6 Things I’d Do Over as a Swim Parent

by SwimSwam 14

July 25th, 2016 Club, Lifestyle, Opinion

By Elizabeth Wickham

Do you ever look back and think, I wish I could have done that differently? Don’t get me wrong, I love being a swim parent and truly believe that signing my kids up for our local club, the Piranha Swim Team, was one of the best things we’ve done for them. But, I wish I knew 15 years ago, what I know today.

As a swim parent, I’m proud that we stuck with our team during ups and downs. My kids learned to never give up through tough times—whether it was an illness, a plateau or learning what a new coach expected. They learned technique and how to be good teammates. Plus they are physically fit—which I’m sure will be a part of the rest of their lives.

So what would I do differently? Here’s my list:


Too much focus on performance.

Sometimes, I get too caught up in big meets and best times. I wish I could have kicked back, relaxed and enjoyed the little moments more.


Stay out of parent drama.

Like most sports today, where you find a bunch of enthusiastic and involved parents, there’s bound to be some drama. As a board member, sometimes I had to address it head on. If I could do it over, I wouldn’t take sides or get involved.


Realize everybody is different.

Not every swimmer has the same drive or goals. Not every family is going to focus their lives around the pool. It’s okay for some kids to skip practice and have other interests besides school and swimming.


Listen to my kids.

Instead of expressing my opinions and thoughts, I wish I’d stepped back and listened more. I would have discovered earlier that my son enjoyed swimming, but his passion was somewhere else. Driving to practice and meets would have been an ideal opportunity to stay quiet and listen.


Not compare my kids to others.

When my kids were young and new to swimming, it was common for us to compare their progress to other swimmers. Things that seemed so big at the moment, were only a fleeting moment in time.


Enjoy every moment of the process.

The years go by so quickly. The friends made with other parents, coaches and officials are ones to treasure. Enjoy it all.

Looking back, is there anything that you would do differently as a swim parent?

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.

Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Michelle Lombana
5 years ago

These are great points. Being a swim parent was fun but I think the best part was watching my son learn so many life lessons which will carry him into adulthood and help him be a better husband, father, employee, and leader. The self-discipline required for this sport is second to none.

Paul Szuszkiewicz
5 years ago

I also wish we could have do overs.

5 years ago

American attitudes towards kids’ sports never fails to astound me. In swimming, parents would cheer and occasionally there would be pettiness from them, but I have never seen anyone ever get on the same level as Americans do. We also never used fastskins/tech suits etc.. I’ve read on here and elsewhere about 10 and 11 year olds wearing them! Coming from the UK I used to play on football and every Saturday (after my swimming) we would have a match. Parents cheered and very rarely there would be a bit of pettiness from the parents to echo whatever was happening within the team, but other than that, I never saw anything the likes of which I have seen from American… Read more »

Swim Parent
Reply to  opinion
5 years ago

I agree that the parents put too much pressure on the kids. We’ve seen tech suits on 7 and 8 year olds, drugging their own children, sending them to any camp they can and even bribing coaches for coveted spots at meets or on relays. As competitive of an environment as I have ever seen with the swimmers, it’s worse with the parents, and it all started (in our case) with the coaches who created and fostered that atmosphere. Way too many swimmers end up broken from the pressure before they ever make it to college. So glad we just left that team and now begin the process of healing and enjoying the sport again.

Swim Mom
Reply to  opinion
5 years ago

I agree there should be less focus on performance and more on development and fun. There is enough pressure inherent in the sport – your time is your time and performances are ranked and posted. It’s clear who’s faster and who’s not. It’s not as much of a team sport — other than relays and school teams, the swimmer is rated as an individual. That’s a lot for kids to deal with. In that context, I think parents and coaches should help kids have a positive experience, whatever that means for them.

I feel lucky – I have never heard any pettiness from other parents, only praise and support of my swimmer. The swim parents I know (Americans) compliment… Read more »

Reply to  Swim Mom
5 years ago

That sounds fantastic. It’s lovely that you have such a nice atmosphere for you and your swimmer.

I would just like to say how much I love this community. It has its oddballs as everywhere on the internet does, but overall it is very supportive and positive. I really do love it here.

Swim Mom
5 years ago

This is a great list! I agree that we can all enjoy the ride a little more and focus less on performance. One great thing I learned from other parents, as a new swim parent (we started late), was to take a long view and focus more on progress and development. So when my kid was one of the slowest on the team, they helped me celebrate each time drop the same way we celebrated the fastest swims on the team.

Swim Mom Yo
5 years ago

I see too many kids, urged by their parents and some coaches, especially 10 and unders and 11-12’s, who equate winning with fun. These are the kids who give up the sport at 11-12 or 13-14 because they don’t win, therefore, it’s not fun anymore and that’s sad and not the kid’s fault. It’s the parents and coaches who fail to keep it in perspective that these are children with growing bodies and growing minds. Let them be kids, coming in second, fifth, tenth, is awesome. An 11 year old is not the swimmer or the person they will be at 15.

5 years ago

Don’t forget Number 7 – Take child out of swimming and put him/her in music classes.

Gail chin
5 years ago

I did enjoy it all. So did the kids! In their 40’s and still swimming. One still competitive!

Ruby Khalid
5 years ago

Thanks for sharing. It is informative for parents indeed.