3 Tips For Swim Parents about Personal Best Times

by SwimSwam 32

January 26th, 2017 Club, International, Lifestyle, Opinion

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

I have a freshman swimming in college and I have to remind myself that this is a transition year. Her coaches, workouts and team are new to her, she’s working out harder than ever. And she’s not getting best times at dual meets. I’m not freaking out about it. The shaved and tapered meets are still to come. It’s also possible that she won’t get best times this season.

When kids are little and learning this great sport, they seem to drop time often. As their bodies grow stronger and bigger, they drop and drop. In their late teens, they may not get a personal best except when they are shaved, tapered and wearing a fast suit.

I was asked repeatedly by parents of youngers at age group meets when my daughter was age 16 to 18 — “Was that a best time for her?”

I’d say, “No. Not close.”

“Why not? What do you think is wrong?” was the typical concerned question that followed.

I would explain about the phenomenon that swimmers don’t get best times at every meet when they are older — in my daughter’s case, age 16 on. I described training cycles and that best times would come at target meets.

Here’s my three tips about best times:


You have to trust your kid’s coach. Don’t second guess what they are doing — especially in front of your swimmer. “Coaches Coach. Parents Parent. Swimmers Swim.”


Don’t focus on the times — or you may kill your swimmer’s enthusiasm for the sport.


Trust the experience. If your child is swimming as an older teenager, they must love the physical and mental toughness of practice and competition — or they would’ve quit long ago. They are building life skills of grit, determination and perseverance.

Do you have tips about personal bests? How was your swimmer’s freshman year in college?

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

THIS IS MY DAUGHTER! She is in her senior year in high school, had GREAT times at championships last year end of season, and has signed to swim at a D1 school. But this season in high school she has gotten very frustrated that she is not near last year’s times. The college coach has been GREAT at letting her know to just relax! They are still looking forward to getting her next year. That has been wonderful for my daughter to hear… really took the heat off!

7 years ago

Thank you for this great article. I am the mom of a brand new swimmer (son, aged 10) who is in his first season as a swimmer on our local YMCA team. I have a very competitive spirit and this was a great reminder to me that I need not to pressure him about times, but be sure to ask him if he had fun at every meet regardless of times. He loves to swim, loves his teammates and coaches and is doing great (already qualified for state in 3 events), but I know a lot of his success in the future will be based on my attitude. Thank you for reminding me!

Marion Zych
Reply to  Peggy
6 years ago

A good reminder for all swimming parents. My daughter is 14 and switched competitive clubs after spending 4 yrs with another club. She also began high school this past fall. New routines, new club, new coach. Thank you.

8 years ago


Big Fan
8 years ago

Thanks you for confirming my gut feeling. Nice job.

8 years ago

Sorry, I misspelled wussification. Should be an “a” in there, not an “s”

8 years ago

Well, the goal of swimming is to win and drop time. Let’s keep that in mind. We already have the wussificstion of America’s youth with the “winning doesn’t matter, everyone gets a trophy” mindset. And this seems to be an extension of that in certain respects. I agree that when things don’t go well there should be proper perspective. But I wouldn’t go too far the other way and be satisfied with mediocrity.

Dr. Pat
Reply to  easyspeed
8 years ago

I agree in part. Three of my five kids are All American. All five participate in D-1 sports on some type of scholarship. We race to win but we swim for more than that moment.

Reply to  easyspeed
6 years ago

Swimming competitively doesn’t work that way. It’s not like baseball or football and you can miss a week here and there with no major implications on your game play. Swimming is all about building up stamina and peaking at the right moment. These kids swim 10 1/2 months for a 6-8 week championship window. There is so much training and science behind peaking a swimmer for Championships.
For example- at the Olympics, a swimmer can go out and win a gold medal in a World Record time. After that meet is over, if they swam that same event 1-2 weeks later, they would be significantly slower.
Every weekend competition leading up to Championships is part of the process… Read more »

Dr. Pat
8 years ago

Time in the water lends itself to a philosophy and a lifestyle. Competition is on the inside and dedicated swimmers generally make dedicated citizens. Parents should keep it lighthearted, serious but fun, and get their swimmers to the ocean as often as possible.

8 years ago

Another great article! Thank you Elizabeth!