5 Tips for Swim Parents to Handle Conflicts with Coaches

  32 SwimSwam | 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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32 Comments on "5 Tips for Swim Parents to Handle Conflicts with Coaches"

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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 »

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

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!

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 »