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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5 years ago

I’m a coach- I’m fine with parents watching as long as they don’t try to coach while I’m coaching. The pool I coach at has very little deck space (I’m talking less than 3 feet on the sides of the pool). We have to ask the parents to stay off the pool deck so that we can actually have our practices and move around. The gym we are part of has discounted rates for parents so that they can work out while practices are occurring. We’re lucky to have an indoor pool in the community, but it’s small (4 lanes) and we have to work with what we have.

6 years ago

I live 25 minutes away.. most of us travel outside our hometown, so we sit. It’s really not enough time to go get anything done.

Reply to  Beth
5 years ago

Are you a teacher? If so grade papers! It’s a great way to spend the time when the distance from home is too great to justify doing the round-trip twice.

So confused
Reply to  Beth
5 years ago

Exactly my issue, living over 30 minutes from the practice location . With a kid that practices 11 times a week I am stuck sitting sometimes. I exercise when the weather is appropriate, go grocery shopping, sleep in the car and read books. Sometimes I just watch. I learn so much about swimming by watching practice- the purpose of drills and sets. Watching doesn’t mean I don’t trust the coach.

6 years ago

Best advice I ever got was to take advantage of the fact that someone else was watching my kids and that my wife and I should enjoy that time together. So now we rarely watch the kids practice- good for them and great for us!

Bo swims
6 years ago

A case of water in the car? Ha ha ha… do you want me throwing plastic bricks at the swimmers. You have never heard of winter?

6 years ago

All of these articles about how parents should act are a little bit insulting. They seems to be based on a few assumptions:

-Coaches actually do their job
-Families have choices when selecting a program
-Parents don’t know as much or more about swimming than the coach
-Pushing your kids, or at least holding them accountable to the goals they set, is a bad thing

I have over 40 years of experience as a swimmer, coach, and official, and my kids have always loved the extra engagement we have shared regarding their swimming. We are lucky to have a collaborative coach with almost no ego, who only sees the positive impact of engaged parents (not just us.)… Read more »

8 years ago

Parent- your second to the last paragraph is your coach’s job! It would be like you sitting in the classroom waiting to discipline your child.
Also, I think dropping off the child and leaving them is for the older groups-mostly. Again, you drop your child off at school and leave them on the first day, right? There are some shady teachers out there just as much as there are coaches.

Reply to  Bulldog
8 years ago

Sorry Bulldog, but unfortunately I see plenty of swimmers who act that way and the coaches do absolutely nothing, simply because the swimmers are the fastest on the team (NAG swimmers) and they get ‘special treatment’. Sometimes I wish their parents would see how their kids are acting, because as soon as the parents show up early to pick them up, they all start behaving correctly. What good is a swimmers’ code of conduct if it’s not enforced due to favoritism?

Schools in my district actually encourages parent participation. They allow parents to sit in during class. Send home daily/weekly progress reports. When a child acts up, they are sent to the principal’s office and parents are called. If the… Read more »

Reply to  PARENT
8 years ago

I agree totally. Teachers are encouraged to invite parents in to be involved. Teachers are held accountable for behavior problems in the classroom and are expected to reach every child. I was once told by a swim coach that coaches just click with other swimmers better than other and parents can’t refer to that as favortism. In fact, USA swimming has very detailed guidelines about the roles of coaches. The problem I have seen with swim coaches is lack of communication. If a child misbehaves or has issues with swimming, communicate it before group promotions. If you can’t communicate, go find a home-based job licking envelopes that requires no communication. When working with children, you are required to communicate effectively,… Read more »

8 years ago

So you would blindly trust your child with his/her swim coaches? Google any of the individuals below along with “swim coach” and see the results
Rick Curl
Matthew Carrington
Patrick Fatta
James Henry Martin III
Marissa Thompson
Glenn Christopher Nellis
Paul A. Collins
Chris Johnson
Noah Rucker
Kenneth Fuller

I don’t know about the rest of you, but trust is something a person earns. I’m not naive enough to simply hand over my child. “When I notice a parent on deck, I tend to be easier on the athlete.” It is exactly this sort of obfuscated behavior that parents are worried about. Just be yourself. If you’re hiding one thing,… Read more »

Reply to  Parent
8 years ago

I’m not really sure why these coaches have been listed twice? I get really upset when I hear about the stuff these coaches have done. I’ve been a coach for over 18 years and something I’ve come to realize is that a swimming career is very short some shorter than others some parents get mad some talk trash, so if you dont 100% trust your coach… go somewhere that you do. If you’re a coach and cant handle parents. .. go do something else! I think I covered both sides.

Reply to  Doesitreallymatter
8 years ago

Actually it does matter.

It’s a pretty simple concept. Earn people’s trust and they will trust you. The lack of trust is due to the lack of transparency. When you cloak your actions from people, it’s only reasonable for them to question your motives, especially when you can’t provide a reasonable explanation. “Some get mad. Some trash talk.” You do realize this happens just about everywhere you go in life, right? People trash talk about their jobs, about their possessions, about their vacations getaways, etc. And people will get mad for countless other reasons. If an impropriety occurred at your club, would this still be your stance? “Just trust us 100%.” Either that or go somewhere else/do something else. Just… Read more »

Reply to  Parent
6 years ago

Thank goodness you’ll be there anytime your child encounters any sort of discomfort the rest of their lives. Sure, this may be a difficult and embarrassing endeavor as they go through college, and get their first job, but, rest assured your little baby will not have to struggle, or learn how to handle themselves through struggle.

Now, if you have a child who is goofing off in swim practice, how about allowing the coach to handle their own group of swimmers? I know, you list the names of coaches that certainly no one here supports. But, why is it that your response is to assume that every coach is a bad seed?

How about a little trust in the coach,… Read more »

8 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 »