The largest meets of the season are around the corner and many swimmers are starting to taper. I wanted to explain what a taper is so you can best support your kids during this important time.
A taper takes place leading up to a major event. It is the reduction of exercise, anywhere from a few days to almost three weeks, before a major competition. The coach dictates what the swimmers should be doing at practice, but once they get home you need to know:
- They won’t be as tired as usual. This can be hard to deal with since swimmers are very active kids! Resist the urge to suggest they go outside and “burn off” that extra energy. They need to rest their bodies. Consider it supercharging for the big event.
- They will eat less. That’s logical, right? Make sure you feed them healthy meals and snacks. As always, reduce or eliminate as much sugar and/or processed foods as you can. It is up to you to stock the fridge and pantry with the right things and say “no” to fast-food restaurants. It’s temporary, so hang in there and help them stay on the right path.
- Keep them hydrated. Make sure your swimmer is taking in enough liquids. Encourage them to carry a water bottle during the school day and keep one nearby at home. I refill them as the kids do their homework, watch TV, etc.
- Germs become the enemy. Not only are swimmers paranoid about getting sick before a big meet, but parents are also nervous about it. Unfortunately, this is out of our control. The best you can do is encourage frequent hand washing and clean high-traffic surfaces with Lysol wipes. I pay special attention to door handles and light switches in the bathrooms. It may not help, but sometimes doing something—anything, makes me feel better.
- Rollercoaster mood swings. For parents this can be the toughest part of the taper. Swimmers are ecstatic when coach gives them a bit of praise, and in the next second are questioning if coach has any faith in them. Everything is heightened and has more meaning to the kids right now. There is nothing you can do about it, so take a deep breath, and know it will pass.
Above all, relax and encourage your swimmer to trust the process. How do you help your swimmer during their taper?