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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4 years ago

#3, #3, #3. Some of us have been involved with swimming for over 40 years and we’re still learning about the sport. The parents who feel like experts after 6 months of watching their kid in the pool drive me nuts. In my experience, the people who swam at a high level are usually very good swimming parents – backing off and letting the coach coach and the swimmer own his/her swimming.

4 years ago

Agree with this article BUT there is a double standard — Coaches should also not coach their own kids. Those kids end up spoiled by attention from other kids wanting to be buddies with the Coach’s kid(s) and often special attention from Coach Parent or Co-Coaches.

We get that coaches are probably underpaid and of course the kids will swim free on their program. All fine. But just be careful applying a standard to others that you don’t apply to yourself.

4 years ago

Lets be real. Swimming is not a professional sport. I have 3 kids 2 in college, senior Div 1 Freshman just starting div II. Both had at least junior nat times. Gave zero advice to my oldest, my middle would ask and I would watch the occasional video with her. My youngest is 11 im very involved. There are some great coaches but they are very few a far between. My oldest daughters coach didn’t know squat. He still coaches today. a rather large team. Found out a few years back he never even swam. No club no high school no college. I know you dont have to be a great swimmer to be a good coach, but come on.… Read more »

cynthia curran
4 years ago

Well, I agree to let the coach do coaching but you can learn a lot of things these days. There are articles here on swimswam and US Masters that can help or Swimming world. I was pre-internet and wished as a teenager some of the workout philosophy of my coaches were explain by another source. So, I would get an understanding on why they were training the way they were then.

6 years ago

Espero tener respuesta gracias

6 years ago

Quisiera que prueben a mi hija asi saber que nivel esta y que siga entrenando para pertenecer a un equipo y tenga competenciad y se siga preparando

6 years ago

Ugh. #2 is a little too close to home. I’ve been “coaching” my son, but #2 made me realize that every time I give him help, he’s probably seeing it like “great, another way I just let my Dad down.” I can envision what it would have been like to have my Dad give me help, and I’m positive I would have hated it. Thanks for the great article!

6 years ago

I wish my mom knew about this when I started swimming. She swam D1 in college and coached me through High school. If I had a bad practice or meet I had to stay longer and practice more. Plus there is the 30 minute drive home where it was a lecture on everything I did. Probably the reason I wanted to quit so many times.