11 Tips for Swim Parents About Really, Really Bad Swims

by SwimSwam 5

January 04th, 2017 Club, Lifestyle

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

Parents are on top of the world when their swimmers get best times. We feel low when our swimmers are disappointed with a swim. Yes. We are disappointed, too.

When your swimmer has a really bad swim—I mean an awful one—what do you do? How do you feel?

In your head, you may question his or her training, or wonder if your swimmer is working hard enough in practice. Does your child still have the desire to train and compete?

The best part of a bad swim may be what your swimmer learns from it. Along with the coach, your swimmer can figure out how to get back on track and improve.

You don’t love your child any less when they swim slowly. You need to express that you value your child as a person and a member of your family—regardless of whether they’re fast or slow—or want to quit the sport. Our kids are hard enough on themselves, we don’t need to add to their pressure.

Here are 11 tips for parents on how to handle a bad swim:


Stay calm. This too shall pass.


Be reassuring and keep a good perspective. It’s only one swim or one meet.


Be honest. Acknowledge it wasn’t their best.


Don’t make a big deal out of it.


Watch your body language. It’s said that 60% of what we say is non-verbal.


If they want to talk about it, listen to what they have to say.


If your swimmer doesn’t want to talk, don’t press.


Don’t coach and critique their swim and tell them what they did wrong.


Don’t blame the coach for a less than stellar performance. Especially in the stands, don’t complain to other parents.


If you have concerns, make an appointment to talk to the coach sometime after the meet.


Each swim is only a moment in time. What defines this moment is how your child handles it. And how you handle it.

Be thankful for the quality time swim meets provide our families. And that your kid is swimming! There are way worse things they could be doing besides having a bad swim. The very next swim, or meet, you may see your child get out of the pool with a big smile. You’ll be smiling, too.

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

Thank you! I feel their pains more when I see their faces coming out of the water feeling very disappointed. I feel their joy when I see those smiles after looking at their times after a great swim.
There’ll be more tears I guess but in every tears and disappointment I always look for brighter days ahead because I know they won’t give up.
Thank you Elizabeth for another great article!

6 years ago

AND PARENTS REMEMBER: If the swim was REALLY that bad, the swimmer already knows, and is already beating themselves up for it…

Anne Lane
6 years ago

I so agree with these thoughtful eleven common sense tips. Elizabeth clearly understands swimming and the team concepts, but these tips apply to being a parent to any team sport.

Swim Taxi Driver
6 years ago

#10 Wait at least a day to make sure your comments are what you want to say to the coach, not just a reaction to the meet, and your swimmers results in the water.

6 years ago

Recently, a parent said to me, “My child has never not gotten a best time! What’s wrong with her today?!” OKAY…this swimmer has been an early developer and lucky until now…no surprise, but over that season, the swimmer had many ups and downs…just like they all do.

Note that a “bad swim” is not defined by a teammate beating you. I have seen too many age group swimmers crying recently, when they had a good swim for them, because a teammate/friend beat them. This is poor sportsmanship. DO talk to your kid about sportsmanship and swimming being about one’s personal best and being a positive part of a team. Winning will come rarely in this sport, and it’s not about… Read more »