6 Swim Parent Tips to Navigate the Ups and Downs of Competition

by SwimSwam 3

January 27th, 2016 Lifestyle

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

Why do we get so emotionally involved in how fast our children swim across the pool? Have you ever stopped to watch parents faces at meets? You’ll see extreme pain, elation, frustration and everything in between.

We know there are many good reasons to take our kids to the pool and have them involved in youth sports. Life lessons are important, like learning how to fail, handling disappointments, how to be a good sport and how to manage time. With so many good reasons to have our kids swim, we need to check that we aren’t going overboard with our emotions and dampening our kids’ enthusiasm.

Here are a few tips to navigate the many ups and downs at a swim meet:


Don’t focus on winning or best times.

Celebrate when they do well. Cheer loudly for your swimmer and their friends, but don’t make the results be the end all, be all.


Remember, it’s their sport—not yours.

Sometimes parents feel the intensity of every stroke. Our muscles contract and we can feel exhausted when the swim is over. I know this from my own experience. But, no matter how fast I pace, how loud I yell, or how much my muscles are trying, I cannot swim the race for my child.


Emphasize effort.

Rather than show your disappointment when a swim isn’t a best time, or your child got touched out, reflect on how hard they have tried. Be sure to commend them for their effort. Hard work is a trait we want them to gain from swimming.



Bring a good book or some work to catch up on. Don’t stay keyed up throughout the meet. During warm-ups and long hours between your child’s events, explore the area. Go for a walk. Check out local restaurants or coffee shops. Look at each meet as a fun place to be.


People watch.

If you sit back and watch other parents yelling, jumping and screaming, you may say to yourself, “Boy, I’m sure glad that’s not me!” The meet is a giant spectacle if you step back and take a look at it.


Keep it fun.

If you’re enjoying yourself and having fun, your kids will have fun, too. Don’t be so serious. This is not life and death. It’s a swim meet! Love it and enjoy this part of your life.

What other tips do you have to navigate the ups and downs of competition?

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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6 years ago

The best thing I ever did was presented my daughter and her friends with a survey of what they want and what they don’t want from us. I found out that they 1)want you present, mind and body.
2)Enjoy yourselves they have more fun if you are, you are the emotional thermostat.
3)Also not to be the crazy one that you can hear over every other parent and I quote “we can’t hear you anyway and it’s just embarrassing”.
4)don’t pressure them into times, they know what they need to go.
5) my favorite….”hug me like a just got a zones time even if I came in last”

IF we are lucky our kids will… Read more »

Tim H
6 years ago

Right on #2 & 3 – effort & consistency with daily good habits, generally leads to better performances under stress & pressure. It’s the process & daily journey of finding ways to get better with a good work ethic that has the greatest long term effect. Ask yourself if your 100% everyday in what you do – lots of variables. Thanks for sharing.

6 years ago

So true!!! I get so excited when my kids are on a swim meet, because I know they always do their best every time. If they gain, they learn from it, if they beat their time their smile is always priceless.
Thank you for this great article, as always.