Long-time USA Swimming officer and So Cal Swimming registration chair Mary Jo Swalley won’t forget one call she received. A parent wanted to know where the Olympic training center was. Mary Jo asked how old her kids were. She was stunned at the answer—two and three years old! She told the parent to find a team close to home.
As a swim parent, we want the best for our kids. We want them to be on the best team, have great friends and a fabulous coach. We expect our kids to put in their best effort, too. Anything less, and we’ll be disappointed. We expect the same from the team and coach, too.
Here are some tips on selecting a team and swim parenting advice from Jim Montrella, former Head Coach Lakewood Aquatic Club, Ohio State University Women’s Swimming and US Olympic coach:
For 12 and unders:
Let them have fun and be consistent. Let your children live and learn without you living through them. Don’t base your needs above their learning and experience. Allow your children to have fun, grow, learn, develop, improve and progress. Don’t place their participation in a sport as part of your personality, or their performance as your loss or gain.
13 and over to high school:
Continue to allow them to have fun, but with more commitment. Fun exists, and relationships with their friends are important. Place them in a situation where they have opportunity for success. For example, your swimmer is a summer club swimmer, but shows the ability, talent and interest to swim at the next level. Guide them to a high level club, where they will have fun, but also have accomplishments.
High school, college and masters:
You’d like to guide them to swim through high school, four years of college, and maybe post graduate swimming and masters. Relationships are so important to them at this time. Don’t let them be the biggest fish in the pond. Put children in a program where they are not in top 1/3 or the bottom 1/3. You want them to see those more accomplished, to see the full spectrum of possibilities.
In college, you don’t want them to be the big dog, but you don’t want them at a school where they won’t make the travel team. You don’t want them in a program where they will quit after two years. You want them to continue to evolve and grow both academically and have athletic success.
How do you choose the best team for your child?
Elizabeth 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.