Younger athletes need to be told why they did a good job. So I have come up with a little system that I will probably use for a bit, then put away, then bring back again later. I bought a small pack of spiral bound colorful index cards. When someone REALLY catches my eye and swims or acts like an ELITE athlete at practice - I write them a little message. Here is what goes on the card:
- Their name
- The date
- The set that they were doing while I noticed their behavior
- Most importantly, what the behavior was and why it was awesome
- Sometimes I give a suggestion of something that they may want to do in practices (Kick a 50 Breaststroke in 45 seconds?)
- Sometimes I draw picture or put a little sticker on there to spice it up
I write these during warm down or while I am waiting for my dinner to cook. I give them out at the end of that practice or at the next practice. They stay in my spiral index card notebook until I hand them to the swimmer so they do not get lost. Having the pack of cards reminds me to not only be on the lookout for index card candidates, but to help create those candidates at practice each day.
For now I am using them with swimmers 9-14 years old. It doesn't really take a lot of time and the simple message that I write may be thrown out by some swimmers as they leave the pool - others will keep them and re-read them in the future. It is a great time to communicate about current or future goals. Saying something at practice is one thing, but getting a card to take home and show off if you would like is another. If it helps even a few kids be more focused it will all be worth it.
Hopefully the swimmers that get them will look at them once when they are away from the pool and remember how they acted and felt when they performed well enough to receive a card. I also hope that those swimmers who have not yet received a card will do something that REALLY catches my eye so that they can get a card as well.
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