5 Swim Parent Tips for When Things Go Wrong

by SwimSwam 5

May 03rd, 2016 Club, Lifestyle

by Elizabeth Wickham

It’s time for the big meet. You’re excited for best times, hanging out with your fellow swim parents, and giving high fives and hugs after races.

What could possibly go wrong? Well, just about anything and everything. Here’s a partial list of things that did go wrong during my years as a swim mom:

Forgetting the swim bag at home—one and a half hours away.
Illness and asthma during championship meets.

• A torn LZR on day one of a big meet.

• Breaking down on the 91 freeway on our way to relays. I wish I’d read that recall notice when it arrived the week before.

• Goggles falling off during Age Group Champs.

• Missed events—one at Junior Nationals—while we sat with our swimmer’s soon-to-be college coaches.

Sometimes it’s painful to be a swim parent. Our hearts go out to our kids and we wish we could make everything better. How we act when things go wrong impacts how our kids react when they’re faced with adversity. They learn so much from our behavior.

Here are five tips for parents when things don’t go swimmingly:


Put things into perspective.

How will this unfortunate incident impact your child’s life in a week, or a year? Or, in 10 years? Will missing an event or getting sick before a big meet mean the end of their swim careers or life? Most likely, it won’t.


Give your child and yourself a break.

We are human and we all make mistakes. If you’re upset, maybe it’s best to walk away and think about it. Reflect or analyze what went wrong and what lessons can be learned. Please, don’t yell at your child on the pool deck in front of the world.


Allow children to learn and problem solve.

We should step back and let our children solve their own problems. It’s easy for us to dive in and fix most things for our kids. Problem solving is a skill they will need to become self reliant.


Stay calm.

We’re our children’s first teachers. They learn from us how to act when faced with problems. I’m an anxious person by nature. That’s not an ideal trait I want to pass onto my kids. I’d like my kids to stay calm under pressure—especially when things aren’t going well.


You’re not alone.

Mistakes and problems happen to everyone. On the bright side, character is developed through struggles and ups and downs. How can our children develop strength and perseverance if life is perfect?

What struggles and problems have your kids had at swim meets? What tips do you have for them when things go wrong?

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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7 years ago

When my daughter started swimming in age group meets, she quickly learned the many ways one can be dq’d. After her first dq she was so upset, we made a deal to try not to get dq for the same thing twice. There was a definite learning curve. Now she is swimming in college and has a great attitude. This sport is very demanding, if your child feels they are swimming for you and not themselves there will be limited success.

sanuj srivastava
7 years ago

I like 3rd point. It is most important that children must solve their own problem. Problem solving skills is very important key and your article cover it in very proper way.

Swim nerd
7 years ago

Here is some great perspective on the same subject from a coach! Both are spot on. The brand new LZR ripping? Yep. Me too. Sob. Held it together though.


7 years ago

Please don’t be a helicopter parent hovering around waiting to swoop in to take control. Let the athlete learn how to tell you or the coach that something went wrong. Let them fret and feel anxious. They will learn how to handle it and then apply those lessons to screwing up on a job. Every adult has made a mistake on the job. Learning how to handle failure can avoid dishonest acts that try to cover up the mistake and build accountability. What is even worse is please don’t be a lawn mower parent who goes before the kid making a perfect path by packing the bag, carrying the bag, texting the coach, etc so the kid will never feel… Read more »

7 years ago

Thank you for this article. I remember when my daughter calmly said on our way to a meet at 6:30 am “I left my suit at home.”
I freaked out, got mad, and surprisingly she stayed calm and made a phone call to her friend who always bring extra suit if she can borrow them.
She didn’t hear the end of it from me and after she had a great day at the meet with best times I have Learned my lesson. To stay calm and a suit is not going to make a day bad.