12 Hints You Might Be a Hovering, Helicopter Swim Parent

by SwimSwam 49

July 14th, 2018 Club, Lifestyle, Opinion, Swim Mom

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

My kids are in college and I’m learning that how I behaved as an age group swim parent has a direct relationship to their success or troubles once they left home.

In “10 Signs You May Be a Helicopter Swim Parent,” I wrote about some over-the-top swim parent mistakes. There are also things we do for our kids, that may not seem like a big deal now, but could hinder their development into healthy, happy self-sufficient adults. I heard that our goal in parenting should be to lose our job. When we save our kids from short-term discomfort or failure, we may be hurting them in the long run.

I believe there are stages in child development—and stages in parenting. We must be more hands on when kids are young, and let go step-by-step as they grow. Each child is different and our relationships vary, but we can reflect on what we do daily for our children and what they can start doing on their own.

Here are 12 things we may do around the pool that our kids should take over as they grow. Some we should never do:


We complete our child’s homework, because he’s tired after practice.


We talk to the coach about what our swimmer needs to work on.


At a meet, we find out the heat and lane for our swimmer.


Before school, we pack their swim bag and make sure it makes it to the pool.


We fill the water bottle for practice and bring it along with the swim bag.


We contact the coach to let him or her know vacation plans and schedules.


If our child has a problem with a teammate, we call the parent or talk to the child.


We drive home quickly if a suit or running shoes are forgotten and rush back to the pool.


If our children complain about practice, we immediately call or email the coach.


We tell the coach what events to enter our swimmer in.


We tell our swimmers to talk with their coach, before and after every race.


We wait in line with our swimmer at check-in and tell admin what events our child is swimming.

What other hints do you have for helicopter swim parents?

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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5 years ago

Growing up, my dad and I played softball, basketball, and soccer in the yard. He taught me most of what I know in those sports. The repetition in the yard made me better. He didn’t know much about soccer but he still kicked the ball with me and gave me advice after a game on how I did. I went on the play division 1 soccer in college. The time and memories with my dad were some of the best in my childhood. He wasn’t my coach, he was much more. I do the same for my kids. Why wouldn’t I? I think the parents that are totally disengaged with their swimmers are either simply not sports minded (which is… Read more »

5 years ago

I do t see any issues with 6 and 11

5 years ago

As a coach I absolutely want my swimmers talking to me before and after every race. I also want to have good communication from parents so if they go on vacation for a week and suddenly stop coming to practice I know why.

Northern SwimFamily
5 years ago

You should be engaged.

My son recently turned 12. We have backed off on some advice as he has a better understanding of himself than we do. For example, warm up. He used to make the mistake of going as hard as he could during warm up before a race. When he asks about warm up now we tell him he will know best.

Race selection: we keep a spreadsheet of races he has done to make sure he is covering all strokes and distances. I am not sure the coaches spend as much time as parents doing the same thing. We view race selection as quite important.

We recently tried to focus more on practice: practice hard (still have… Read more »

5 years ago

So sorry, as a coach, I must disagree with several things here.

I WANT to know vacation schedules and time away, especially due to illness. It helps me plan a season for a swimmer, even a young one, and lets me adjust training load when a swimmer is recovering from cold or flu. And I want to know regardless of swimmer age. Even 18-19 year olds may not know family vacation plans, especially if they are still at home (and many are).

I WANT parents to know the heat and lane for their swimmer at competitions. The more help keeping a youngster on track the better. But these days, with events being available through online software applications, there is zero… Read more »

Reply to  KinSwim
5 years ago

I also think a lot of these depend on the age of the swimmer. I do like to discuss progress with parents- especially for the younger swimmers. I like to educate parents on the development of swimmers and help them understand what is ‘normal’ progress (for example many 8 and unders struggle with breaststroke). I coach in an area where swimming is a fairly new sport and many parents have no clue on how swimmers develop and how it does take time. As swimmers get older, they definitely should take on more responsibility (like they should be able to tell their parents their heats and lanes rather than the other way around). I know with the older kids, I frequently… Read more »

6 years ago

Number 3..probably should say you ask your kid or their coach heat and Lane they are in, which is so bad. Most of the time heat and Lane can be found on heat sheet you can purchase.

7 years ago

Many good comments here from parents and coaches. I believe we all want our children to succeed, but the key is to find the right balance: get involved, let your swimmers own their sport, and let coaches do their job. Once my kids were old enough to take care of themselves on the “dry” side of the sport (equipment, practice/meet logistics, etc), I have found a perfect balance by becoming a volunteer official: show you care about their sport, but not helicopter over them, AND have the best seat in the house to watch them compete (often closer than anyone else). Sometimes even the coaches would ask me questions like: did you see that turn? I could actually offer my… Read more »

7 years ago

please dismount your high horse

Reply to  swim
7 years ago

Dude, assuming you are a guy, lay off your personal attacks. We are all entitled to our own opinion, and I was simply sharing my experience. Your “slower swimmer” comment on @Rachel’s comment was uncalled for. It’s OK to disagree but please keep your personal stuff to yourself.

7 years ago

As a swimmer, I’ve seen a couple helicopter parents and the one thing I notice is that they are the ones who show up to every single practice and sit in the stands, even when their kids are way too old for that. Our coach had to make a rule forbidding parents from coming to the older kids’ (middle school and above) practices. They also tend to be the parents of the faster kids, and are really invested in their kids improvement. At the end of the day, this really just messes with the kid’s head. It’s great for parents to be involved with their kid’s sport, but they should definitely let the kid set their own goals and grow… Read more »

Just Another Opinion
Reply to  Rachel
7 years ago

From USA Swimming’s Best Practice Guidelines:
“2. All swimming practices should be open to observation by parents.”


Reply to  Rachel
7 years ago

rachel. so based on your comment, you must be one of the slower swimmers. what would you suggest a parent do if they live too far to drive back home? sit in the car? no thanks. i’d rather be up in the stands watching my child swim. parents invest a lot of time and money into their child’s swimming. at the least, they have the right to observe practice. and for those of you who are say that your child’s swimming should be left completely in the hands of the coach alone, you are wrong. that is the same as saying your child’s academics should be left completely in the hands of the school and teachers. obviously, at a certain… Read more »