4 Tips To Avoid Being A Helicopter Swim Parent

by SwimSwam Contributors 8

August 14th, 2017 Lifestyle

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

What could possibly go wrong with ensuring our childrens lives are smooth and saving them from costly mistakes? Studies show that kids of helicopter parents often suffer at school and in the workplace. By hovering over our children and never letting them learn from their mistakes or face consequences, we can stunt our kidsgrowth. Here are traits children of helicopter parents may share: acting out in the classroom, anxiety, difficulty making decisions, lack ofadultingskills, and struggling in college and at work.

Ive never heard of a parent who wants their kids to fail in life. Thats obviously not our objective when we help finish homework and drive forgotten lunches and papers to school. Were just trying to help with the best intentions.

We should take advantage of the pool and swim team as a unique world within itself where our kids can practice skills for adulting.There are many life lessons inherent through years of swimmingwe just need to let our kids experience them.

Here are four tips for parents to avoid helicoptering on the pool deck:



When our children forget their swim bags or neglect to tell us their goggles are leaking and they need new ones, let it go. Theyll learn from sitting out a practice or will borrow equipment from teammates. I was guilty of running home for towels or suitsfor my own kids and their friends. My excuse was that we lived one mile from the pool. Looking back, I was taking away immediate consequences and learning moments. I wasnt helping any of them.



Issues come up between friendswhether theyre in school or at the pool. We can be good listeners when our kids have problems with peers and we can make suggestions. But, we should step back from addressing the kids or their parents and getting into the middle of it. More often than not, issues resolve themselves and problems that seem big at the moment go away on their own. If we get involved, we could make things worse and rob our children of developing relationship skills.



Goal setting is one of the great lessons learned from swimming. We need to remember that our kids will set their own goals, not us. We may have an idea of what wed like them to shoot for, but its not our goal. Its theirs. For them to have ownership, they need to develop goals themselves and with the help of their coaches.



Let our kids talk with their coach. If theyre going to miss practice for a dental appointment or study session, allow them to initiate this conversation. Its so easy to discuss schedules, group assignments, or events at meets with the coach on our childrens behalf. Some parents spend more time talking with coaches than their kids. Communication should be handled by our kidscertainly by high school if not younger. We need to let our kids be the primary communicators with their coach and learn to not speak for them.

What tips do you have for parents to stop helicoptering on the pool deck?

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.

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6 years ago

You don’t have excellent coaches if your team members are not going to practice and sleeping in halls or out doing drugs when they should be at practice. Sorry to tell you that. They should be fired. This wouldn’t ever be tolerated for one day with our swim club.
We have excellent coaches and we are allowed to sit and watch from the bleachers. We parents don’t sit on deck and coach, we let the coaches do their job and are “there” for our kids when needed. We can watch or we can drop off and pick up later. Parents don’t go into locker rooms either.
For these reasons we have 10 and under girls state champs. My… Read more »

6 years ago

Yes, I also think that parents should give there distance when on deck. If they are just watching that is okay, but please let the coach do there job, don’t be interacting with your kid constantly during practice, unless it’s an emergency.. it is distracting for the whole group, and sometimes can be embarrassing or even discouraging for the child

Doing my best!
6 years ago

Our club lost excellent coaches because we had board members who never got out of the car to come in and watch practice. Coaches got fired because junior wasn’t progressing, but junior didn’t even get in the water most days, junior was sleeping on a couch in the hallway, or smoking drugs around the corner, or eating junk food at the food court.

Checking occasionally to make sure your kids are showing up and working hard, by watching practice sometimes, is just good parenting. Rather than firing the coach those parents could have intervened early to stop what ended up being broader problems before they really took hold, and perhaps saved their kids from years of trouble, or at… Read more »

6 years ago

Kids who are old enough to wear tech suits should also be able to put on and take off said suits without help from their parents. Also, any child on a swim team should not need a parent in the locker room with them unless there is a sudden illness or injury.

6 years ago

I think senior practice should be closed. If you join a team join with confidence in the coach. Let the seniors work and interact as adults with freedom and trust in their coach. It is hard to let go but at a certain age your kids need to do for themselves. Swim for themselves and pave their own path. Obviously still check in and be aware of their interactions etc but let them do their work in the pool with their coach. If you don’t trust the coach and feel you have to watch you are on the wrong team.

Arthur Curry
Reply to  Swimthoughtsam
6 years ago

Closed practices are a very bad idea. Quoting from USA Swimming’s Safe Sport Best Practices Guidelines: (www.usaswimming.org/docs/default-source/safe-sportdocuments/club-toolkit/1.-policies-and-guidelines/safe-sport-best-practice-guidelines.pdf?sfvrsn=4):

“2. All swimming practices should be open to observation by parents.”

A parent’s highest responsibility is the safety of his or her children. As a swim parent for over a decade, I have personally witnessed coaches having the kids do some blatantly unsafe things. One coach I saw ran a drill where he had 25 kids swim the length of a 50 m pool including going UNDER THE MOVABLE BULKHEAD! This was just asking for a disaster, and I immediately told the coach to stop it, for which the club leadership later thanked me. Even senior kids are not going to challenge their… Read more »

Reply to  Arthur Curry
6 years ago

I think maybe “closed” means “sitting upstairs in the stands” and not hovering on deck. “Open to observation” is different than hovercraft-ing. While parents can and should regularly observe their swimmer/s, it is also important to be firmly in the role of Parent, so the swimmer can learn to be firmly in the role of Swimmer (and thus develop the confidence to discuss difficult matters with their coach) and the coach firmly in the role of Coach. This is the essential triangle, and all three parts need to know and accept and embrace their roles.

And by the way, Arthur Curry, swimming under a movable bulkhead is just dumb and I applaud, as a coach, any parent that steps up… Read more »

Reply to  Swimthoughtsam
6 years ago

My swimmer has a medical issue so I will quietly watch from the stands period. With only one coach for 25 swimmers it’s unrealistic to think the coach can keep eyes on my swimmer 100% of the time.