Moemen Arafa: Words of Wisdom on Training Young Age Group Athletes

By Steven V. Selthoffer, Swimming World’s Chief European Columnist

KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait, November 18. MOEMEN Arafa, head coach, elite/senior swimmers, Kazma Swimming Sharks, Kuwait City, is one of the few ASCA Level 5 coaches in the Middle East. Arafa has his finger on the pulse of a growing problem in Egypt, the Arabian Gulf teams (and elsewhere), examining and analyzing the growing trend in “unplanned training” (UPT) among young age group swimmers.

UPT is additional training conducted with or without the knowledge of a local swim club coach, when parents take young age group children for additional training in the evenings or weekends with other coaches, on top of what their local swim club program is already planning and accomplishing.

Some of the reasoning in the minds of parents in sports, stems from wanting good grades from their children in school, and the parents belief in “studying harder,” hiring specialized subject tutors for French or extra math lessons. The more you study supposedly, the smarter you will get. Consequently, they believe this model can be applied to swimming also.

But, this is not academia. This is sports. And Arafa is seeing harmful effects on young athletes.

Arafa’s observations and those of other coaches supporting him, believe this can add up to 25%, 50% or more additional meters per week combined with additional dryland training also in the evenings or weekends.

The rampant UPT problem is a growing concern because the additional swimming and dry land workout burden is damaging the health of the children, it is undermining the program structure of legitimate swim clubs, along with diluting head coach authority and creating long term negative effects resulting in age group swimmers dropping out of swim clubs and programs earlier in their careers.

In Asia, where success in life begins with subtle, minute measurements even in kindergarten- it borders on child abuse.

Parents Can’t Buy Success
Sometimes parents mostly in Egypt, Kuwait, to a lesser degree in the UAE, in the summer country club leagues around Washington DC., or elsewhere become impatient, shuttling their children to “big name coaches” or additional programs because they erroneously believe they can buy early and quick success in their children’s sport careers, wrongly believing that early age group success is a guarantee of future, top level, Olympic performance.

Today, much of this thinking internationally, is driven by professional sports on television and in the media, especially with Premier League football in particular, where if the team does not win, or a multi-million Euro London based, athlete is unhappy, they fire the coach and get a new one.

Arafa also points out another error parents sometimes make in training…. Case in point, some parents believe the more weight and resistance training they expose their children to, the more their children will be stronger and faster. He warns about this and the damage heavy resistance training may cause in young swimmers “doing too much, too soon.”

Arafa says the goal is not maximum performance, but maximum development at each stage of the biological age in the life cycle of an athlete.

The Importance of Communication, Communication, Communication…
Arafa also points out the need to constantly cultivate a good relationship with the parents, to educate them about the sport and training over a long period of time so that they can understand the work coaches actually do for their children, so parents are not tempted to place additional pressure on the swimmers themselves.

Arafa also points out correctly, that there is no shortcut to success.

Unplanned Training Effects on Age Group Swimmers
Arafa has dealt with these issues and confronts the challenge head on to correct the situations, written in a paper that he has authored, he now shares his insights for other coaches around the world.

Based in Kuwait City, Arafa would be at home in any top level age group program in the USA, Australia, or Europe. He has his focus on building young athletes, strengthening local swim clubs and developing national federations for the long term, from the ground up, one happy, healthy and successful age group swimmer at a time, who will enjoy the sport for life.

For the complete paper on Unplanned Training Effects on Age Group Swimmers, by C. Moemen Arafa, please click here.

*** Please note- Mr. Moemen Arafa’s first language is Arabic. English is his second language. We apologize in advance for any editorial errors. Thank you.