Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham
My kids started swimming with our club team when they were five and seven years old. Looking back, I am not the same swim parent that I was back then—and thank goodness for that! We began our swim adventure in a “mommy and me” class when the kids were infants. Our main concern was water safety because we live in an area with lots of backyard pools. After exposing them to a variety of sports and activities, both chose swimming.
Here are six things I’ve learned from being a swim parent for 15 years:
It’s easy to get caught up in your swimmer’s times.
But, it’s not healthy to focus on times. When our son was young, we talked about the next level of times in the swim guide constantly. At a meet, he had a great swim and dropped time, but he missed the goal time we had set and felt like a failure. This was so wrong on our part on so many levels! Most importantly, we learned to never set goals for our kids! It’s their sport, not ours.
Kids improve and learn at different rates.
Kids are all different and it’s pointless to compare them in the pool. If you do, you’ll make yourself unhappy as well as your child—that’s a guarantee. Your swimmer may be the fastest 10 and under, but that may not be the case in later years. Some kids are flat out more talented, while others may have a better work ethic. As a swim parent, step back from comparisons.
Meets are not the be all, end all.
It’s easy to get caught up in the emotions of a swim meet. There can be riveting highs and lows, but in all seriousness, it’s just a meet. Our swimmers may achieve success, and naturally we’re excited for them. If they don’t have a good meet, don’t look at it as a failure, but as a learning experience. Enjoy the excitement of the meet, but remember, it’s not life or death.
Swimming should be fun.
When my daughter was in the 11-12 age group, a wise coach pointed out to me that my daughter swam her best when she was having fun. If she was trying too hard for a certain cut, or felt pressure, she tightened up. Keep the swim experience fun by not putting too much pressure on your kids.
Don’t interrogate your swimmers.
I have an inquisitive mind and I want to know every detail about my kids’ races. I want to know what the coach said, how they felt, if they felt they could do better. Trust me on this one, listen but don’t ask questions. If they feel like talking about practice or a meet, they will share with you on their terms.
I can’t ever say anything right.
No matter how I try to be encouraging, or I try to sympathize, I never get it right. The response I receive is an eye roll and a “Just stop!” Sometimes it’s better to say nothing at all as a swim parent, unless it’s a simple, “I love to watch you swim.”
What lessons have you learned as a swim parent?
Elizabeth 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.