Florida Swimming
Level 3
Excellence 200

Watching Your Child at Swim Lessons or Swim Practice

The following article was written for the American Swim Coaches Association "Swim News For Swim Parents" Program.  At T2 Aquatics we would like to bring you someone else's perspective of the sport and navitating the sometimes challenging road of being a parent.  One thing that we try to do at T2 is have a "Clean Deck" at the pool and ask that parents stay under the pavillion area (by the locker rooms) at the pool.  We want to promote the best environment for the swimmers as they work on improving their attention to the coaching staff and the tasks at hand.  Even the youngest swimmers should work on navigating their way through swim practice.  At times a well intentioned parent can distract a swimmer as well as a group from the task at hand.  We would like all of our swimmers to work on becoming confident self reliant swimmers.  At T2, we strive to help the swimmers do this.

News for Swim Parents

Published by The American Club Swimming Association

For over four years I watched my daughter swim under the direction of other coaches. I have also watched her at basketball practice and games, and dance, and figure skating.  I know the joy of watching her in these activities.  I also know and understand the overwhelming desire to direct, correct, encourage, and sometimes scold my child at practice.  But those are not proper parental behaviors once I have released her into the care of a coach or teacher.  As a parent, I am not to interfere with the practice or attempt to talk to my child during the practice session.

In our swim program, we want the child's attention focused on the coach and the tasks at hand.  Occasionally children miss an instruction, or have a goggle problem, or are involved in some other distraction, or are simply playing and having fun - which is all normal behavior for young children.  We view these little difficulties as part of the learning process and we allow the children an opportunity to develop the self discipline and self reliance needed to overcome these difficulties without the help of moms or dads. 

We know it is common in many other youth sports for parents to stand at the sidelines and shout instructions or encouragements and sometimes admonishments to their children.  However, in our swim program we ask you not to signal them to swim faster, or to tell them to try a certain technique, or to offer to fix a goggle problem, or to move away for some other "menacing" swimmer, or even to remind them to listen to the coach.  In fact, just as you would never interrupt a school classroom to talk your child, you should not interrupt a swim practice by attempting to communicate directly with your child. 

What's wrong with encouraging your child during practice?  There are two issues.   First we want your child to focus on the coach and to learn the skill for their personal satisfaction rather than learning it to please their parents.  Secondly, parental encouragement often gets translated into a command to swim faster and swimming faster may be the exact opposite of what the coach is trying to accomplish.  In most stroke skill development we first slow the swimmers down so that they can think through the stroke motions.  Save encouragements and praise for after the practice session!  This is the time when you have your child's full attention to tell them how proud you are of them.

What's wrong with shouting or signaling instructions to your children?  When I watch my 9 year old daughter play in a basketball league I understand the overwhelming desire of parents to shout instructions to their children because that is what I want to do.  But those instructions might be different from the coach's instructions and then you have a confused child.  Sometimes you might think the child did not hear the coach's instruction and you want to help.  Most of us do not want to see our own kids make a mistake.  The fact is that children miss instructions all the time.  Part of the learning process is learning how to listen to instructions.  When children learn to rely on a backup they will have more difficulty learning how to listen better the first time.

As parents, many of us want our children protected from discomfort and adversity and we will attempt to create or place them in an environment free from distress.  So, what's wrong with helping your child fix their goggles during practice time?  Quite simply, we want to encourage the children to become self-reliant and learn to take care of and be responsible for themselves and their own equipment.  Swimming practice is a terrific place to learn these life skills.  Yes, even beginning at age 6 or 7.

If you need to speak to your child regarding a family issue or a transportation issue or to take your child from practice early you are certainly welcome to do so but please approach the coach directly with your request and we will immediately get your child out of the water.  If you need to speak to the coach for other reasons please wait until the end of practice or call the phone number listed above.

I have been coaching young children for over 30 years.  I appreciate the opportunity to enjoy their enthusiasm and energy and wonderful personalities.  I coach each of them with care for their safety and concern for their social, physical, learning skills, and life skills development.  Thanks for bringing your children here as we both teach and direct them to become more responsible and confident young people.

News for Swim Parents

Published by The American Club Swimming Association

2101 North Andrews Ave., Suite 107

Fort Lauderdale FL 33311