1. Thou shalt not impose your ambitions on thy child. Remember that swimming is your child’s activity. He will progress at his own speed. The nice thing about swimming is each person can strive to do his or her personal best. It doesn’t matter whether they come in first or last, they can all improve themselves.
2. Thou shalt be supportive no matter what. There are only two questions to ask your child “did you have fun?” and “did you try your hardest?” If meets and practices aren’t fun, your child should not be forced to participate.
3. Thou shalt not coach your child. Be helpful, but don’t compete with the coach when it comes to race strategy and technique. Your job is to support and encourage.
4. Thou shalt only have positive things to say at a swim meet. If you are going to watch a swimming meet, you should cheer and applaud, but never criticize your child or the coach.
5. Thou shalt acknowledge your child’s fears. It is totally appropriate for a child to be scared at his first swimming meet, or of her first 500 free or 200 IM. Don’t yell or belittle, just assure your child that the coach would not have put her in that event if she did not feel she were ready.
6. Thou shalt not criticize the officials. The officials are volunteers who are doing the best job they can for the athletes.
7. Honor they child’s coach. The bond between coach and swimmer is a special one that contributes to your child’s success as well as fun. Do not criticize the coach in the presence of your child; it will only serve to hurt your child’s swimming.
8. Thou shalt not jump from USAS team to USAS team. The water is always bluer at the other team’s pool. This is not necessarily true. Every team has its own internal problems; even teams that build champions. Children who switch from team to team are often ostracized by the teammates they leave behind. Often swimmers who do switch teams don’t do better than they did before they sought the bluer water.
9. Thou shalt have goals besides winning. Encourage your child to do her best. Giving an honest effort no matter what the outcome 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. This does not make me a failure, in fact, I was very proud of that swim.”
10. Thou shalt not expect thy child to become an Olympian. There are 225,000 athletes in United States Swimming. There are only 52 spots available on the Olympic Team every four years. Your child’s odds of becoming an Olympian are about 1 in 4300. Swimming is about so much more than the Olympics. Swimming teaches self-discipline and sportsmanship; it builds self-esteem and fitness; it provides lifelong friendships and much more. Most Olympians will tell you that these intangibles far outweigh any medal they may have won. Swimming builds good people and you can be happy your child wants to participate.