6 Tips on How to be a Happy Swim Parent - By Elizabeth Wickham

Don’t treat each meet like it’s life or death.
There will be good meets and bad meets, good swims and less than stellar ones. Don’t get too caught up in the moment, but look towards the big picture.

Don’t compare your swimmer with teammates.
It’s easy to wonder why your kid isn’t making the same progress as their friends. All kids are different and they learn and develop in their own time. I promise that comparing your swimmer’s times with others will not make you happy.

Cheer loudly for other swimmers.
Being enthusiastic for your child’s teammates will help you focus less on your own kid. Spread positive energy on the pool deck and encourage other swimmers’ success.

Invite the team over to your house.
Some of my favorite swim mom moments were having the entire team over for a potluck, cooking spaghetti for the senior group, or having the girls over to paint t-shirts for a big age-group meet. Make some happy memories.

Get your swimmer to practice consistently.
Your swimmer will not experience success and will be frustrated if their practice is hit and miss. The only way to get better in this sport is to be there and put in the hard work on a daily basis. There are no short cuts.

Busy parents are happy parents. I believe that being involved will give you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that you’re giving back to your team and this great sport.


“Parents today are out of control,” say a number of swim coaches. Don’t get me wrong; club coaches do appreciate us. They say, “We wouldn’t be able to exist without parents. Most parents are great.” Followed by, “But…”

“Parents push, push, push,” a club coach with 45 years of experience told me. Their swimmer has to get a college scholarship, get certain times, get straight As and be the best violinist. Parents don’t have team loyalty and jump teams when they get upset.

A younger coach, whose father also coached, agrees that swim parents have gotten worse in the last few years. He said he enjoys working with kids and keeping them motivated. His biggest headache is with parents.

What are we doing to cause this? I don’t like to see the coach-parent relationship become adversarial. Better communication on both sides might help—and parents need more education about swimming.

Of course, there are legitimate issues and concerns a parent may have with a coach. It’s how we, as parents, handle these situations that differs from years’ past. Try a Google search: “Why parents drive coaches crazy.” It’s not a swim thing. It’s a millennial generation, helicopter-parent thing. Yes, only 5% of applicants get accepted into Harvard or Stanford, and more than 86,000 kids applied to UCLA last year. It’s a competitive world and we want our kids to succeed.

I remember a parent meeting for our team. A brand new parent complained because there weren’t enough meets for his swimmer. More experienced swim parents patiently explained that there was a meet per month for every level of swimmer, sometimes more. How old was his child? Five. As in five years old and the father insisted on more competitions. I know of another incident where a family switched teams because his daughter didn’t make a relay team at a BRW meet. The selection was based on times. I’m sure you know similar stories.

My parenting tips: Take a deep breath. Relax.

Review the “10 Commandments for Swim Parents” from USA Swimming:


Thou shall not impose thy ambitions on thy child.

Thou shall be supportive no matter what.

Thou shall not coach thy child.

Thou shall only have positive things to say at a competition.

Thou shall acknowledge thy child’s fears.

Thou shall not criticize the officials.

Thou shall honor thy child’s coach.

Thou shall be loyal and supportive of thy team.

Thy child shall have goals besides winning.

Thou shall not expect thy child to become an Olympian.

Be a role model for newer swim parents and don’t be that parent, the one who drives coaches crazy. Most of us are dedicated, hard-working parent volunteers who live, breathe and love swimming. We love our kids. We love our team. We want a great experience for our kids, our coaches and ourselves.

Stress and Expectationsby Olivier Poirier – Leroy 

As a swim parent who wants the best for their little swammer you know that it can be very difficult walking the fine line between being too involved and being too aloof with your kiddo’s performance.

For young swimmers who are get particularly excited or over-anxious it is helpful to understand that part of the reason they are feeling this way has to do with how anxious the parents are before competition.

As it turns out, the stress and anxiety we feel about our swimmer’s performance trickles down into how stressed and anxious they are.

Research performed at Ithaca College sought out to see just how much of an effect there was. The researchers worked with a group of youth athletes, ranging from 6 to 18, in a few different individual sports, including swimming.

The day before a big competition the athletes and the parents were both given questionnaires to see how both expected the athlete to perform, and how they were feeling in regards to the upcoming meet.

If you have been around these parts, and read through either this guide on swim parenting or this research on the mindsets of elite athletes, the results won’t be too surprising:

·         Athletes who were the most stressed out and anxious (with anxiety measured in terms of worry, physical symptoms—tense muscles, and concentration disruption) had parents who really wanted their kid to beat the competition, or “to not lose to others.”

·         The age groupers experienced concentration disruption the most when their parents were more interested in seeing the athlete out-perform the competition compared to achieving a personal best.

Winning might be everything—as the quote goes, but the expectation of it doesn’t help athletes get any closer to achieving it. Focusing exclusively on winning creates an environment where the young swimmer is physically less likely to make it happen.

“You might think that’s a really positive thing for the child, but that’s creating a lot of worry [for the kid] as well. I don’t think parents are necessarily thinking about that kind of thing,” says Miranda Kaye, study co-author and professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences at Ithaca College.

The Take-away

Swim parenting is no joke—you don’t need me to tell you that. Between fundraising, the costs of a full season of training, driving to early morning workouts, marathon swim meets, dealing with injuries (ahem swimmer’s shoulder), it can be tempting to begin to feel like the seemingly never-ending sacrifice should be considered an investment.

As a result you might feel yourself putting more emphasis on winning in order to see a return.

But if you want the best for your child, the research continues to show that a relaxed, hands-off, let-the-kid-own-the-sport is best for creating an environment where they will not only have more fun, but also excel both in the short and long term.