Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham
My kids have been disappointed when close friends left for another team. Our club experience hasn’t been perfect, but through the ups and downs, we stuck with our team. I’m curious why loyalty is important to some, but not to others. If we value loyalty, we will want our kids to be loyal, too. We want them to succeed, but also to be part of a bigger picture—adding to our community, not taking from it.
Has team loyalty taken a swan dive in the swimming world? In a few youth sports, it’s not uncommon to start each season on a newly assigned team, with new teammates and new parent volunteer coaches. Under those terms, team loyalty is difficult to develop. Fortunately, swimming is different, with families making a commitment to a team and coach for years—rather than a season.
Helicopter parents, who are overly focused on performance, may look for the next shiny medal on another team. Their kids may switch teams several times, only to discover the new team is not producing the results they hoped for. Plus, the move may be disruptive to children’s friendships, schedules and progress.
Here are four tips for parents about team loyalty:
Parents teach loyalty to their kids through their actions.
Do we stand by our extended family and friends? Do we offer help when they’re in need? Do we truly care about other people in our lives? Do we stand with our team and teammates, even if there is a problem? Remember, our children learn from our actions.
Do your homework before joining a team.
Look at joining a team the same way you’d select a school or neighborhood. Doing research before making a commitment—and not signing up because it’s the closest, or the biggest—will help with team loyalty. You want a team where your child has a chance at success, feels at home, and can grow as an athlete and person. You don’t want to switch teams because you didn’t do your homework first.
Don’t jump ship at a moment’s notice.
By staying with a team and trying to work through issues, we are role modeling how to work through problems—rather than running away when times get tough. Yes, there are good reasons to leave a team and find a better situation. But, I’m talking about small issues, like whether a coach thinks your child is ready to move up, or if they missed a certain cut or relay. Maybe you had a disagreement with a board or coach’s decision. Working through difficulties has benefits and teaches life lessons.
Loyalty isn’t as important as it once was.
These days, we have less loyalty to our employers, and vice versa. Loyalty seems less valued in our society than it was for our grandparents. However, I believe that loyalty is important for our children and their future. Loyalty will help them make commitments, be respectful and dedicated in relationships, schools and careers.
What do you see as the benefits of loyalty to a swim team? Do you agree that loyalty is not as valued as it once was?
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.