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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Penny Johnson
6 years ago

Another tip- If they are working hard at swimming and having a good time with their team mates, coaches, and school, that is even better than best times. Because if they are happy, time drops will come when taper meets occur. My son is a freshmen and loves everything about his college swimming and it’s ok with him to be at or near best times now. He wouldn’t trade this experience!

Danette Bares
Reply to  Penny Johnson
6 years ago

Thank you for all of this wonderful insight. My son is 16, a junior in high school, still growing and definately wants to swim in college.

6 years ago

I really need to show this article to my mom…..

6 years ago

Well said! As a teen athlete myself, it can be really hard not to get best times every meet like I did 5+ years ago. My best times now–especially in my focus events–only come when I’m shaved, tapered, and suited. It’s hard only getting best times 2-4 times a year, but it’s important to remember the process. I still love going to practice and working hard. It makes those best times on rare occasions extra special.

6 years ago

One thing I always encouraged my kids to do when they were in the middle of hard training and not even nearly tapered was to do an off event that they only had a chance to swim once or twice a year, if that. They would often drop time in it, giving them a slight mental boost, even if the time really wasn’t that good in the bigger scheme of things.

6 years ago

I enjoyed your thoughts on this, Elizabeth. Our freshman daughters swim together at Utah – was pleased to recognize your name! You and I also met at Winter Junior Nationals a year ago, very briefly. Looking forward to more insight from you as we travel this parenting path.

Elizabeth Wickham
Reply to  Joy Archer
6 years ago

Thanks, Joy for commenting on my article. I look forward to seeing you again.

6 years ago

Great stuff. I have two things to add: 1) To add on to #2, instead of putting times on the pedestal, praise skill improvements. If your child is working hard and improving skills like turns, starts, and underwaters, the times will follow. Which leads me into 2) process vs. result driven thinking. Olivier did a great piece on this a few months back (http://swimswam.com/swimming-faster-practice-competition-heres/). Take it one step at a time, work on what you can control, and let the outcome naturally follow.

To borrow a metaphor from David Wong, imagine you’re told by a doctor that you have an incurable bacterial infection that will eat away a crucial part of your digestive system and that… Read more »

6 years ago

I have my swimmer set technical goals as well as speed goals. We celebrate both the same. Teaching parents to see those technical goals is very important to me as well. With that said the whole ” personal best ” discussion become more pleasant for both swimmer and parent.
Enjoyed your article very much Elizabeth

6 years ago

Thank you for sharing this very timely article… and thanks for the much needed reminder that “parents parent”. 🙂