6 Tips for Swim Parents About Letting Our Kids Take Ownership

by SwimSwam 19

July 28th, 2015 Club, College, Lifestyle, Opinion

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

Here’s a comment from a swim mom on “5 Tips for Swim Parents to Encourage Their Swimmers:”

“It is really important that the children take ownership. My daughter began swimming at a young age, and I had a goal which was to make sure she was fit. Now, I realize, after she turned 13 years, that she has the fitness bug. Now it is time for her to decide if she wants to place her energy into swim or another sport. Of course I cried over the possibility that she would not pick swim, but I am happy to know that whatever she decides for the sport of her choice I need to support her 100 percent. I hope you will write an article to elaborate on #2.”

Here is Tip #2 from that article: Remember that the sport belongs to your child. Let them take ownership and responsibility for their success.

How do we ensure that our child is “owning” their sport? What do we mean when we talk about ownership? I remember my daughter talking to her club coach after a race where she added time. He asked her about the swim. She knew exactly why she added time. “I didn’t give myself enough time to warm up,” she told him. Although the coach wasn’t thrilled with the swim, he did compliment her for taking ownership. She didn’t make excuses. She knew she had done less than her best to prepare for the race.

If your children take responsibility and ownership, then they most likely have intrinsic motivation and love swimming. We can encourage our kids to make good decisions, but it’s essentially your child who has to get to bed early on a Friday night to have a good Saturday practice, or want to get out of bed before school for dawn practices.

It’s okay for us to share in the ups and downs and feel excitement and disappointment with our kids’ swimming. But, what can we do to promote ownership? Mostly, I think it’s what we should NOT do. If we constantly talk about swimming, focus on times, and compare our swimmers with teammates, we are going to crush the fun and their consequential ownership of the sport.

Here are five tips on what not to do if you want your child to take ownership. I’m sure we are all guilty of some of these. We need to watch out and check ourselves if we’re going overboard.

  1. We take over. It’s easy to get overly involved by attending every workout, competition, and start coaching our kids. We use “we” and “our” when discussing their swims.
  2. Our kids are perfect. We overestimate how much talent or desire our kids have. We have unrealistic expectations for them, which may lead them to feel like a failure.
  3. We burden our kids. If you’re putting the weight of your happiness on your kid, your child is going to feel too much pressure. It’s no longer going to be fun for them if they fear you’ll be sad and disappointed if they don’t perform well.
  4. We live vicariously through our kids. Do we measure our success and failure with how well our kids perform? Are we more elated after a good swim, than our child is?
  5. We put a price tag on swimming. We tell our kids how much it costs in terms of money or time commitment. Or, we expect a pay off in the form of a scholarship. Let’s be supportive and not make our kids feel guilty for their commitment and dedication.
  6. Don’t set goals. We can suggest or encourage goal setting. But, if we want that Junior National or Junior Olympic cut—that’s our goal. Not theirs. Let them set their own goals and tell you what they are. Then you can share in the joy when they reach them.

We want our kids to have fun, be motivated and take ownership of their actions and outcomes.

What do you do to encourage your swimmer to develop ownership?

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.

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I am guilty of all of these – very humbling thank you.


Got you beat. Only guilty of 2 thru 6.

Joel Lin

The sobering thing is we are all as parents guilty on that list because we invest so much in our kids’s enjoyment and fulfillment in what they do. I think the hardest part for me is stepping back and letting the outcomes happen and realizing they will happen anyways with out without my help or opinions. What we are all guilty of trying to buy or bargain is happiness. I’ll admit it took me a while to see that happiness is sometimes just a Blizzard at Dairy Queen and laughs among friends on the way home from the game. And as adults we all know there are very successful people who are also some of the most unhappy and unfulfilled… Read more »


If you’re waking your swimmer up for early morning practice you’re taking ownership. No excuses. If they are swimming for themselves they set alarms. Sometimes the alarm is set where i was required to break speed laws and when she drove the same was true but late to practice was never an option she chose for herself. The conversation over how fast i wanted to drive to achieve her goal was our issue until she drove herself.

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