(Host) Commentator Mary Barrosse Schwartz has been researching the effects of positive peer influences on middle aged people. Most of what she has found though, documents the effects of peer influence during the teen years – and most of that is negative.
(Barrosse) I started out looking for studies showing that positive peer influences during your middle years can extend your life. In the process I was reminded that peer influences during our teen years often have exactly the opposite effect.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. For one of my teenage daughters, our summers include a sport that has provided extraordinary positive peer influences. And unlike some of the other sports our kids play, it is next to impossible to hurt yourself swimming.
It has also helped her to become stronger physically and allowed her to support her teammates. Swimming is often referred to as an individual sport, with each swimmer working to better her individual swimming times. But the influence of the success of one swimmer on the next is strong. The workouts can be grueling, and at very early hours, but this summer I saw each swimmer influencing the next to do it without complaint.
Swim team kids come in all shapes and sizes. This is a sport where heavier kids do very well. They are out there with their swim suits on, unafraid to be something other than rail thin. Kids who might be given a message by society that they are non-athletic types are having a great time working out and winning races.
All of the children on our swim team worked very hard this year – and while we were far down the list for awards at the Vermont State Swim Championships at the end of July, almost every swimmer cut their own time by seconds in many events. We don’t have a local indoor pool, so our swimmers have a harder time competing against year round swim teams.
At the State meet, we yelled for our more successful sister team from Bennington. Some of our local kids swim for Bennington in the winter – so we’re always glad to cheer those swimmers on.
Our team’s volunteer coaches are a father and son. They are there everyday, early in the morning working with swimmers who possess a range of swim abilities from beginner to expert. The officials who ran the State meet are volunteers too. They do a great job, and put a lot of time into making sure it is a great event for our kids.
Vermont’s climate isn’t ideal for highly competitive year round swimming. Most Olympic level programs take place in places like Florida, California, or Illinois. But this is one Vermont family that’s discovered that for positive peer influences, and good healthy fun, you can’t beat swimming.
In East Dorset, this is Mary Barrosse Schwartz.
Mary Barosse-Schwartz is a freelance writer who is researching and writing a book on healthy aging with her physician husband. She spoke from our studio in Manchester.