4 Tips On How To Be A Great Swim Parent

by SwimSwam Contributors 4

December 05th, 2016 Lifestyle

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

We try our best at swim parenting and I don’t know a single swim parent who wants to be the reason our kids get stressed or want to quit. My worst mistakes came early on when I was too focused on times and compared my kids to their teammates. I had very little knowledge about swimming and how it’s an ongoing process. It took me years to realize the many benefits my kids gained such as goal setting, learning to work hard and how to handle success as well as failure.

I learned some basic tips on how to be a great swim parent from interviewing Pam Garrett Swander, Head Coach of South Carolina Swim Club. She’s a level five coach who has experience at high school, age group, senior and collegiate levels. Among her many accomplishments, she served as Director of USA Swimming’s Select Camp and Vice Chair of Hospitality on the U.S. Olympic Trials Committee. She also has the perspective of being a parent.

“As a parent of two swimmers, I was their coach, too. We were in a small town and worked our way through the ranks of being a full-time swim family,” Coach Swander said.

Here are four tips from Coach Swander about swim parenting:


“Parents, take time to educate yourselves about sports parenting. There’s so much available, on blogs, twitter, etc.”


“First thing parents need to learn is to say six words, ‘I love to watch you swim.’ If parents can do that, they will be so much more successful as swim parents. Then we can have honest conversations with our kids.”


“Enjoy the carpool ride. Be silent and let the kids talk. You’ll find out so much more. Don’t interview them about practice.”


“Parents can help with so much such as good sportsmanship, being a good teammate, your family values in sports. That makes great parenting.”

What tips can you share as a coach or parent for other swim parents?

Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team aselizabeth-wickham 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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College Swimming Guide
6 years ago

The carpool ride was the best way to learn what was going on in my son’s head – I learned far more than I ever would have by asking “how was practice?” or any other questions. The ride home from a meet was either very good or very bad, depending on how the meet went! I always tried to let him take the lead in talking about his performance as a race could be considered a success even without a best time and vice versa. I remember once he added significant time in backstroke and I was expecting him to be quite upset. Instead, he and his coach were both thrilled as he was using a new technique they had… Read more »

Anne Lane
6 years ago

I enjoy reading your articles on being a swim parent. I can only imagine all the stories you have to share. Great article.

6 years ago

I really love reading your articles! Thank you for sharing your experiences and may we learn from it and become successful swim parents.

6 years ago

I believe saying “I love watching you swim” is the best advice I have ever been given. I only wish I had known to say it far earlier in my children’s swim careers. When they have a great swim “I love watching you swim” when they have a bad swim same thing. It leaves all the coaching to the coaches and is never a lie, perfect!