4 Swim Parent Tips About Olympic Dreams

by SwimSwam 7

April 13th, 2016 Club, Lifestyle

by Elizabeth Wickham

After talking with parents of Olympians, I discovered they don’t push their kids. Instead, they put zero limitations on their kids’ dreams. They are encouraging, hopeful and never say it’s impossible.

It’s easy to put limitations on our own dreams and our kids’ dreams, too. Maybe we’re protecting them from disappointment? If we let our kids discover for themselves what they are capable of, and don’t interfere in the process, there’s no telling what they’ll achieve.

Here are my tips for not limiting our kids’ dreams:


Develop All Strokes

Kids may say they’re not good at breaststroke or some other stroke. Surely, swimmers have strengths and weaknesses, but encourage young kids to swim all strokes. Later in their swim careers, preferences and natural abilities will develop, and their coaches will guide them. But when they’re young, don’t let them limit their possibilities. Encourage them to be well-rounded and not specialists.


Never Laugh at Dreams

Every young swimmer I interviewed for our club newsletter had the same goal: to be an Olympian. It’s an honorable dream and one we shouldn’t criticize or deflate. It’s okay to dream big. I’ve overheard parents say after missing practices, “It’s not like they’re going to the Olympics or anything.” Well, by saying it out loud and not getting them to practice consistently, they won’t be going to the Olympics. There are many dreams to support like getting to the next level—whatever that level may be—making it to JOs, swimming in college, etc. Let it be your child’s dream and not yours.


Encourage Effort

I told my kids that they can do whatever they want, if they put in the hard work. No class is too hard, no goal unattainable—if they want it enough to work for it. No, it might not happen right away and be harder than they’d like. In truth, they might not make it. But, if they’ve tried their best and fallen short, they won’t look back and say, “If only, I would have…”


Don’t Protect Them From Failing

It’s natural to protect our kids from disappointment. But, if that means making their dreams smaller, we’re not allowing them to realize their full potential. It’s okay if they aim high, end up short, and experience frustration and failure. It’s all life lessons. They’ll learn the value of perseverance and continue working towards their dreams.

In what ways can we encourage our kids to dream big and not limit them along their journey?

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.

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6 years ago

I’m not sure if zero limitations is a truly healthy parenting strategy. I’ve witnessed zero limitation parenting allowing and encouraging children as young as 10 to train three times as much as most children their age, “I can’t stop him, it’s his dream.” Sure they get positive results, their effort pays off, they win!! A great lesson! Until the child a foot taller, decides it’s time they step up and add a couple of sessions to their week. There is usually no coming back for the child who always won, and doesn’t anymore.

It is possible to nurture a child’s dreams while still teaching them balance and reality.

Swim parent
6 years ago

Don’t let yourself or coaches overinflate your child’s ego or belief that he or she will surely make an Olympic squad. Public statements that someone is Olympics bound can do more damage than good. It sets the athlete up for almost guaranteed failure and disappointment and a very twisted definition of self should the dream not be realized/delivered as promised. I always admire the humility of those athletes (and their coaches) who made it once and attempt to make it a second time. They acknowledge how tough it is, never overestimate/overcommunicate the athlete’s chances, and show the purest joy when the dream does come true.

Our sons and daughters should be encouraged to do THEIR best so that when they… Read more »

Reply to  Swim parent
6 years ago

Wow — this can’t be overemphasized. I’ve seen too many coaches who push kids into specialization & tell them they have “it” to make the Olympic team. All while the child is still developing — a young age-group swimmer. What comes of a push on the child’s ego is a mean-spirited swimmer or worse, a dejected former swimmer who quits all too soon.

T Hill
6 years ago

Simple but excellent ! Add persistence as # 4 happens to all at some point, which comes back to #3 – always find ways to get better, which means be open to learning/sharing with others. For those who miss their dreams being spot on, ask them if they grew & became better … the Journey always teaching us more then the perfect outcome.

6 years ago

Great article! Definitely the last 1… Don’t protect them from falling.
Thanks for sharing Elizabeth!

Coach E
6 years ago

GREAT piece!

Reply to  Coach E
6 years ago

Really liked this