THE SURVIVAL GUIDE for the New Swimming Parent

(With thanks to Emmaus Aquatic Club, Allentown, PA)


Congratulations! You just joined a swim team. Here is a brief orientation.

Necessary Stuff:  Suit and Goggles

The basic items needed are a racing suit and a pair of competition goggles. Your team usually will point you to vendors for a team suit. Or, ask a returning parent - they are a source of good tips and hand-me-downs.

It’s best to have two suits.  One to wear at practice and one to wear at meets. The practice suit will get worn out and become slow, but the meet suit will stay snug and fast.  When the meet suit wears out, it can be used as the practice suit.

You must have goggles for practice and meets!  Two or three pairs are important because they tend to break at the wrong time.

Goggles protect the eyes from chlorine and help your child see underwater. There are many types and styles. It tends to be a matter of personal choice. The longest lasting goggles are those with rubber-like gaskets. A good pair has soft gaskets that conform around the eye sockets. "Swedish" style goggles (a hard plastic goggle that sits inside the eye socket) are not recommended for beginners.

For first time swimmers who have difficulty with rubber gaskets, a pair with foam gaskets might work. Anti-Fog goggles have a coating that reduce fogging. The coating degrades with time, but your child likely will have lost his goggles before then. For those goggles without the coating try dipping them in water or applying a little saliva before putting them on.

Other Supplies

Get a swim cap for long hair, a swim bag and chlorine shampoo. A latex cap is the cheapest, though the most difficult to put on for the new swimmer. A lycra cap is softer and easier to use. A silicon cap is easy to pull on and gives more protection than a lycra cap, but is much more expensive than either the latex or lycra. Swim bags have lots of compartments to separate wet from dry items.

 The First Meet

In addition to the suit, cap and goggles, pack sunblock, towels and warm clothing for your child to bring to meets. Pack light snacks and drinks for your swimmer. Your coach will probably have more to say about eating on the day of a meet.

Arrive 15 minutes before warm-up to allow time to change and find a seat. Give yourself plenty of time and take a map.

If you have non-swimming brothers and sisters going, pack some creative fun things for them. Remember a pool can be a dangerous place, so keep an eye on them at all times. Don’t forget healthy snacks so you have an alternative to the candy for sale.

Parents’ Role

Competitive swimming programs provide many benefits to young athletes. They develop self discipline, good sportsmanship and time management skills.  Competition allows the swimmer to experience success and to learn to deal with defeat, while becoming more physically fit.

As a parent, your major responsibilities are to provide a stable, loving and supportive environment for your child and to contribute volunteer hours to the team. This positive environment will encourage your child to continue swimming. Show your interest by ensuring your child’s attendance at practices, and by coming to meets as an active volunteer.

Parents are not participants on their child’s team, but contribute to the success experienced by the child and his or her team. Parents serve as role models and their attitudes are often emulated by their children. Be aware of this and strive to be positive models. Most important, show good sportsmanship at all times toward coaches, officials, opponents and teammates.

Be Enthusiastic and Supportive

Remember that your child is the swimmer. Children need to establish their own goals, and make their own progress towards them. Be careful not to impose your own standards and goals.

Do not over burden your child with winning or achieving best times. The most important part of your child’s swimming experience is that he or she learns about himself or herself while enjoying the sport..

Cheer your child and your team. Remember that improvement and personal accomplishments are more important than winning.

Let the Coach Coach

The best way to help a child achieve his or her goals and reduce the natural fear of failure is through positive reinforcement. No one likes to make a mistake. If your child does make one, remember that he or she is still learning. Encourage his or her efforts and point out the things he did well. Let the coach be responsible for working on stroke technique or other areas for improvement.