14 Parent Tips On How To Behave at Swim Meets

by SwimSwam 16

November 02nd, 2016 Club, Lifestyle

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

It’s exciting to watch your child race after weeks or months of hard practice. However, the competitive atmosphere can bring out some less than positive traits in parents. Here are my tips for how to behave at meets to make the experience better for you and your swimmer:


  1. Volunteer for timing right away. It’s a small thing that helps the person rounding up timers —and it’s the best seat in the house.
  1. Your swimmer should sit with their teammates, rather than with you. I’ve seen a few families sit by themselves, across the pool from their team. Swimmers have fun hanging out with teammates. Remember, a happy swimmer stays a swimmer.
  1. Let your swimmer find out his own heat and lane. If they miss their event, they’ll learn from it.
  1. Bring healthy snacks and water. If your swimmers are coming back for finals, make sure they stay off their feet and rest.
  1. Cheer for other swimmers on your team. Not just yours.
  1. If possible, let your swimmer stay to watch all the races. We had one coach insist no one left at finals — until all our swimmers were done. It made the distance kids feel good to have teammates supporting them.
  1. Stay positive and supportive, even if the meet seems to be going on forever. Years go by quickly, and you’ll miss these meets.


  1. Don’t go behind the blocks if there’s a sign saying, “Swimmers Only.”
  1. Don’t coach your swimmers before their race, or tell them what they need to work on after they swim.
  1. Don’t tell your swimmer when it’s time to warm up or go to the blocks. Trust me. They will figure it out.
  1. Don’t wait behind the blocks holding your swimmer’s towel while they race — unless he or she is in 8 and unders.
  1. Don’t hover behind your swimmer, eavesdropping while they talk to their coach.
  1. If your swimmer is on a relay, don’t leave because you want to head home. You’ll crush the spirit of three other swimmers.
  1. Don’t let your anxiety transfer to your child. If you’re overly nervous — like I am — take a walk around the facility and breathe.

What are your dos and don’ts for meets?

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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Michelle Lombana
6 years ago

Timing is definitely the best seat in the house and allows you to get to know other parents on the team. If you are lucky, your swimmer might walk by your lane and say hi (of course this is not a time to do any of the don’ts listed above). The meet also goes by much faster when you are timing or volunteering in another position.

6 years ago

somewhat hypocritical imo. did you really adhere to every single one of these rules while you were a swim parent? highly unlikely.

Elizabeth Wickham
Reply to  swim
6 years ago

I made a ton of mistakes and most of these ‘don’ts’ are from personal experience. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

Brenda Lein
Reply to  Elizabeth Wickham
6 years ago

I don’t wholly agree with your list – I think it is swimmer and age dependent. If I “let” my 8 year old daughter find her event and heat, she’d miss every race and she wouldn’t learn from it (she’s just as happy cheering for her friends and playing with her buddies by the pool.) Some kids would be devastated. Not mine. I’m more apt to be timing and find my daughter behind a block with a shell-shocked look on her face saying, “Dad told me to be here but I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, when I’m supposed to go or what I’m supposed to swim. I don’t know what I’m doing!!” You’d THINK this would motivate… Read more »

Veteran Coach
Reply to  Brenda Lein
6 years ago

Finding the heat and lane is what an 8year old’s older teammates are for! Parents should relish in the fact that their kid is learning independence and having fun. The more you stress the small stuff, the more quickly your kids will lose passion for the sport.

Nicole Martin
Reply to  Brenda Lein
6 years ago

Well thats probably why Elizabeth mentioned in her article “this advice not for 8 and unders”…perhaps you missed that. It’s clearly targetted to the older swimmers.

Nicole Martin
Reply to  swim
6 years ago

Life is a learning experience. Elizabeth is simply sharing what she has learned in an attempt to help others after having been there herself. Thank you, and great insight Elizabeth. As a swimming parent myself, I can relate wholeheartedly to your article, cheers Nicole -Cairns Australia.

6 years ago

Timing! Why is it so hard for parents to volunteer their time? It’s the best seat in every meet.
Parents putting pressure in their kids on how much time they need to loose to make it to JO or sectionals. Their kid is only 12 or 13?! And here I am and my daughter listening to the conversation. My daughter is just happy to make another red time and I’m glad I’m not that kind of a parent.
Great article Elizabeth, as always.

6 years ago

How about…stay out of other people’s business! Which meets a child swims, what events they swims or why they might need to leave early is no ones business but that of the swimmer and the coach. Too many parents sit in the stands and focus on what other kids do (not in a positive way). It’s creepy. You know who you are…

7 years ago

I am guilty of a couple of points on the ‘don’t’ list, but now I know not to do those things anymore. I would like to add one more point to the ‘don’t’ list, though. It’s a HUGE pet peeve of mine. I think it’s probably the most rude thing you can do at a meet.
Do not stand at the end of a lane that your child isn’t swimming in! If my child is swimming in that lane, that means that yours isn’t! Get the Heck out of my way so I can cheer MY child on, and take pictures and videos! This may seem harsh on my part, but aside from the fact that I’d like a… Read more »

Gary Jenson
Reply to  Kate
6 years ago

Hi Kate,

That person in your way may likely be Stroke and Turn Official who is required to be at the edge of the pool when a swimmer is in their jurisdiction. They have priority over you: please don’t disturb their work.

Other folks may be cheering on your swimmer (believe it or not) or waiting for their swimmer in the next heat etc. This is not your pool, you’re going to have to share. Ask nicely: “my child is swimming and I’d like to get a video.”

7 years ago

Another Don’t” – When your swimmer hasn’t had their best swim, say to them afterwards “you know what you did wrong?”. As parents, we are there to encourage, no matter what, and let the coach provide the constructive feedback.

Brenda Lein
Reply to  Melinda
6 years ago

Melinda, this is SO huge. I think every swim parent should have to join a master’s swim team and participate in pool competitions. They’d realize that if they just got a bad time, they don’t want their friends pointing it out. Talk up what looked RIGHT about the swim, not what didn’t work (“I don’t know about your time, but that turn looked GREAT”.. there is ALWAYS something good to say about a swim.) ALSO, another “don’t”… DON’T yell your child’s name out when they’re on the starting block. Imagine if YOUR mom screamed your name right before the start of a race.. we’re trained to listen to our parent.. you can bet you’re no longer focused on your race… Read more »

7 years ago

every parent, especially the new ones should never get intimidated with the timing chair…it is indeed the best seat in the house. I’ve received dirty looks and I’ve been ignored when I asked parents to sign up for timing chair.

7 years ago

Far too polite if you ask me. As a coach and a parent I’d like to add the following – some covered above perhaps… and not all about meets.
Don’t offer your kid bribes to beat another swimmer.
Don’t tell your kid someone else is crap then try and comfort them when they lose to the “crap swimmer”.
Don’t feed your kid full of coke and sweets then expect them to maintain energy levels.
Don’t allow your kid to miss training to self-taper – dumn-ass – you have no clue how it works.
Don’t expect your kid to PB every swim.
Don’t force totally unrealistic expectations on them.
Don’t force your own goals,… Read more »