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.

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
4 years ago

usually refers to parents who do the same in the child’s entire life….school, sports, music, friends etc etc etc. Yup, I am one.

6 years ago

My personal favorite is the swim parent who cries unfairness because their kid doesn’t seem to get the same treatment or workout of another kid. Sometimes the other kid maybe in a taper for a specific meet that the other kid didn’t qualify for. Or one kid learns a specific technique because they are ready for it in the skill set but the other kid isn’t, so the parent gets mad. As much as swimming is a team sport, it is primarily an individual sport and each swimmer has specific needs and developmentally may be in a different place. One size doesn’t always fit all.

6 years ago

I love my clipboard but not to write down other kids times (that’s just creepy). I don’t even write down my own kids times write down. It just keeps me organized…. and by organized I mean it keeps me from buying multiple heat sheets because I put the last one down and can’t remember where I left it. 🙂

Swim Pop
6 years ago

Our head coach and team philosophy is to let the child own their swimming. We have quite a few meets during the year where the swimmers are physically separated from the viewing stands, it’s just them and their coaches, perfect. I will admit to missing a few swims now and then just because we were busy chatting in the stands, nobody died.

parent of 2
6 years ago

I would propose adding to this list the mom who has to go throw up before her daughter swims, the parent who sits in the stands and chants “swim slow” for the kids who might knock their child out of finals that evening, the mom who volunteers in a position that gives her access to the times before they are uploaded and “tweaks” her child’s times to ensure they meet the qualifying standards for future meets, the dad who manipulates his stroke and turn positioning so that he can disqualify his child’s primary competition for gold, and my personal favorite – the mom who cries whenever her kid gets beaten by a team mate.

Do any of these behaviors… Read more »

occasional traveler
Reply to  parent of 2
6 years ago

You either live in a truly horrible community, or are unjustifiably paranoid.

In the case of volunteer officials you accuse of malice and dishonesty: if you truly believe people are being dishonest (whether on deck or at the table), maybe you should contribute some of your own time to join that team of people committed to ensuring your children can enjoy safe and fair competition. As a Chief Judge or Referee you would be in position either to validate your suspicions and correct them (and even pursue due process to decertify unfit officials), or you would disprove your hypothesis and perhaps learn you have an overactive imagination.

I submit that you’d quickly realize that competitive swimming is both… Read more »

7 years ago

I don’t know much about these as my swimmer is just starting out- swam freestyle the length of the pool then backstroke back (just turned 6). I could not be prouder! Bet I learn more about these points soon enough!

7 years ago

13. You buy coffees, bake cookies, etc for coaches so your child will get more attention and you will be the coach’s favorite Swim-Parent. And the coffees get you on deck close to the action!

7 years ago

11. You take your swimmer for extra practices with Swim-Parent to work on pacing, strokes, etc.

12. You sneak your videotape into practices and tape your swimmer, to critique later with him/her. Or tape EVERY race and do the critiquing even though child does not want to re-live the races. (occasional taping for memories is normal).