The Ten Commandments for Swimming Parents:

This is the time to teach your child good sportsmanship, patience, the necessity to obey rules, the responsibility to a group, and the value of hard work.  If you value winning a race for your child more than any of the above qualities, you are selling your child and age group swimming short.  There are things to be learned about losing as well as winning.  To young children, especially, it will take your guidance to teach them to handle both situations.  One aid is to keep a chart or record of his times so that he can compete against himself and note his progress and set his own goals.  The rewards of hard work, friendship, and travel are all available to your child.  Take advantage of them to build your child’s self-confidence and speed his maturation.

1.  Thou shalt not impose your ambitions on thy child.  Remember that swimming is your child’s activity.  He/She will progress at his own speed,  Nothing is worse than a parent coercing a child to do something he does not want to do.  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 is only one question to ask your child  “did you have fun?”  If meets and practices aren’t fun, your child should not be forced to participate.

3.  Thou shalt not coach your child.  You have taken your child to a professional coach, do not undermine that coach by trying to coach your child on the side.  Your job is to support, love and hug your child no matter what.  The coach is responsible for the technical part of the job.  You should not offer advice on technique or race strategy.  This is not your area.  This will only serve to confuse your child and prevent that swimmer/coach bond from forming.

4.  Thou shalt only have positive things to say at a swim meet.  If you are going to show up at 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 to death at his/her first swimming meet, of his/her first 500 free or 200 IM.  Don’t yell or belittle, just assure your child that the coach would not have put him/her in that event if he/she did not feel he/she were ready.

6.  Thou shalt not criticize the officials.  If you do not have the time or desire to volunteer as an official don’t criticize those who are doing the best they can.

7.  Honor thou child’s coach.  The bond between coach and swimmer is a special one, and 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 team to team.  The water is always bluer at the other team’s pool.  This is not necessarily true.  Every team has it’s own internal problems.  Even teams that build champions.  Children who switch from team to team are often ostracized by the teammates they leave behind for a long, long time.  Often times swimmers who do switch teams never do better than they did before they sought the bluer water.

9.  Thou shalt have goals besides winning.  Encourage your child to do his/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.  Ask your coach why he coaches, chances are that he was not an Olympian, but still got enough out of swimming that he wants to pass that love for the sport on to others.  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 just builds good people and you should be happy your child wants to participate.