4 Tips for Swim Parents on Why We Shouldn’t Coach Our Kids

by SwimSwam 20

September 17th, 2017 Club, Lifestyle, Opinion

Courtesy of  Elizabeth Wickham

If you are a coach and your son or daughter is on your team, then this article is not for you. This is for us on the sidelines, the parents who give their swimmers tips, thinking we’ll help our kids improve. This is where the old adage, “coaches coach, swimmers swim and parents parent” comes into play.

We’ve all seen parents who coach their kids. They watch carefully at practice and meets. On the ride home, they give their two cents worth on their kids’ kick and they talk about walls. I’m guilty of this myself. There are parents who bring their children to the pool so they can work on their strokes—outside of team practice. Then, there are parents who coach their kids before and after each race. I’ve watched parents at the edge of the pool, during practice, shout corrections to their swimmers and videotape practices, too. We have our kids’ best interests at heart, so what could possibly be wrong with this?

Here are four reasons why you shouldn’t coach your child:



Who should your child listen to? You or their coach? Since we don’t know exactly what the coach is working on, or why they are working on something, we might give contrary advice. Your child will be torn and question their coach’s authority—or worse yet—resent your interfering. In the end, they will be confused.



When we offer a critique of our kids’ swimming, they don’t know that our intentions are pure. They don’t realize that we might have a suggestion that is spot on. Instead, they internalize the comment and often believe they are letting us down. I know we don’t want to make our kids feel like they’ve disappointed us. Instead, we want them to know how proud we are of their efforts.



I’m sure there are swim parents out there who know a ton about swimming, including Janet Evans and Dara Torres. However, for most of us swim parents, we should leave the coaching to the experts. I will not pretend as a swim parent and new Masters swimmer to know one one-hundredth as much about technique, strategy, or strength and conditioning as our swim coach.



By supporting and cheering on the sidelines, and not giving advice, we can help our kids have fun. Our kids probably don’t find it fun to listen to us telling them to work on turns or to keep their heads down. Let your swimmer swim and your coaches coach. We have the most rewarding job of all. We are the parent—the driver, the cheerleader, the one with nourishment, and the provider of unconditional love.

What have you seen when parents coach their kids?

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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5 years ago

Good list. Spot on. Never gonna happen.

A coach and a parent
5 years ago

One of the greatest things swimming can provide to your child is being able to rehearse setting goals, maintaining a schedule, and learning about themselves in a safe environment. If you are controlling that situation as a parent you are missing the opportunity to let them try it on their own while you are still there for support. When you give them the opportunity to prove how capable they are, it will save you a lot of anxiety when they leave the nest and are forced to do it.

Jodi A. Mejia
5 years ago

Any suggestions on how to handle this with the athlete when he/she tells the coach…. “My mom/dad said I should do it this way” or “My mom/dad said I need to work on insert subject here”?