12 Parent Tips on How to Behave at Swim Practice

by SwimSwam 29

June 22nd, 2018 Club, Lifestyle, Opinion, Swim Mom

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

I will confess. I haven’t been the perfect swim parent. I’ve learned from my own mistakes, plus from watching other parents. If you’re an involved swim parent, you’ve seen interesting days on the pool deck, with new parents and more seasoned ones.

Here are my 12 tips on what to do — and not do — during practice:


  1. Keep a case of water in the car. If your swimmer doesn’t drink it all, you will.
  1. Bring snacks for your child to refuel after practice even if it’s right before dinner. A nutritionist swim mom told me for best recovery your swimmer must refuel within 20 minutes of practice. Chocolate milk is a great choice.
  1. Reach out to new parents and those with younger swimmers on the team.
  1. Sit away from the edge of the pool and away from the coach. A head coach told us swimmers got distracted listening to parents gossip when we sat directly behind him. Now, we’re on the opposite side of the pool.
  1. Take advantage of practice time. Get a group of parents walking or start a dryland group. You can always catch up on reading, too.


  1. Don’t talk to — or coach — your swimmer while he’s in practice.
  1. Don’t interrupt the coach during practice. If there’s something you need to say, catch the coach before or after practice, or send an email.
  1. Don’t compare your swimmer to others on the team. There’s no positive outcome for anyone by doing this.
  1. Please don’t videotape your children during practice. They really don’t want to review with you later that night what they’re doing “wrong.”
  1. Gossip is never a good idea, whether it’s about another family, swimmer or team.
  1. Try to avoid causing a scene on deck. Your swimmer will be mortified forever.

What tips do you have for parents on how to behave during practice?

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: http://bleuwater.me/

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6 years ago

Dont: Insert yourself so entirely into your swimmer’s swimming that you make the experience yours/about you. Do: Let your swimmer own their own swimming experience without mom or dad constantly trying to “drive.” Do: Find an outlet for your competitive drive where you are actually doing the competing and not living through your child. My 2 cents as a swimmer, coach and parent.

6 years ago

#13: Why are all these parents even at swim practice in the first place??

Reply to  liquidassets
6 years ago

Amen to that

Reply to  liquidassets
6 years ago

I think with the new safe sport rules it may be mandatory for teams to allow parents some visibility into practice.

Reply to  liquidassets
6 years ago

Yes! Parents, let the coaches coach, the swimmers swim, and enjoy an hour or two of time for yourself! It’s a win-win!

Reply to  liquidassets
6 years ago

Because of coaches likes these:
Rick Curl
Matthew Carrington
Patrick Fatta
James Henry Martin III
Marissa Thompson
Glenn Christopher Nellis
Paul A. Collins
Chris Johnson
Noah Rucker
Kenneth Fuller

Virtually every other sport allows parents/families/friends/fans to watch practice. Can you cogently provide an explanation why swimming should be any different?

Reply to  Parent
3 years ago

Parents should be allowed to watch practice, but they shouldn’t actually need to sit there watching every day.
As a parent, if you really think your kid is likely to be sexually or otherwise abused by their swim coach, then it’s your responsibility to get them away from that swim team. If you have found a team where you feel comfortable and trust the coaches, then give your kids some space.

6 years ago

the coach of my granddaughter does not allow parents to stay – they have to leave the premises during coaching sessons.

Dave R
Reply to  swimgran
6 years ago

There are a lot of good coaches out there – I’m sure it wouldn’t be too difficult to find one who follows Safe Sport guidelines.

On a different note: where is tip #3?

Elizabeth Wickham
Reply to  Dave R
6 years ago

Sorry! It got deleted during my editing. But, there are some good tips in comments to take its place.

6 years ago

I totally agree in the gossiping part because I’ve been there, done that and as I look back I feel so embarrassed. While kids are at practice we always have the best excuse to walk and get our exercise done. Sitting across the pool after and looking at kids practice is always good and my children likes it.
Thank you for another great article

6 years ago

As a swimmer I never wanted my parents at practice – it interfered with my concentrating on my coach and what I was trying to get done. And my kids have expressed the same sentiment to me – they’d prefer I was not there, or at least not much more than the last few minutes before picking them up.

C’mon folks – give them a little freedom.

6 years ago

DOs – release your child to the sport!

6 years ago

Good article. Many teams have a parent handbook for new parents and this would be a good start, tailored to the specific team’s rules of course. Having been a swimmer, coach and parent, I can certainly say that as a swimmer, I am pretty sure that I never wanted my parents at practice. As a coach, the parents I did NOT want to be at practice were of course the ones who invariably stayed. But I never minded if parents watched parts of practices or came to rare practices.Sometimes, a kid would not be hitting expected mid-season times, and it was reassuring for parents to see that the kid was right where he belonged at practice, leading the lane on… Read more »

6 years ago

When I notice a parent on deck, I tend to be easier on the athlete. I don’t say as much for two reasons: 1- I don’t want the parent to get the impression that I am talking more with their child while they are there (I’d prefer they stayed home or waited until the final 10 minutes to be on the deck), and 2- I don’t want to give the parent fuel to talk about swimming specific topics with their child on the way home. I end up losing the kid at some point when this is the case. It’s tough, because us coaches don’t want to be rude- but most parents really don’t get it. I always say, “Parents… Read more »