10 Commandments


10 Commandments for Swimming Parents

by Rose Snyder, Managing Director Coaching Division, USOC
Former Director of Club Services, USA Swimming
(adapted from Ed Clendaniel's 10 Commandments for Little League Parents)


I. Thou shalt not impose thy ambitions on thy child.

Remember that swimming is your child's activity. Improvements and progress occur at different
rates for each individual. Don't judge your child's progress based on the performance of other
athletes and don't push him based on what you think he should be doing. The nice thing about
swimming is every person can strive to do his personal best and benefit from the process
of competitive swimming.

II. Thou shalt be supportive no matter what.

There is only one question to ask your child after a practice or a competition - "Did you have
fun?" If meets and practices are not fun, your child should not be forced to participate.

III. Thou shalt not coach thy child.

You are involved in one of the few youth sports programs that offers professional coaching. Do
not undermine the professional coach by trying to coach your child on the side. Your job is to
provide love and support. The coach is responsible for the technical part of the job. You should
not offer advice on technique or race strategy. Never pay your child for a performance. This will
only serve to confuse your child concerning the reasons to strive for excellence and weaken the
swimmer/coach bond.

IV. Thou shalt only have positive things to say at a swimming meet.

You should be encouraging and never criticize your child or the coach. Both of them know when
mistakes have been made. Remember “yelling at” is not the same as “cheering for”.

V. Thou shalt acknowledge thy child's fears.

New experiences can be stressful situations. It is totally appropriate for your child to be scared.
Don't yell or belittle, just assure your child that the coach would not have suggested the event or
meet if your child was not ready. Remember your job is to love and support your child through
all of the swimming experience.

VI. Thou shalt not criticize the officials.

Please don't criticize those who are doing the best they can in purely voluntary positions.

VII. Honor thy child's coach.

The bond between coach and swimmer is special. It contributes to your child's success as well as
fun. Do not criticize the coach in the presence of your child.

VIII. Thou shalt be loyal and supportive of thy team.

It is not wise for parents to take swimmers and to jump from team to team. The water isn't
necessarily bluer in another team's pool. Every team has its own internal problems, even teams
that build champions. Children who switch from team to team find that it can be a difficult
emotional experience. Often swimmers who do switch teams don't do better than they did before
they sought the bluer water.

IX. Thy child shalt have goals besides winning.

Most successful swimmers have learned to focus on the process and not the outcome. Giving an
honest effort regardless of what the outcome is, is much more important than winning. One
Olympian said, "My goal was to set a world record. Well, I did that, but someone else did it too,
just a little faster than I did. I achieved my goal and I lost. Does this make me a failure? No, in
fact I am very proud of that swim." What a tremendous outlook to carry
on through life.

X. Thou shalt not expect thy child to become an Olympian.

There are 250,000 athletes in USA Swimming. There are only 52 spots
available for the Olympic Team every four years. Your child's odds of
becoming an Olympian are about .0002%.