5 Tips for Swim Parents to Handle Conflicts with Coaches

by SwimSwam 34

February 07th, 2017 Club, International, Lifestyle, Opinion

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

Have you ever questioned your kids’ coach or had a conflict? I’m talking about a variety of issues — maybe you’re concerned there isn’t enough stroke technique, your kid isn’t getting enough attention, or isn’t making the progress another swimmer is. How we handle situations may determine if our child benefits or is harmed from our involvement. The following tips have come from my own experience as a parent and board member — from each end of the relationship. These tips can be used in the classroom, too.

If it’s not a safety issue and your child isn’t in danger, there are several courses of action you can take if you have a conflict with the coach:

Number One:

Don’t tell your bff swim parent, your second-best swim parent friend, or a random parent standing on deck all about it. I’ve found that talk does not make problems go away. The opposite usually happens. You get lots of conflicting advice, you’re pressured to take action, and you’ve made other parents disgruntled with their team or coach, who were previously happy as pie.

Number Two:

Ask for a meeting. Don’t sit around gossiping—or post it on FB. Go directly to the horse’s mouth and schedule an appointment. Not during practice. It’s best to schedule a meeting when your child isn’t present. There’s nothing positive about your swimmer’s group staring and listening as you and a coach are deep in discussion.

Number Three:

If you don’t want to talk to the coach, call a board member. The board members are there to listen and to help. Often, it’s best to talk to a board member before you approach the coach. They can determine if it’s an issue that needs to be escalated. They may offer an explanation or produce a resolution.

Number Four:

Don’t discuss your dissatisfaction in front of your child—if you want your swimmer to continue to trust their coach. Your swimmer’s first loyalty is with you. If you’re criticizing the coach, your child may not be able to distinguish that their coach has many great traits. Younger kids tend to view the world as black and white, and they won’t necessarily understand subtleties.

Number Five:

Think before you act. Take a deep breath. Weigh the situation in your mind. “If I let this incident alone, will I care a week from now? A month from now? In the big scheme of things — my child loving swimming and having fun — am I helping or hurting?”

Sometimes holding your tongue and doing nothing is the best course of action — unless your child is in some sort of danger. Taking a week to get distance and a fresh outlook can help before you send off that email or schedule a meeting.

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: http://bleuwater.me/.

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7 years ago

We have a situation where my my 13 year old club swimmer is getting a lot of critical evaluation from coach (not a bad thing) but none of it positive. She constantly asks him to change something, he needs to kick more consistently or change his hand position to get max from his pull, he gives it his best shot, but then coach never tells him he’s made any improvements. A simple ‘that’s better’, or I can see you’ve tried but it’s still not working, you need to do it more like this’ would go a really long way. In a set where he’s repeating 10x 100s for example, she’ll criticise him at the start and then walk away and… Read more »

Jane doe
Reply to  Frustrated
6 years ago

Get a new coach and club!!!life is toooo short to waste time with avnegative coach!

Dan Greene
7 years ago

Decent article, but why would you ever bypass the coach and go to the board? This is a good idea only if you want to hurt a parent/coach relationship. Always go to the coach first.

Coach Graham
Reply to  Dan Greene
7 years ago

Agreed. By going to the board first it shows immediate distrust in the staff as well as a level of uncomfortability with the staff. We often view it as a back handed way of dealing with a situation and could actually have the same effect if not worse than gossiping with other parents. Any self respecting coaching staff is always open to talk and help, that’s what we are here for!

7 years ago

Let me start out saying loving the sport of swimming is the most frustrating relationship on the planet. It is the best workout, it is fun to watch, and it teaches people life lessons. I start it out that way to tell you this, swimming is frustrating. We pay 90$ a month to train our kids, to see them achieve and to let them have fun, but again we spend 90$ a month in our kids for an investment for their future, their social life, for babysitting, or just another life activity. Than we travel across the state for a swim meet in the 90 degree heat and my kid adds 15 seconds in the 200 free, and here it… Read more »

Swim mom
8 years ago

Have you ever experienced? A swimmer being scratch off his individual event in finals because he didn’t swim his best in the FUN relay that the head coach has suggested.
Despite parents communication of NO to the fun relay, coach still insisted, swimmer obeyed, swam it and was punished by scratch of his finals for coach said it was not fast enough?
For the child to love swimming and made it to finals and what does other coaches/parents think of this?

Reply to  Swim mom
7 years ago

1. Why do parents decide who gets to swim the relay?
2. What is the other side (coaches perspective) to this story. I feel a lot is missing out here

Swim mom
8 years ago

Have anyone ever experienced this?
Swimmer being scratch off his individual events in finals as a punishment because his coach claims he didn’t swim the fun relay fast enough? He had asked for the fun

Reply to  Swim mom
7 years ago

Join the discussion
Has any one had the experience where a coach would move a swimmer to a top level who obviously does not belong there. Others have given the coach a hard time about having this person there, who swims three quarter of the lane and turns around, is lapped by other and other swimmer have to go around this swimmer constantly. Meanwhile, there is another swimmer who is faster than the swimmer that was moved up, who has asked to be moved up and the coach won’t move up the faster swimmer. The faster swimmer suffers from anxiety and this situation has caused the swimmer more anxiety.

Sane Swim Parent
Reply to  Liz
7 years ago

Kids get moved up for all sorts of reasons. Some are more physically mature, some are more emotionally mature. Some need to lead the lane, some need to be pushed to go on a faster interval. I tend to doubt that moving to a faster group would cause a swimmer *less* anxiety. Unless, of course, the parents are pressuring the anxious swimmer about moving up and that is causing anxiety.
Coaches are not in the business of making kids swim slower. If they’re holding a swimmer back, there’s probably a reason.

Reply to  Sane Swim Parent
7 years ago

But at some clubs they don’t communicate with parents and you have no idea why your kid “is being held back”.

Currently we have a coach who makes my kid repeatedly swim his worst events…and hasn’t swum his best events the entire season…in February. I agree they should swim everything…but why can’t he swim his best events? Seems unfair to him as he is shorted opportunities to make cuts for championship meets.

Sane Swim Parent
Reply to  Swimfan
7 years ago

That must be frustrating for you. But maybe the coach sees something burgeoning in your child. My son’s coach put him in an event I would never have thought to put him in, and he dropped 7 seconds and made a cut. Have you asked the coach? Younger kids change their best events a lot.

Reply to  Sane Swim Parent
7 years ago

I’ve asked; no answer besides “they have to swim everything”. I get that…but we are repeating worst events several times and not swimming best events. And he’s in high school and has been swimming year around since age 9. And trust me, there is no hope for success in this event/stroke.

9 years ago

Sometimes a coach is just a BAD coach. The question in Number 5 really should be reworded and moved to Number 1: Is my child having fun, learning, building confidence, and progressing? If the answer is “yes” to all of those, then the parent should reevaluate their personal feelings on the situation. If the answer is “no” then a discussion is in order. Parents should be aware that there are abusive coaches (who themselves don’t even know it) and should therefore always be on guard. I get the point of this article, which is that badmouthing is hardly productive, but parents should also trust their gut. Some coaches have a way of achieving their own personal goals with words and… Read more »

Swim Mama
9 years ago

sounds familiar to me!
but thank you for another great article! I agree 100%!!!
#1!!! i will stay happy and stay away from negativity of other people.

Barbara White
9 years ago

I agree 100%.