Advice for New Swim Parents (and Some Good Reminders for Veterans)

Advice for New Swim Parents
(and Some Good Reminders for Veterans)

So you're new to the team and new to year-round swimming? Congratulations, you have made an excellent choice.

We have many new swimmers on our team this year. Joining a year-round team like ours can be a shock to a swimmer if her only experience is summer league swimming. Likewise, parents can also feel a bit overwhelmed as they learn the sport at a whole new level. Here are my 7 pieces of advice for parents of a new year-round swimmer.
  1. Get your swimmer on a regular and consistent practice schedule. It is likely that more than 90% of a swimmer’s time in this sport will be spent at practice. Consistent attendance accelerates skill acquisition and in turn improves your swimmer’s sense of competence and confidence. These factors are key to enjoyment and long-term participation in swimming.
  2. Get to know your swimmer’s coach or coaches. Introduce yourself and make sure the coach knows which kid is yours. You both share the same goal —for your child to have a good experience. Early familiarity can help open the door for positive cooperation and communication.
  3. Read and understand your team’s policies, procedures, and methods of communication. When swimmers are young, they need you stay on top of practice schedules, meet commitments, and other communication from the team. This shouldn’t be hard as long as you know what to expect.
  4. Have your swimmer participate in meets. Ultimately, the aim of practice is to prepare the swimmer for competition. We want to have fun and enjoy practice, but almost every swimmer agrees that meets are the REALLY fun part. Swimmers who go to meets are much more likely to enjoy swimming and stick with it.
  5. Leave your stopwatch at home. There is no need for you bring it. Even if you don’t use it, just bringing a watch to a meet (or practice, heaven forbid!) signifies to your child that his TIME is the most important thing about him as a swimmer. When a swimmer is young and new to the sport, so many other things matter more - technique, effort, being a good teammate, and paying attention at practice just to name a few. Your swimmer will no doubt feel the pressure of the clock eventually.
  6. Get involved by volunteering at a swim meet. It may be intimidating at first, but none of the volunteer roles are that difficult, they just take a few minutes to learn. Volunteering is a great way to meet other swim parents, and helping the team is a great way to show your support for your swimmer.
  7. Don’t blur the line between coach and parent. Trust me, this is a big one. It is okay to talk to your kid about swimming, particularly if he or she brings it up or asks you questions, but don’t plan strategy, instruct technique, or critique a performance. Doing these might have short term benefits but it ultimately will have two negative effects: (1) to diminish the coach’s authority in your swimmer’s eyes making it harder for the coach effectively teach your child, and (2) make swimming YOUR thing, and not your swimmer’s. Encouraging your child to have ownership of her swimming promotes responsibility and self-efficacy.
If you follow these pieces of advice, you will be well on the way toward helping your child have an awesome experience as part of our team.
-Coach Ryan