10 Signs You May Be a Helicopter Swim Parent

by SwimSwam 23

September 17th, 2016 Club, College, Lifestyle

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

When I was a kid, we didn’t have year-round sports in my small town. We didn’t specialize in one sport at an early age or take private lessons.

Today, we spend countless hours driving our kids to practice—at dawn, in the evenings, to meets on weekends—50 weeks a year. We want our kids to be successful in academics and swimming. All this emphasis on success can lead to “helicopter parenting.”

We helicopter for many reasons. We no longer feel our society is safe, where our kids can roam freely and play outside, running in and out of neighbors’ yards, or riding bikes for miles. So, we take over our child’s free time and provide structured activities. The competition to get into college makes academics more of a priority than in previous generations, so we hover over their homework, too. The downside of constant helicoptering is that we don’t let our kids experience failure or how to learn from mistakes.

Here are 10 signs that you might be a helicopter swim parent. These examples are from my own mistakes and observing parents through the years.

  1. You wait patiently by the posting board to find out the heat and lane for your swimmer.
  2. You tell your swimmer when to warm up before a race, and when to get out and head to the blocks.
  3. You stand behind the blocks to make sure the timers get your swimmer’s time correctly.
  4. You write down “your swimmer’s goals” on 3 x 5 cards, without your swimmer’s input.
  5. You walk with your child to the coach after a race so you can give your critique first.
  6. You stand between your swimmer and the coach so you can hear every word the coach says.
  7. During a race, you walk up and down the side of the pool so you can yell/cheer at every stroke and breath.
  8. You carry a clip board and write down your swimmer’s times—and their teammates—and various other competitors.
  9. At a meet, the coach instructs swimmers to wear practice suits. But, you bring a fast suit and insist your child gets suited up.
  10. You coach your child during practice, shouting “kick” or “keep your head down” from the stands.

What other things have you seen helicopter swim parents do?

Elizabeth WickhamElizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.

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6 years ago

No.7: During a race, you walk up and down the side of the pool so you can yell/cheer at every stroke and breath can be good or bad, sometimes it just like go on a breaststroke breath, but other times it’s screaming in your face as you swim.

A mom
6 years ago

I’m guilty of the second one when my child was little, but when the kid has ADHD and coaches want to “treat all the kids the same” it’s a guaranteed recipe for disaster. Now that my child is a teenager, they have a system that works for them to handle it by themselves, because I was there in the beginning. Didn’t think of myself as a helicopter parent but I’m sure other people did.

Reply to  A mom
6 years ago

Good point. Kids do have different needs and are at different stages developmentally. Good teachers understand that; good coaches should also. Not all 8yo or 10yo or 13yo are the same. And some kids do have trouble understanding how it works, may be new, or may be nervous. It’s all a process, and some kids do need more support or help than others.

Board member.....
6 years ago

Elizabeth, could you please write an article about what it is like to be a board member/fundraiser/publicist/recruiter to a summer age group program…..All the behind the scenes stuff & how we work for FREE! That small things such as reading your email before you ask questions or remembering that we have to be at work in the morning and maybe your question can wait until the sun comes up…. We are also swim parents who really want to see our kid swim as well.

Elizabeth Wickham
Reply to  Board member.....
6 years ago

Great idea! Thanks for the suggestion.

NM Coach
Reply to  Board member.....
6 years ago

Board Member…the person you are describing is an incredibly valued asset to the coach. The one that drives me crazy is the one that says everyone is bullying my kid!

Swim Mom #642,573,809
6 years ago

It’s all about balance. As my kids have grown in the sport so have I. In the spirit of fun humor I appreciate this list. I also am proud that at some point of the gazillion meets that I have been a part of over the years that I have done every thing on that list. Thank goodness my kids have grown up with strong coaches and positive examples of swim parents.

6 years ago

Keeping track of other children’s swim times. I am surrounded by parents that follow other swimmers times. I think it’s creepy and USA swim should put these parents in swim jail hahaa :/

Reply to  HappySwimming
6 years ago

USA-S encourages it with Time Search – LOL. That’s fine, stalk in private, but the clipboards…hmm….

6 years ago

Sign # 11 – you get offended by hearing one of the first 10.

6 years ago

My daughter swims on a really small team so the coaches appreciate #2. I also get a heat sheet bc meets are LONG and I zone out and can miss her races if I’m not careful!!

6 years ago

So basically if you even attend to your child’s meet you’re a helicopter parent