Category Archives: Aquatics

Play isn’t dead yet as we’re going to turn the tide in Pittsburgh at the swim pools

Wonderful article, taken apart line-by-line below.

Coach Mark’s Facebook posting:

Play is important, especially among boys. Furthermore, learning how to play well with others is a SKILL. It needs to be taught, modeled, practiced, reinforced, and even done under pressure so as to take others and ourselves out of our comfort zones. Generally, that’s what we call COACHING, LEADERSHIP and COMPETITIONS.

Game days rock. So much FUN.

This spring, summer and fall, I’m stepping up these efforts of AQUATIC game days to build wide opportunities for PLAYING WELL WITH OTHERS, safely, in an expanding network of private, public and institutional swim sites from pools to lakes.

Your help is welcomed. Get your group together — of kids and adults — of any swimming ability or with none at all — and let’s plan an event. Warm-up, group swim lesson, water-safety insight and GAME PLAY with new, fun, competition and rules — with your running mates and with another team as well. Fitness, teamwork, sportsmanship –> PLAY, thanks to a grant from the Pittsburgh Play Collaborative.

Mark@SKWIM.us — 412-298-3432 — or here on Facebook.


How America Killed Play—and What We Can Do to Bring it Back

Dr. Peter Gray outlined the five criteria of play. For an activity to truly be considered play, it must:

  • Be self-chosen and self-directed

  • Be done for its own sake and not an outside reward

  • Have some sort of rules/structure

  • Have an element of imagination

  • Be conducted in an alert frame of mind

Let’s ponder each of those points as it fits in with SKWIM, our aquatic game with two teams and the SKWIM disk.

Players choose to play or not. Then they often choose their own teams. Someone needs to divide the squads. Then they choose as to who plays where from goalie, defense, middle, offense, wing, etc. There is plenty of choice as to where to go. Pass or shoot too.

Play does not have an outside reward, so goes the expert’s point. In SKWIM, the reward is the game, the win, the fun. With campers, to turn up the intensity, it is often announced that the winning team in the next game gets a “mythical milkshake.”

Rules and structure are within SKWIM too. No contact with another player. Can’t take the disk out of the other player’s hand. No air-mail passing or scoring. Read the SKWIM rules in the lessons at SKWIM.us.

Imagination enters SKWIM with strategies and tactics. Who needs to get double coverage? Who can we pass to for advancing the disk toward the goal? What player can imagine racing to the disk and grabbing it before the others?

SKWIM play happens with an alert frame of mind on many levels. Safety of course. Play in the pool means keeping from going under and to the bottom. Being present is a big part of sport, especially a fast-paced game where quickness is expected.

When you break it down like that, much of what modern parents think of as play doesn’t actually qualify. The truth is play has been gradually declining for the past five or six decades, but it seems to have come to a head in the last 10 years. According to the Child Mind Institute, American kids now spend an average of just 4-7 minutes a day on unstructured outdoor play, and elementary schools across the country are reducing or entirely eliminating recess. Play is an absolutely critical part of our youth, as it develops life skills in a way which is very hard to replicate elsewhere.

How did this crucial component of the human experience get so diminished?

History lesson – the wonder years

The 1950s were something of a “golden era” of play. The post-World War II baby boom left no shortage of potential playmates for a kid, and child labor laws passed in the late 1930s meant children could no longer be forced to toil inside factories or coal mines. Schools had multiple recesses throughout the day, the concept of homework barely existed, and the school year itself was about 4-5 weeks shorter.

“School was not the big deal it is today. Parents were not involved. You went home, you were home. School happened at school, when you were out of school, you were out of school,” says Gray, a research professor of psychology at Boston College and the author of the book Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life. The culmination of these factors created a generation where kids played for hours each and every day.

“You could go out anytime during daylight and you’d find kids playing with no adults around. Parents shoo’d you outdoors, they didn’t want you in the house—moms especially,” Gray says. Organized youth sports were still in their infancy, and if they did occur, they were a far cry from some of the ultra-expensive, ultra-regimented leagues that exist now. In some little leagues, the biggest or most mature kid on the team often acted as the coach, and there was rarely a parent to be found down the foul lines. But this golden age of play didn’t last forever.

The rise of television made the indoors more attractive, sure, but it was the shift in parental attitudes around school, sports and free time that really changed things. Elementary schools (and schools, in general) began placing a greater emphasis on testing results and homework. According to the University of Michigan, students aged 6-8 went from having 52 minutes of homework a week in 1981 to 128 minutes a week in 1997.

Sensationalistic news reports led parents to believe the world was becoming increasingly dangerous for their children, though statistics show the opposite was in fact true. As time has gone on, the outdoor world’s only become safer for our children. Either way, parents became increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of their child playing around town without adult supervision, and organized sports slowly came to replace play. As the demand for organized activities for younger and younger ages increased, organizations quickly met the demand. Parents stopped allowing their kids to walk or bike to practice, instead shuttling them there themselves.

“Kids going to games themselves by bike or walking became somehow dangerous. So parents felt the need to drive them there. Then if you’re going to drive them there, you might as well watch. Then it became a sort of parental duty to stay and watch. If you don’t stay and watch you don’t care about your child. So you’re supposed to be there, you’re supposed to be cheering your child on. You’re supposed to care if your child’s team wins or loses,” Gray says. “It was gradual, it happened over time. (Organized sports) came to replace actual play in people’s minds—this is how my child gets exercise, this is how my child meets other children, and so on.”

The undercurrent among all this was the idea that play was largely a waste of time. Adults believed structured, adult-guided activities were of greater value to their children, so they began filling their free time as such. As the commitments mounted, time for play decreased. “Instead of the idea that childhood was an idea of freedom and play and children were largely free of adults, we began feeling increasingly responsible for the children’s development,” Gray says. “And accompanying that idea was that children’s own activities are a waste of time.”

Of course, we now know that couldn’t be further from the truth. A 2018 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics confirms that play enhances creativity, imagination, dexterity, boldness, teamwork skills, stress-management skills, confidence, conflict resolution skills, decision-making skills, problem-solving skills and learning behavior. Play is an essential part of the human experience, and a lack of play can have troubling short and long-term ramifications for children.

A major benefit of play is what’s known as “risky play.” This entails engaging in play that creates some sense of fear. This often involves ascending to great heights (climbing a pine tree), moving at great speeds (riding a bike or swinging on a rope swing), play fighting (wrestling), going off on your own (hide and seek) or engaging with dangerous tools/environments. Risky play is a fundamental part of play. Children like to test their limits and innately know how much fear they can tolerate, and when they engage with fear and survive the experience, they become more resilient, confident and better-equipped to handle stress and anxiety. While play in general has decreased over the last five or six decades, risky play has been hit particularly hard due to overprotective parents. Playgrounds have become increasingly sterile in America—most are now devoid of equipment that allows you to confront any fear of heights or high speeds, and offer little challenge in the way of dexterity or agility.

“Natural selection has designed children to play in risky ways so they learn how to deal with risk…I can do this thing that stretches my physical and emotional abilities and I can survive it, I can do it. What you’re practicing is controlling your mind and body in a somewhat fear-inducing situation. But it’s a fear-inducing situation that you can control, you put yourself there. But what you’re learning is you can deal with feeling fear, you can hold yourself together. So when you experience something that produces fear in real life, it’s not a new thing to you,” Gray says. “I feel confident I can handle this instead of panicking. I think that’s part of the reason we’re finding a lot of lack of resiliency today, we’re finding a lot of people falling apart when something difficult happens in their life. Because they haven’t practiced this kind of play where they’re deliberately putting themselves into difficult positions and learning how to deal with that.”

Gray notes that continually decreasing levels of play have coincided with increases in depression and anxiety among young people. In a 2014 TEDx Talk, he outlined how five to eight times as many children now suffer from major depression or a clinically significant anxiety disorder as compared to the 1950s. Questionnaires have also revealed a continuous decline among children and young adults in the feeling that they have “control over their own lives.” They’re increasingly micro-managed and have limited chance to cut loose or follow their intuitions. It’s not an exaggeration to say a lack of play may be at the heart of increased anxiety and decreased resiliency in young people. It’s not their fault—they’re simply ill-equipped to handles life’s ups-and-downs.

“The use of mental health services on campuses is skyrocketing, students are coming to college unprepared for dealing with the bumps in the road of life,” Gray says. “They have all too often emotional breakdowns about getting a bad grade or having an argument with their roommate or being so-called ‘bullied’ by somebody. Things that in the past, the expectation and the reality was to largely deal with these things themselves, they had the coping skills to know how. Today—I don’t want to say no one does, but an increasing percentage of students don’t have the skills to deal with these bumps in the road of life.”

How can we put play back in our children’s lives? We’ll get to integrating more “true” play in a second, but you can start by shifting certain organized activities into more playful states. Are there ways to help them self-select and self-direct more of what they’re doing? Or decrease the focus on outside rewards? Or foster a grander sense of imagination? The more an adult is telling them exactly what and how to do something, the less play is taking place. The U.S. Soccer pamphlet Best Practices for Coaching Soccer in the United States sums it up nicely: “Coaches can often be more helpful to a young player’s development by organizing less, saying less and allowing the players to do more. Set up a game and let the kids play. Keep most of your comments for before and after practice and during water breaks.”

In terms of pure or “true” play, we’re not getting back to the days of the 1950s anytime soon. However, some communities are fighting to bring play back with encouraging results.

Schools around the country are integrating “play clubs” and finding great success. These clubs typically take place on school grounds for 1-2 hours directly preceding or directly following the school day. Different equipment is set out for kids to play and experiment with at their leisure, and adult supervisors (of which there are not an abundance) are trained only to intervene when something truly dangerous is occurring. Gray recently observed an elementary school play club that takes place prior to the school day once a week (though they’re trying to make it more frequent) and was delighted with the result.

Gray also offers up the idea of recreation departments including more sandlot-style activities among the more organized sports. It would be formalized in the sense it would take place at a given location at a given time, but it would really be just a way to get a bunch of kids together. A volunteer could help get games going during the first few sessions, but slowly step away and intervene less over time. New equipment could be added over time to help inspire different games or different styles of play.

“Free play indoors in the school and outdoors, it’s age mixed, all grades K-5…It’s working wonderfully. It’s working partially because the age mixing. Older children are helping to solve the quarrels among younger children,” Gray says. “Children are truly running in hallways, wrestling, playing chasing games, some old-fashioned games, very vigorous play. Here’s a situation where there are adults present, but the adults are initiating actives (and) they’re not intervening. I was there for an hour, there were 150 kids, and I did not see any single case of adult intervening. It went so remarkably well.”

“Maybe one parent is there at a time to help each other put their minds at ease. It begins with something more formal, but over time, that structure falls away,” Gray says. “I think that could catch on. I think there’s enough kids and enough parents who would want to do this as an alternative…Ideally, over time, the kids who are coming together (for this) every Saturday afternoon start realizing they can do it every other day, too.”

Quiz Pre-flight for SKWIM Level 1 to Level 4

Test your knowledge, and the delivery of these questions and answers concerning aquatic’s safety and surf knowledge by taking these four multiple choice quizzes for a whirl. They are new and may need to be edited. Your suggestions and feedback is desired.

Every question has an opportunity to comment. You do need to register with a username and password. You need to take the tests in order.

Level 1 Quiz for SKWIM’s surf safety:


Level 2 Quiz for SKWIM’s surf safety:


Level 3 Quiz for SKWIM’s surf safety:

Level 4 Quiz for SKWIM’s surf safety:

OPTIONAL Swim & Water Polo Activities: Downtown Parade

These events are optional and extra and are NOT a part of the normal Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Summer Dreamers events. Families are invited to participate in the following community events on your own. No transportation is provided by PPS. Questions should be sent to Coach Mark Rauterkus, 412-298-3432, (cell) or Mark@Rauterkus.com.

Downtown Parade for Pittsburgh’s Bicentennial down Liberty Avenue, Saturday, July 9, 2016. Arrive after 10 am. Parade begins at 11 am. After the parade, play aquatic games at Northside, Citiparks’ Sue Murray Swim Pool, Cedar Avenue, across from the Giant Eagle / Sunoco gas station.

Tip: Our parade position and meet-up is going to be at Liberty Ave and 11th Street. We will meet behind a school bus that is to be decorated for PPS and the Pittsburgh Promise.

Tip 2: Park your car, if you drive, near CAPA or else on the Northside by the swim pool. then walk to Liberty Avenue and 11th, near the Strip District.

Swim pool
Northside’s Sue Murray Swim Pool has plenty of space for various aquatic games in deep, middle and shallow water.

Swimmers from Summer Dreamers with Athletes United for Clean Air are going to march with Pittsburgh Public Schools and the Pittsburgh Promise to celebrate the city’s history. 

Update: Due to parade protocol, the message for the parade is about Pittsburgh Public Schools and Summer Dreamers — and not about, “Go USA! Go Leah!”

Olympic schedule insights:

Cheer for Leah Smith and Katie Ledecki as they race together in Rio on:

  • Sunday, August 7th – women’s 400m freestyle prelims/final
  • Wednesday, August 10th – women’s 800m freestyle relay prelims/final
  • Thursday, August 11th – women’s 800m freestyle prelims
  • Friday, August 12th – women’s 800m freestyle finals
  • Prelims begin at 10 am EASTERN time while Semis & Finals begin at 7 pm EASTERN.

More Swimming, Water Polo and SKWIM opportunities in Pittsburgh this summer:

  • Tuesdays, 6 to 7:30 pm, Citiparks Ammon Rec Pool, Bedford & Memory Lane, Hill District
  • Wednesdays, 6 to 7:30 pm, Citiparks Ammon Rec Pool, Bedford & Memory Lane, Hill District
  • Thursdays, 6 to 7:30 pm, Citiparks Sue Murray Pool, Cedar Ave. Northside

* Additional events always published at the open google calendar at CLOH.org.

Warm Up Arm Swing Routine

See the 47 exercises in the warm-up routine. This is the first post that blends the  wiki and the blog. Photos and videos for all exercises are expected in the days and weeks to come.

Routine

1) Gentle Neck Rolls (exercise)

Start with the chin on the chest. Slowly, easily, calm-like, move the head around the shoulders.
Do some to the one direction and then reverse. Okay to look far to the right, then far to the left.
Okay to look far up, and then far down. Heads need to be attached to the bodies. When the neck is hurt or injured, comfort is absent. The mind leads, the body follows.

2) Reverse Gentle Neck Rolls

Could do variation with 1 roll to right and then 1 roll to left. Body is complicated in holding one’s head in place. We need our heads to be in the game. Water polo players have head on a swivel!

3) Trunk twists (exercise)

Put both arms on one side of body. Kick opposite leg to the arm side while swinging the arms in front to the side of the kicking leg while standing on the other leg. Kick higher. Twist farther. Kick and hold for 3 seconds. Kick and re-kick higher. Point toes on kick. Flex foot on kick.
The spine and back are precious, often a place for injury, especially if conditioning isn’t done. Have a backbone!

4)Reverse Trunk Twists

Other direction with other leg and motion.

5) Leg swing forward and back (exercise)Edit

Stand on one leg. Swing the other forward and then backwards in toe to heel directions.

6) Other leg swings forward and back

7) Leg swings lateral with abductor and adductor motions (exercise)

8) Switch legs and swing laterally.

9) Foot Spins (exercise)

While seated hold two hands on one foot with one hand on toes and other hand on the heel. Spin to loosen foot, ankle and other soft tissue for increase flexibility and warm-up. Often done while sitting. Could be done while standing. Kicking speed is about flexible flippers. The tail fin of a fish or shark moves the water for propulsion.

10) Foot Spins with same foot in the other direction.

Spin the toes in the other direction. Change to or from counter-clockwise to the other direction.
Could micro-manage what foot to grasp and what direction to spin.

11) Foot Spins on other foot

12) Foot Spins on other foot other direction

13) Kneeling position (exercise)

Place tops of feet and toe nails onto ground with knees bent and body weight on the feet. Works on toe point and quad flexibility. Can have a soft surface or towel, with or without shoes. Can ask swimmers to lay back with head then shoulders to the ground with legs bent fully at the knees.
Legs! Feet! Whatever is tight gets attention with this position. Do it at night and in the morning in a soft bed or with a pillow and improve your comfort in a week’s time.

14) Right Arm forward Arm Swing (exercise)

Full range of motion with shoulder swinging so it touches the ear. Hand goes past hip at bottom of circle. Do some slow, some medium and some fast. With or without milk jugs as weights.
ROM = Range Of Motion. Shoulders and backs are points of power when attached to the base of the body and core.

15) Left Arm Forward Arm Swing

16) Right Arm Backwards Arm Swing (exercise)

17) Left Arm Backwards

18) Right arm swing in a Sideways Figure 8 Motion (exercise)

The sideways 8 is also a math symbol for infinity.

19) Right Arm Figure 8 in the Reverse Direction

20) Left Arm Figure 8

21) Left Arm Figure 8 Reverse

22) Up the Sides with both arms (exercise)

Begin with hand down with hands near pockets. Swing arms up the sides and touch overhead with the back of the hands together. Shrug the shoulders and pinch the ears with every movement.

23) Up the Front Arm Swings (exercise)

Hold one thumb in the other hand and keep the arms straight. Lift the arms from the shoulder and back. At the bottom, let go of the thumb and allow the arm to swing past the hips to the back before stopping.

24) Horizontal Arm Swings (exercise)

Start in a T position with hands outstretched. Bring the hands together, always keeping them as high as the shoulders. Hug yourself. Swing them apart and try to clap and touch the hands together at shoulder height.

25) Opposites Arm Swings (exercise)

One arm swings forward while the other swings backwards, in the opposite direction.

26) Opposite-Opposites Arm Swings (exercise)

The one arm that was moving forward goes in reverse and the opposite arm goes the opposite direction too.

27) Wrist, door-knob open (exercise)

The rotator cuff gets attention with arm forward and slightly down. Twist.

28) Wrist door-knob closeEdit

Close the door knob.

29) Wrist range of motion (exercise)

Handshake up motion. Quickly lift the hand. Shake.
Handshake down.
With wrist range of motion, spin or twist wrist, both directions. Stretch fingers to back of forearms of both tops and bottoms. Do one hand. Or, do both hands together.
Palm up motion with hands. Sculling and pulling on the water takes strong forearm coordination to get the hands pitched in the proper positions throughout the underwater pulling stroke.
Palm down shake. Passing the ball and even a disk ends with the finger tips and wrist flick.

30) Other wrist range of motion

Hands control our pencils, keyboards, water polo balls and even give a grip on the water — one of the hardest elements to grab and control.

31) Sit ups (exercise)

Do sit ups all different ways. Bent leg, straight leg, crunches, legs apart, twisting at top. twisting at bottom, pike, and elevated flutter kicks, and rower style are a few.

32) Yoga Cobra (Exercise)

Lay on floor with face down. Interlock fingers under the chin. Keep hips down but lift upper body and shoulders so the elbows get straight and hands are stationary. Look to the sky. Look to the sides. Stretch the abs and move the back with smooth and slower motions.

33) Rattle Snakes (exercise)

Prone, with head and upper body down along the floor, lift your thighs and feet up. Do both legs. Then single leg lifts.

34) Hamstring Stretch with Legs in Figure 4 (exercise)

Sit with one leg straight. The other leg bends at the knee and the foot of the bent leg crosses onto or else over the straight leg. Bend your head lower to the straight knee. Hold the stretch for time, even up to 2 minutes.

35) Other Side, 4 for Legs

Switch legs so the other leg gets straight and move to stetch that hamstring.

36) Yoga Butterfly Stretch (exercise)

In a sitting position, bend both knees and put the soles of the feet against each other. Pull your feet close to your bottom. Gently stretch by pressing the bent knees closer to the floor. Easy on the groin muscles.

37) Knee to ear (exercise)Edit

Sitting, bring a bent knee to touch the ear.
Hold knee to ear. Then twist and touch the knee to the other ear.
Could be done standing if advanced for balance.

38) Other knee to each ear

Do the same with the other leg to one ear, then the other ear. Inserts a twist to the back and neck.

39) Butterfly arm motion (exercise)

Standing, swing arms in the butterfly stroke. Be powerful like Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte.

40) Backstroke arm motion (exercise)

Standing, move arms in a backstroke form like Missy Franklin. The recover with fast handspped so quickly that the fingers are a blur. Then do some double-arm backstroke to cool down. Make a bent elbow pull.

41) Breastroke arm motion (exercise)

Standing, do the motions for a breastroke underwater pull out that follows a dive: Dive, glide, pull, glide, kick-arm-head, come to the top, start to swim. Then do 15 strokes of breastroke making a small pulling pattern and breath with every pull. Glide with hands forward in a “V.”

42) Freestyle arm motion (exercise)

Standing, make the arms swim like freestyle as fast as Cullen Jones. Take 10 strokes without a breath and the head looking forward and still. Then breath on one side. Other side. Then both sides, ever 5th arm recover. Then 3rd. Finish the race with out a breath, touching the wall on your side and then give a fist pump and sign of emotion.

43) Toe raises (exercise)

Stand on one leg and lift the toes of that standing leg off of the ground to balance on the heel.

44) Other leg toe raises

45) Heel raises (exercise)

Stand on one leg and lift the heel of that standing leg off of the floor. Balance on the toes.

46) Heel raises with other leg

47) Squat stoop (exercise)

Feet flat on the floor, bend down into a deep squat like the Pirates starting catcher, #55, Russell Martin. Stay there for extended time. Put knees apart then together. Keep feet flat.