6 Ways Swim Parents Can Encourage Great Swimmer-Coach Relationships

by SwimSwam 8

January 18th, 2018 Club, Lifestyle, Opinion

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

How important is the relationship between your child and their swim coach? Coaches have such an impact on our kids’ lives. Our kids may look back on their coaches as some of the most influential people shaping their goals and dreams. We want our kids to be successful in swimming and in life. Having a strong relationship with their coach is one step along that path. Their relationship needs to be based on trust, communication and mutual respect.

As a parent, there are a few things we can do—or not do—to encourage healthy, working relationships between our swimmers and their coaches.

Here are my six tips to building better relationships:


Get them to the pool.

Coaches appreciate kids who make it to practice consistently and on time. Who do you think will get more attention from the coach—the kid who shows up for every single practice—or the child who has sporadic attendance? When kids are not old enough to drive, the responsibility falls on us to get them to the pool.


Encourage hard work.

Being a hard worker is a life skill that will serve our kids well in school, work and relationships. How do you build this characteristic in your child? One small thing we can do is praise their hard work. Instead of complimenting your child on their natural talent, like brains or athleticism, offer praise for their hard work and show how their effort led to accomplishments.


Honesty is the best policy.

If your kid wants to skip practice to study for a final, or take a day off with friends, advise them to be honest about it with their coach. I’ve seen this happen again and again, kids lying to their coaches. It never ends well and credibility is a hard thing to regain.


No excuses.

Our swimmers need to be responsible for their actions. We aren’t helping by giving them excuses. Nor, do coaches like to hear excuses from kids—why they missed practice—or didn’t have a good swim. This comes down to ownership of their sport. Your swimmer needs to understand that what they put into the sport, they will get out of it.


Keep negativity to yourself.

You may believe the coach doesn’t focus enough on technique, or worry that your kid isn’t getting enough attention. Whatever you do, don’t talk about it at home. Kids will pick up on these cues and may lose faith and confidence in their coach.


Your swimmer needs to communicate.

Many parents make the mistake of talking to the coach on behalf of their swimmer. At some point in time, we need to back away and let our swimmers take over. Open communication between your child and their coach is fundamental in building a better relationship.

What tips do you have to encourage better relationships between swimmers and coaches?

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

My daughter always thanks the coach/coaches before she leaves. They work hard, and should be thanked.

My daughter is 12, but I stay back because I trust them so much. Helicopter parents CLEARLY annoy the coaches, so they appreciate just necessary questions and letting them know how much she enjoys them…with no requests or comments on what would be great to do in the future. LOL Their feelings for the parents trickles to the parents as well…perhaps not fair, but human.

Coach John
Reply to  GoldenB
3 years ago

helicopter parents dont annoy us personally… they just slow the development process. it’s part of the job dealing with high stress situations and different cultures and attitudes and what have you. in the end they are hurting no one but themselves and their kid. if they really bothered us we’d be freaking out at every little annoyance and issue. perseverance is what we teach the kids and we need to lead by that example.

Carolyn Binder
6 years ago

Number 5 happened all the time. Negative talk in the stands at away meets, and probably at the dinner table too.

6 years ago

Totally agree. I hope some negative parents will try to keep their opinions to themselves if they say bad things about our coaches because it’s very poisonous, not just to the group but to the whole team.
I am fortunate to have responsible kids that respect their coaches. Nobody is perfect and I believe every coaches have their ups and downs and as parents we are here to support them for the good of our kids and their future in the sport they love.

Coach John
Reply to  SwimMom
3 years ago

I hope negative parents put it out there so they can be educated. the most dangerous parents are the behind-the-back, side-talking parents that you cant educate/change/confront.

if we try to educate and they refuse to buy in then that is the problem. there will always be negative people, be the light that changes their day.

6 years ago

This may apply more to older swimmers, but I believe a coach and a swimmer have a good relationship when the swimmer trusts them so much, they can go to them for life advice, even if it has nothing to do with swimming.

Coach John
Reply to  Martina
3 years ago

that is true at any age… in some instances at a younger age is arguably more important otherwise you lose the window of trust.

3 years ago

One time I was mad at my coach and my dad encouraged me to email him because it was a question of unequal treatment between me and a few other swimmers. In the end it worked out because my coach explained his actions and it made sense and I really appreciated that my dad told me to do that.