If you're looking for a way to get your kid off of the couch and into a physical activity, competitive swimming promotes fitness and can help children to learn lifelong concepts such as good sportsmanship, according to USA Swimming. Whether she's into individual or team activities, competitive swimming can help your child to set goals, build self-esteem and even lower the risk of obesity and obesity-related diseases.
Before your child can start swimming competitively, he'll need to work on the basics. Children can begin swimming lessons that develop aquatic readiness -- or water acclimation and preswimming techniques -- as early as 15 to 18 months, according to the American Red Cross Advisory Council on First Aid, Aquatics, Safety and Preparedness. Parents should wait to begin formal lessons that offer instruction in swim strokes until the child is at least 4 years old, notes the American Academy of Pediatrics. As your child builds his formal swimming skills -- going above and beyond easing into the pool and getting his head wet -- he is growing more ready to begin an entry-level competitive league.
Unless your child is a swimming superstar or athletic prodigy, it's unlikely that she'll begin at an elite level. First competitive experiences often happen for children in local community or school-based swim teams, according to USA Swimming. If your swimmer wants to do more than paddle around the pool in the summer, check out team programs that your community center, local recreation department or area swim league offers. This type of competitive team should include instruction on technique and offer the opportunity for friendly competition against similarly aged children.
Meets for Kids
As a competitive sport, swimming in a league or on a team means competing against other kids. Your child will begin this by participating in local or regional meets. There are a variety of different types of meets, depending on your child's age, league and regional area. Community swim teams typically compete in local invitational meets that host anywhere from 150 to 1,000 children, according to USA Swimming. Your child's neighborhood team may compete against other nearby clubs or his school may swim against other school-based groups in different events such as freestyle or butterfly. As your child progresses in the world of competitive swimming, he may have the opportunity to participate in larger meets such as the USA Swimming Zone Championships. There are four zones in the country -- Western, Eastern, Central and Southern -- that host these mega meets.
Bring on the Benefits
Swimming is a sport that your child can continue to practice well into her adult years. A competitive environment for children provides her with the chance to develop proper stroke techniques while having fun and making friends, according to the YMCA of Greater Dayton. As part of a competitive team, your child can also learn the importance of hard work and have the opportunity to practice positive sportsmanship skills. When it comes to your swimmer's health, the training and practice that a competitive league provides will help her to become physically fit and learn the value of a healthy lifestyle.