4 Tips for Parents to Keep Your Swimmer in the Game

by SwimSwam 10

February 19th, 2017 Club, Lifestyle, Opinion

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

“Why is the focus on the top swimmers? Why don’t younger kids get more attention?”

I heard this more than once as a volunteer board member, club newsletter editor and PR person.

In reality, the younger children are the future of the team. They are important. The coaches know this. They want them to stay with swimming and be successful. One of the keys to a young child’s success is having fun.

We can help by not putting pressure on our kids. If there’s too much emphasis on times — or a comparison with other swimmers on the team — we may unknowingly dampen our kids’ enjoyment.

As far as older kids getting attention, the elite swimmers do get more press. For example, I sent our local newspaper stories they would most likely use, like a local kid making it to the Olympics, or breaking Dara Torres’ high school record, or a swimmer going to Australia on the National team.

These stories should be inspirational to our younger swimmers and their parents. It gave me a sense of team pride. I hoped that pride would be shared by our team and community.

The club newsletter gave us a chance to write about more kids. We had a monthly profile on swimmers and covered each group. Today, social media like Facebook is a great way to highlight all swimmers.

My swimmers were young once, too. They looked up to older kids and had the desire to follow in their footsteps. The elite swimmers set an example, a bar raised for our younger kids.

Newer parents may not realize that many of the top swimmers on their club weren’t the fastest 10-year-olds on the team. They may have never heard about drop dead talented kids — who no longer swim. The top swimmers worked their way through the ranks. Most likely, they came to practice regularly and worked hard.

They also love to swim and have fun.


Young swimmers are important. They are the future of the team.


Kids who have fun keep swimming.


The top swimmers may not have been the fastest or most talented when they were younger. 


Elite swimmers are amazing role models for the younger team members.

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

Each age group should be coached with the same level of enthusiasm and passion, given the same level of attention whether the goal is to have fun or improve technique. Too many coaches focus on the upper age groups only. The best coaches have a balanced program across all age groups and abilities.

“In reality, the younger children are the future of the team. They are important. The coaches know this. They want them to stay with swimming and be successful. One of the keys to a young child’s success is having fun.

We can help by not putting pressure on our kids. If there’s too much emphasis on times — or a comparison with other swimmers on the team… Read more »

bad parent
6 years ago

We are the world….we are the children….we are the ones that make a better day so…..

swim parent
6 years ago

The coach of the younger swimmers on my kids’ team says to parents new to the team that the biggest part of his job is to make swimming fun.

The coach is great and we just love him. He does such a wonderful job teaching proper technique to little kids. Plus, one of his rules is “succeed in school or you don’t get to swim.” 🙂 My kids love going to practice…he plays 20 questions with all of them at the end of every practice (usually something like guess which animal I’m thinking of) and at Halloween, they do pumpkin relays, swimming a pumpkin down to the other end of the pool. They have special games for kids’ birthdays, too,… Read more »

6 years ago

Tip 5. Make sure there are enough meets for the younger kids

Friendships that kids make while waiting between heats or sessions at meets is the glue that keeps them stuck on the sport. While the parents are too often bored with the four hour sessions while sitting in the stands (why not volunteer for an on deck job its more fun? the kids are bonding in the gym or on deck. Also travel meets afford lots of opportunities to connect. “Raiding the vending machines” and hanging out in the hotel hallways are key to longevity in the sport. The vast majority of swimmers with favorable memories of the sport recall these type of moments rather than where they… Read more »

swim parent
Reply to  newswim
6 years ago

I totally agree! My kids are both in the 10&U pack. So when we go to meets, they bring a bag of toys. Sometimes it looks like a Barbie & My Little Pony explosion on our towels between their toys & the stuff that their friends brought to play with, too. The #1 thing my kids love about going to meets is hanging out with and playing with their friends. It’s far better than having them sit inside in front of a screen playing video games.

Then 1 of The Pack will get up and announce, “Hey! I’ve got a race! I have to go to the blocks!” Then the rest of The Pack who isn’t going to be swimming… Read more »

6 years ago

I totally agree! Before my kids committed to swim they were doing other sports. What made them stick to swim? I still don’t know. I thought my son would be a successful martial arts

6 years ago

I totally agree! Both my children were doing other things before they decided to dedicate their time and commitment to swim. I thought my son is going to be a black belt in jui jitsu after getting his black belt in taekwondo. I thought my daughter is going to be a full time ballerina. Now we spend our weekends on swim meets and loving every minute Of it.

Saen Mark
6 years ago

I like this blog…and thanks for sharing this post…

4 years ago

Wpuld be nice to see less focus on cuts for meets for younger ones. Too many cuts places advantage on early bloomers and natural swimmers, not the hard workers or those with more challenging birthdays or later growth.

And recognize younger swimmers for accepting challenges, like swimming every event or being a good teammate, not just for making JO or state meet cuts.

4 years ago

Hi. I have a kid in Venezuela. He is 7 years old. What I understand from your article is that I should not put pressure on him to improve, but rather have fun with the team. Is that correct?. He is very good at breaststroke, but he is behind in freestyle. Thank you