Swim parents get a bad rap for being overly involved, interfering, overbearing, and for being plain crazy. Unfortunately, there are many swim parents who do cause problems, but for every “bad” swim parent, there are dozens of amazing ones who don’t get the kudos they deserve. I guess the old saying, “one bad apple spoils the barrel” is true about swim parents.
Many of my best friends are swim parents. I’m sure it’s because of the sheer amount of time we spend together at practices and meets. When friends move on—their age group parenting days end and then their kids graduate from college swimming—we still remain friends. Why is this? It’s because they’ve been with me through the ups and downs of swim parenting and they are people I enjoy—with or without our swimming bond.
Here are five things that make swim parents great:
What other sports have parents getting up at the crack of dawn several days a week, plus spending five days a week driving to evening practice? What other parents spend an entire weekend in the heat, cold or humid chlorinated air—in any number of less than perfect venues—to watch their children swim for a total of a couple of minutes? Swim parents are dedicated to helping their kids be the best they can be—in and out of the pool.
There’s a special bond between swim parents that includes nurturing and mentoring. One swim mom taught me what a heat sheet was at our first meet as well as when my kids should register for SATs many years later. Swim parents are more than generous with advice and they do know what they’re talking about—most of the time. Without my swim parent friends, we wouldn’t have known about NISCA All American times or unofficial visits to colleges.
The best swim parents get involved and help out wherever they can. Whether it’s timing at away meets or volunteering for anything that needs to be done at your own hosted meet- most parents are always available and rarely complain. They make sure meets run smoothly and that the team continues on a solid path. They do this without involving their egos. They are truly giving people in and out of the swimming scene.
Our first meet was overwhelming with my young kids scared to death. What happened to their quiet pool where they enjoyed their little minnows group and young coach? Overnight, the deck transformed with wall-to-wall yelling and screaming people. I’ll never forget the friendly smiles from a couple of parents who took us under their wing, and helped us make sense of it all. Reaching out to new swim parents changes their families’ experiences for the better and encourages them to become friendly, helpful parents as well.
Swim parents who listen and care about your children’s progress are wonderful. Many parents get wrapped up in their own kid’s times or compare their swimmer with others. They like to share how their swimmer is doing without a thought about other families and swimmers. The best parents don’t fall into this trap, but ask about other kids and cheer for them, too.
What do you believe makes swim parents the best?
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.