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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6 years ago

You order for your 18 year old son when out at a team dinner.

You ask the coach many, many times when they need to arrive for a meet and start planning months in advance.

The swimmer misses many practices throughout the season and has a terrible end of season meet. Mom needs to talk to the head coach about the “situation”.

6 years ago

I am guilty of all these when my kids were younger, except talking to the coach.
My husband is guilty of helping my son prepare his water at 5:00 am before he leaves for practice.
Otherwise I guess we are weaning ourselves from being helicopter parents ?.

6 years ago

you are constantly on USA swimming site reviewing meet results for your child’s rivals and then inform your child of said results and then try to use them to motivate your kid.

seriously number 3 I do that all the time. We swim 10 lanes and how else are you going to find your kid easily. Is taking a photo of the heat sheet too much? At lease I dont write it on my hand in permanent marker.

Reply to  TA
3 years ago

I believe she meant you are getting the heat and lane FOR the swimmer, rather than s/he being responsible for getting the info. Thanks to Meet Mobile or similar apps (when the meet admins. use it) you can now see that on your phone without walking down to the board where they’re posted!

6 years ago

Come one! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 12 – nobody does that!
The rest, most of them you are even asked to do by the team/coach.

Here is opposite of a helicopter parent: my wife rarely goes to meets and knows nothing about swimming. On several occasions she watched a wrong child swim (wrong lane). So now on a rare occasion when she goes to a meet and makes a comment after a race, our kids’ first question to her is “What lane did you watch?”

Reply to  PsychoDad
6 years ago

Yep, have photographed the wrong swimmer! (hey, they both had similar caps and who can see their faces?!) That’s why she is supposed to tell ME her heat & lane before she races!

6 years ago

You actually film your children at practice and review with them after workout
You actually come to all workouts and watch stroke for stroke….thinking it will motivate them
You actually cheer them on at workout with hand signals

Reply to  jimmycrackcornandidont
6 years ago

Yes these are better examples. The others are mostly good parents maybe doing a little too much enabling but adjusting for the needs of their individual children. Other than

There’s other thing not considered is there are bad coaches out there. I was at FL HS champ meet yesterday and 3 coaches didn’t share a heat sheet with the swimmers while they wanted to schmooze with other coaches, ignoring the kids. Sooo the pics had to text parents to get heats and lanes! There are also coaches thst scream at little kids when they forgot something, not considering kids are at various developmental stages, yet never scream at the superstars when they forgot the same item. Sometimes parents just… Read more »

6 years ago

#s 3,4,5,6,8 indicate a positively involved parent, in my opinion. I wish those numbers had applied to me.

Reply to  beachair
6 years ago

Sorry, these are all detering independence and personal accountability. At a certain age, all of these things need to be done by the athlete themselves. As a coach, I don’t expect a new-to-club 6 year old to accomplish all of these, but by 9yr old they should be handling 3, 4, 5. I’ll give you to 11 for number 6 and number 8 should NEVER happen. A swimmer doesn’t learn to be prepared if a parent is saving them all the time. How well would it go over if a college professor’s lecture was interrupted by a mom dropping off her kids homework? Why teach a child a way in which the real world doesn’t follow…

Swimmom 247
Reply to  coacherik
6 years ago

So what you’re saying is that in the “real world” people don’t help each other out or rely on each other? I call BS. I’m all for encouraging independence, but I’ll gladly fill my kid’s water bottles while she’s getting ready to fly out the door at the crack of dawn. And she’ll gladly help me set the table and do the dishes after dinner. It’s not helicopter parenting, it’s cooperation. If I’m up at 5am and not busy, I’m happy to help her out and the same is true for my child at dinnertime. I’ve had enough of these know-it-all writers and their so-called parenting tips. Having a bachelors degree and volunteering for your club team does not qualify… Read more »

Mom's rule
Reply to  Swimmom 247
6 years ago

In the “real world” I always filled my kids water bottles before practice and meets to save time getting out of the house. My daughter was extremely shy so I waited in line at check-in to help her stay relaxed but she had to check-in herself. I have seen patents do all of these things. So although I may not agree with all 12 of these items (all kids are different) l would never issue a personal attach on the author of an article over a difference in parenting styles. If you don’t like the advice ignore it, if you disagree state your case like a grown up. If you’re a weak mind fling insults at the writer.

Reply to  Swimmom 247
6 years ago

In the “real world” maybe a friend will have a suit, cap, goggles to borrow that the swimmer has to ask for, instead of expect to happen. If mom or dad dives in to save the day every time, when happens when mom and dad can’t. Then there’s a meltdown with no sense of what to do. If the meltdown occurs before the age of 12, then the child learns that there are other options besides parents that maybe not as appealing (borrowing a suit from lost a found for the practice) or maybe just deciding that they won’t dry off after practice since they don’t have a towel. If the meltdown happens when they are teenagers, then there may… Read more »

Swim Mom
Reply to  Swimmom 247
6 years ago

100% Agree!!!!!

Reply to  Swim Mom
6 years ago

20-year volleyball coach here…

The rationalization that parents are doing here is astounding. Water bottles can’t be filled the night before BY YOUR KIDS?

When kids move on to college there is NOBODY to cooperate with. Time pressure is incredibly intense. Every kid is so used to their parents doing everything for them that no single kid knows how to think ahead and plan things out over the next 2-3 weeks so they can fulfil all the intertwined obligations required to satisfy all the teachers, professors and future bosses. At college, and in the workplace, nobody cares about your personal struggles. If your kid can’t even figure out how to plan their life so they have 1 spare minute… Read more »

Suzy Golyski
Reply to  Swimmom 247
4 years ago

100% agree! My household would not run very well if all of us did not pitch in and help each other! It’s called team work!

Swim Mom
Reply to  coacherik
6 years ago

Number 8 should NEVER happen? Have you ever forgotten something at home and turned around to go get it? Have you ever forgotten something at a friend’s house and had to go get it? Children forget things. Adults forget things. It drives me INSANE when adults expect children to be prepared and never forget a single thing. Children are human and make mistakes. If this happens frequently then obviously your child needs some help staying organized. However, if it happens on the rare occasion, deal with it. If you can go home and get what they forget, awesome. If not, they and you deal with it. It’s just ridiculous to think that children are supposed to be perfect and never… Read more »

6 years ago

to my parents, I mean.

6 years ago

You run out on deck with a full water bottle because you notice that your child’s water is running low.
You ask the coach to move your child to a slow lane so they can be first.