somehow get that information to the parents.  Now it is another one of those where you cannot over-react because 75% of the kids in this age group think about suicide.  You don’t want to be calling the parents every time some kid says, “oh the end of the world is here”, but if you get some sense that they are actually moving down the path of really thinking about self-hurting then you do need to involve their parents.  Anyway – there is a lot on that.  Talk to your local school counselors – they should be able to tell you everything you need to know.

 

Vocational career kinds of stuff. Where they are politically. Where they are socially. Where they are sexually – they become aware of both their masculine and their feminine traits.  There is a continuum of gender, right?  So, boys have feminine traits and girls have masculine traits and it’s a balance across a continuum of where people end up. Kids are aware of that and people are aware of that and they try to establish – understand themselves about that.  They develop a sense of who they are morally and spiritually.  So, it is a whole big huge time of clarifying their own values and some of them aren’t your values so that is always kind of fun.  So there are times when they go in and out of being completely obsessed with their own identity right?  Who am I, where am I, where am I going – why?  One of the things that does have a lot of ramifications for you is that they do a lot of looking at adults. They are scared about the freedom that they are going to get.  They can hardly wait for it, but they are terrified.  The way they learn to be adults – what has contributed to their learning to be adults at this stage is that they talk.  They want to have discussions about everything.  They want to talk about all of those things that I just talked about.  They also observe every adult that they respect which is going to be you and they actually observe the results of those they don’t respect as well. It is kind of important that you be aware of that so that you are modeling your best adulthood – most of the time.  They speculate on possibilities – they dream about the future.  They ask questions.  They experiment with the risky behavior stuff and so the goals of misbehavior change a little bit but I don’t think that is what is on this slide so we will come back to that.

 

Autonomy is around the corner.  They are scared.  They want it – they can taste it, but it is that ambivalence again – they bounce back and forth.  Their personalities by this time are pretty well set.  They are kind of negative or positive people – not that those are set in stone, but negative kids who only see the negative and that is kind of their outlook on life tend to be pessimistic so they are not happy.  They tend to turn into themselves.  They develop some neurotic tendencies or they become neurotic.  Positive kids actually do better.  They tend to be extraverted – they are balanced – they are optimistic.  So, the more you can help your kids who look like they are kind of slipping onto the negative side of things – kids can learn new behaviors here.  They can exercise some control over whether they are negative or whether they are positive and really work on that and that would certainly be a huge contribution if you do that.  Their self-esteem having plummeted in the 10-14 year old state does increase here because they do find some confidence. They don’t feel quite so vulnerable. What you cannot do with a 13-18 year old is force conformity.  They are going to question rules.  It is a part of how they grow up.  That is how they become individuals.  That is how they become independent people so you don’t even want to force conformity.  If you don’t want them to do it just because you said so – you really have to let them find their way here so the team again provides the positive peer pressure to try to help kids stay in line and do the things that you decided together as a team are the right things to do, but you have to leave them their responsibility for their own actions which is actually true throughout everything.  I mean, the bad choices that kids make are really not your choices.  They are really the kid’s choices and if they mess up then they have to take responsibility for that.  You can’t protect them from making bad choices or walking the wrong path for a while. So you have to let them do it and the more you believe that they are going to be able to come back from that or ultimately come back to making the right choices – that will be more encouraging to them – and the quicker they will be back.

 

The more you try to say don’t do this, or this is what is going to happen or be careful, the more you are discouraging them the more they are going to escape because they will go into the misbehavior goals that we talked about earlier.  So, the team also is a trial ground for identity. I mean, they bring these new selves that they are uncovering about themselves to their friends and in the comfort of the team and they try on different roles, that you may see and as I already said, be a good role model because they will be watching.  I hope that makes you real comfortable, right?  Anyway, they are still in turmoil, which is what you already said – they can express their emotions at this time – they just cannot manage them very well.  These steps can still be perceived as complete failures.  So much is at stake here. They are trying to become independent.  They are trying to become autonomous – they want to be fully functioning adults.  They want to be self-sufficient.  They still have some black and white thinking so that if they do something that isn’t what they thought and it wasn’t successful they perceive it as failure. Then I think about one of the expressions you hear a lot–I am doomed to failure, I flunked the SAT’s – just really not the end of life.

 

The goals of misbehavior for this age group – the teenagers – are a little bit different.  They still want attention from peers, but it is not the #1.  The #1 goal of misbehavior is power.  They want power control over their world. Of course, they are looking for their own autonomy so that makes good sense, right?  One of the interesting ploys that they use to get power is apathy, which is a little bit different than the avoiding inadequacy.  Apathy is telling you – I don’t care, nah I don’t care – I am cool – I don’t care. Using the apathy to exert power over situations, over people and of course the idea there is to not fall into that trap, right?  They do revenge a lot because they are still pretty vulnerable in who they are.  Their identity is still forming.  They are still pretty weak.  They are not sure they are likable and acceptable to the world and they are not sure that they are going to find a place to belong and so if somebody hurts them in that area, then they can seek revenge or act out to get revenge and then we see a lot – the avoiding inadequacy by not really trying.  I don’t know whether these swimmers last all the way to high school or to teenagers/adults. The newest goal of misbehavior here is one for adventure or for excitement and what that is they, having stumbled a few times in that 10-14 year old period because they don’t have life experiences and then they start to have some and they want more.  They want to test themselves in other areas of life and they are looking at adults and they are seeing a lot of – a wide variety of experiences that are out there for them to have and so they look for that.  How you respond to that is to not get into the trap of believing that they don’t care because in reality they do care so then you need to figure out whether/why they are pretending they don’t care about that piece and what is it that is so threatening to them.  Either their feelings of being capable, lovable, or being respectable. They are pulling back to that.

 

You know, what I say to new counselors is when all else fails, ask the kid – why have you stopped caring about this?  Kids are still honest, but they make it harder for you – you have to dig it out of them.  The difference in the little kids is when you ask them or you don’t even have to ask them, they will just tell you everything. Maybe that you don’t want to know, but these kids are guarded.  They are hiding.  They are protecting themselves.  They are doing a whole lot of other things, but when in doubt – ask the kids.  So, you really – if it is a new concept for you then you are thinking oh my God, I have to diagnose everybody and all that kind of stuff and actually it is not like that.  It is like a filter of awareness.  It isn’t just that the kid is looking for attention. There are these other options of what he might be looking for or what she might be looking for and so just kind of learning to think like that and in the beginning it is a little bit – you know, you are doing it a little bit awkwardly – you are probably doing it in reflections – driving home from practice or something you know, you are not really doing it on the spot, but the more you actually do that the more you internalize it and it becomes a part of how you think?  Because I would really like to encourage you to do that because I really think I said that in the beginning. Hopefully – you see them on the pool deck every day. Everything that I am talking about so it is not like new stuff. Although they test every rule that you have it is really important that the rules be maintained.

 

The consistency of how you do workouts – which whole sense of order again needs to continue because that is how they survive.  It is their only safe thing to threaten. The kids who don’t question rules and all that are the kids who live in chaotic situations where there are no rules.  Those are the kids who come to school and they at least know what the rules are, even if they break the rules – at least they want them enforced so again, avoid the power struggles – don’t get sucked into the game with them.  I think I said this earlier on, but reduce the irritation to their negative behaviors.  In the case of the apathy being if it is only apathy at some dimension then spend time working with the kid in the positive end – where ever they are not doing that and just hope that that will pull them back to having more of that and less of this other – so the giving in to their needs for whatever – as I said earlier – does just reinforce their needs for those so you are trying to involve them in the solution – teaching them, which I think you already do – I think it is the swim coach ethic actually, but learning that missteps are really learning experiences.

 

A bad swim is a learning experience; it is not a life and death failure.  It is not the end of the world. Again, responding appropriately to the goals of misbehavior. Really, one of the things about the excitement, adventure, life experiences, goals – this new goal – this behavior is that one way you can counteract that is help them see how much swimming is legitimate excitement.  It is a legitimate adventure.  It does provide them all kinds of life experience.  Now they may not be able to know how/what happens on the pool deck or happens in the locker room or happens in the team applies to the rest of their world, but you do and so you can help them see that like that so if that meets their need for expanded life experience – teaching them how swimming – swimming is a micro-cause – the swimming environment – the being a part of the swim team is a micro-cause of the world and so you can capitalize on that reality by addressing it more – does that make sense?

 

So socially is actually the last. They are better able to understand others.  They are finally in this age span – do/can put themselves in other people’s shoes and can see life from other people’s perspective.  They can understand that others have short-comings but they can still be good people so that earlier example about the younger kids looking at the teachers and they hate the this one and they like this one and all of that – they really just see them in black and white – here they can understand well, you know, this teacher is really hard, but she is real nice or this teacher isn’t very nice, but she is a great algebra teacher or whatever.  You know, they can see that.  The relationships with their parents are conflicted and that is actually healthy.  It is hell, but it is healthy because that is how they break out of the nest.  You know, the little birdies – the mother kicks them out, right?  In this case the kids have to kick themselves out and so it is a very troublesome time.  It is hard on the family – it is hard on the parents – it is hard on the kid and it is probably hard on you too, but it is a part of – you know, the psychology term is “individuation” this is how they become individuals so they are not tied to mommy’s apron strings or daddy’s hammer or whatever so it is just a part of the beast and you know, that it’s the daughters can’t stand the mothers and the sons can’t stand their fathers and so that is the whole educable kind of thing – trying to grow into being those people, but they want to hate them along the way. So of course they need adult role models and they need adult role models at the pool and so that is you. You have gone from the parent substitute when they are little – to where you have to tell them to bring their jackets and bring their towels and put the ear plugs in or whatever it is they have to do to stop being a parent then, but here you have to be the adult role model to be that kind of a replacement for the parents who they no longer trust, or believe in.

 

Peer relationships are still primary – that is who they are going to belong to.  In the literature people talk about peer relationships – they used to only be talking about peer pressure in the earlier grades so these are really relationships. Which implies they are kind of two way – they are give and take – there are understandings about individual differences and they tolerate each other’s individuality.  They are base-rooted if you will in an enhanced self-concept.  We talked a little bit about the dating.  They do date which changes the character of some of the adolescents on terms of the relationships at the pool.  The other thing that happens is that their selection of friends becomes a lot more adult.  It is based upon compatibility and common interests, shared experiences – this is where the team again is really important – what they can contribute to the group.  They are much more stable.  They know each other’s names.  They may still have best friends – there is still a lot of that, but they last longer than an hour – they usually can go for weeks or months and maybe even years and lifetimes and all of that.  One of the hugest developmental tasks they need to do is to plan what it is they are going to do after high school. After they finish their compulsory education, so they are really facing reality and I am sure and they are not listening to their parents, right?  So this is where they look to you to help them, particularly if they are going to consider pursuing their athletic career in colleges or wherever they are going to continue their athletic career – you giving them some guidance and assistance about how that works and where they might do that or what they might do with it.  If they have been intensely in your program for a long time and they are going to quit, they need a little retirement counseling – retirement planning – I am not kidding so it isn’t just cold turkey because if they have been getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning and coming to work before school – workout before school and then they go right after school and they could stay there until 7 or I mean, I don’t know what your programs look like these days, but that is a fulltime thing on top of a fulltime thing, right?  And so when they stop that they are going to get fat or they are going to get lazy or they are going to drink too much or they are going to smoke too much because they have all this time on their hands that they have never had before so helping them think about how they are going to keep involved because as I said at the very beginning – being the bestest, fastest – being the best, fastest swimmers they can be enhances their capacity to be the best human beings they can be and so if they are going to just lop that off they are going to lop that off – they are going to lose that sense of contribution to the world and to a life to a larger group than themselves.  So the second half about post-high school planning – the reality that is going to hit – they do panic and in today’s day and age they call it? Senioritis” – in my day and age we called it “senior panic” and I like senior panic better because it is truly that they are afraid about what is going to happen you know, when they leave this pretty well structured world and they are pretty much on their own.  They have total responsibility.  They have a lot of choices to make and it is scary.  So recognize that you are parent replacements and they are easier to deal with so you probably like this stage – that is kind of what you said to begin with.

 

They still need encouragement.  They still need you to be building their self-helping, maintain their self-esteem.  You need to be building on what they are doing right.  You need to help the group – the team meetings to continue to be a group.  It is a good age to have fun together.  You will help the parents enormously if some of that fun can be had with the parents around too, although they will be by themselves in a different room, but it at least lets them talk to each other about the miseries of life.  It is only coaches in this universe that understand the NCAA rules so that is a part of what you –a part of knowledge base that you have for the kids that are going to go and be athletes in college and again, the fair and consistent leadership and of implementing a discipline – the same things that we have talked about all afternoon actually – still needs to be applied because although they seem adult they are really not so you show confidence in their ability to make decisions.  You hold them responsible for their own choices.

 

They make the choices – dumb, bad, terrible as they might be – they are theirs so deal with it.  That you are the encouraging adult. Problem solve together. You have established clear rules that are consistently enforced. Misbehavior, and bad choices result in their natural and logical consequences you do not need to add to it and then you are avoiding the power struggles.  Then the respectful interpersonal climate that is recommended that you establish that throughout, right?  That where everybody respects everybody else and treats each other with respect that there is a practice of open two-way communication. The team is perceived as a team and that you have fun together.  I think we will stop there. You, your kids, your kid’s parents and anybody else share goals with being the best, fastest swimmer as possible, meeting some of their basic needs – ending up being healthy, integrated balanced human beings of good character and different priorities at different levels.

 

We have talked about the three different age groups – the young children, the tweenagers – they don’t like that label? And the adolescents – the teenagers.  We talked about their physical development, their cognitive development, their personal development, their emotional development, and social development. In those three age spans and the premise that we started with was that the more you understand the developmental levels of your athletes the better you will be able to help them be the best athletes that they can be.

 

 

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