6 Swim Parent Tips On Why Your Child Isn’t Getting Best Times

by SwimSwam 11

December 01st, 2015 College, High School, Lifestyle

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

“Why did my child add time in her best event?” I heard two parents say at a recent age group meet.

“What’s wrong? Why isn’t she swimming best times?” I was asked about my daughter, who is swimming in college.

Many parents complain or worry when their kids aren’t dropping time. I’ve explained to my fellow swim parents that if our kids dropped time, every single time they swam, they’d be in the Olympics already.

In my daughter’s case, she does well at her target meets, after a taper, shaved and wearing a fast suit. Before she became a teenager, she used to see best times randomly throughout the year. Some swimmers are close to their best times year round, but that’s not true for everyone.

Here’s another question I was asked, “What do these words mean—shaved and tapered?”

Wikipedia says: “The practice of reducing exercise in the days just before an important competition is called tapering. A final stage is often referred to as “shave and taper.” The swimmer shaves off all exposed hair for the sake of reducing drag and having a sleeker and more hydrodynamic feel in the water.”

It’s important for us parents not to focus on times. Yes, we want our kids’ hard work to pay off. We want them to succeed. Enjoy the process and the life skills your child is absorbing. Trust in your child’s coach and your child will, too. Best times are to be celebrated, but seriously I’m thrilled to see that my kids love swimming. The less we stress about best times, the more enjoyable swimming will be for our kids—and the more likely they’ll stick with it.

Here are six things to think about when you wonder, “Why isn’t my child dropping time?”


When your child is new to the sport or young, they may drop time at most meets as they improve and grow.


When kids are young or new, they may have enormous drops! Enjoy the 10 and 20-second drops while they last!


As they get faster and better with technique, the drops will get smaller and may not happen at each meet.


If they are really good at certain events, for example the 100 free, it may be harder for them to get a personal best in that event, because they’re already swimming it so fast.


It may be easier to get personal bests in events they don’t swim that often, or still have a lot of room for improvement.


When kids are in their later years of high school or in college, they may only see best times at meets where they are rested, tapered, and suited up. In college, that could be the mid-season, conference or NCAA meets. In high school, it’s their end-of-season championship meets.

What other tips do you have for swim parents about best times?

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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8 years ago

Excellent Advice!! I think every parent should read this. Too many helicopter parents these days. The most important thing in age group swimming is enjoying every aspect of it and your child learning the valuable life lessons that swimming teaches.

Anne Lane
8 years ago

I love seeing the parents that participate in their kids sports and extra curricular activities. Without parents like this, there would not be organized sports. I love reading your swim tips, thanks for sharing.

8 years ago

Dear parent, you’re too involved.

Reply to  Coachandy
8 years ago

Yes. Agree. Way too much helicopter parenting and living vicariously through kids = kids that grow up not being able to negotiate the world very effectively. Our job is to find a safe and appropriate coach and program for them and be sure they’re both enjoying it and putting honest effort into it. Their job is to succeed and fail, and learn how to deal with both…You know, like they will the rest of their lives.

Reply to  Coachandy
8 years ago

Obviously you are not a parent. As a parent, when I have had confidence in my swimmer’s coaches, I am comfortable taking a less active role in the swimming. Ho

Reply to  Coachandy
8 years ago

While you might be a coach, you obviously are not a parent. As a parent, I have found that I am much less involved when I trust my child’s coaches technically, emotionally and professionally. In other words, when I have evidence that coaches truly have my child’s best interests in mind and treat them with the respect that they deserve as an athlete and as a person, I do not feel the need to attend practices or micro-manage the swimming. On the other hand, I have found that I am much more involved when my child’s coaches are dishonest or hyper-critical. The relationship between the swimmer, the coach and the parent should be collaborative and not antagonistic. What concerns me… Read more »

Reply to  Coachandy
7 years ago

Dear coach, well, he is called psychodad

8 years ago

It is very important not to let your kid fall in love with a certain stroke too early. Do not sign him/her up for 50 back every meet because he beats other kids, because soon he will not beat them anymore. Change focus. When our kids were younger, I split a calendar year into 4 strokes (3 months each) and focused on signing them up in those strokes. Do not let them specialize until after 14.

Reply to  PsychoDad
8 years ago

I fully agree with the concept of always encouraging your child to be well rounded and not let him or her be “just” a breaststroker or flyer, etc. I’m not sure I’d do it in the three month blocks like that but hey, it’s a system that gets the kid to focus on every stroke, so whatever works.

Coach Scott
8 years ago

You forgot the # one thing. Practice attendance. All the above points are true. But attendance or lack of it is the biggest concern among us coaches. I dont have an attendance requirement for my senior groups but I do keep attendance. If I sit down with swimmers and parents to discuss why time drops are not progressing, the first thing I check is attendance. My personal experience is anything below 90% will not allow a swimmer to progress and reach obtainable goals.

8 years ago

My son, a senior in HS now has stopped shaving off time. Unfortunately water polo season left him behind with swim and totally out of shape. Younger swimmers are a lot faster than him now. He’s like this the past 3 years after water polo. But with swim training after he usually bounces back by February and gets his best times. I’m okay with it because I see how hard working my son is and see how he still likes the sport. You’re right, if by this time he is still getting best times, he would be in the Olympics!