7 Swim Parent Tips to Stop Comparing Swimmers

by SwimSwam 12

May 10th, 2018 Club, Lifestyle

By Elizabeth Wickham

It’s natural for parents to make comparisons with their child and other swimmers, whether it’s a sibling or teammate. We use comparisons to evaluate progress. We may think by comparing our swimmers to their peers, we’ll encourage our kids to try harder. With the best of intentions, we want to motivate our kids to be more competitive—but watch out—it might backfire. When we compare our kids, we may cause more harm than good.

Here’s a list of why comparing kids is a bad idea and what we should do instead:


Every child has different interests and desires. We can’t force our kids to have the same desires and drive as someone else.


Comparisons may make kids think they aren’t good enough and they can’t make you happy.


Children may feel discouraged and frustrated and want to give up if they believe they aren’t as talented as their siblings or teammates.


Constant comparisons may make your child jealous and promote rivalry rather than friendships and good sportsmanship.


Kids grow and mature at different rates and comparing 11-12 years olds makes no sense when one child may be years ahead developmentally than others the same age.


Always encourage effort and recognize your child’s improvements—without making comparisons to others.


Unconditional support and love are more effective in encouraging your child than unwanted and damaging comparisons with others.

Have you seen parents compare swimmers on the pool deck? How do you think comparisons work out?

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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4 years ago

This one really hits home for me. With a 17 year old swimmer who doesn’t make regional swim times or state times but swims on a club team with swimmers that do, I constantly find myself explaining to other people that my teen doesn’t have those times because he doesn’t want them. He swims year round to keep himself conditioned to join the military not to make cuts or get a scholarship but for personal enrichment. Personal goals are important above all else. Not everyone is in it to be the next MP.

4 years ago

I disagree when one is addressing a superior swimmer. It validates their swimming acumen to compare them to all the slower kids they beat. It will help the best to feel some sympathy for those who will be regulated to the non-medal ranks of the horde. It is much akin to the phenomena of Natural Selection. Perhaps if USA Swimming would restrict and wean out of our sport all the slow one’s who clog up meets and pool space, we would improve our World Standing. People love the Olympics and enjoy seeing a USA swimmer WIN GOLD. Nobody really even remembers the silver or bronze medalist. It is ALL about victory….BABEE! Sure there is room in our sport for the… Read more »

Reply to  Brutus
4 years ago

et to Brute?

Reply to  jojoNV
4 years ago

*et tu Brute?

John A
6 years ago

All good, valid points when applied to non-competitive sports, but in top flight swimming, everything is based on the rankings. How is it possible to be the best without studying the opposition? Without comparison, and a knowledge of who your real competition rivals are, you will never achieve the top spot on the podium. Be your best and beat the rest!

Reply to  John A
4 years ago

The time (ranking) is just the result. Talk about effort not times, especially when the swimmer is young.

Reply to  Swimmer
4 years ago

Comparisons just cause anxiety for both the kid and the parent. It really doesn’t make any sport more fun in the long term.

Reply to  SwimFL
4 years ago

Use it as motivation

6 years ago

Excellent – can I share?

Elizabeth Wickham
Reply to  Tim H
6 years ago

Coach Tim, please share! I’d be honored.

6 years ago

Great article! I hope every swim parent would read this. When I was new at swimming, deep inside me I would compare my kids to other their age but as I grow old as a swim parent and getting more involved I have learned not to compare that my children are totally different from their peers.
Thank you Elizabeth for this great article.

6 years ago

You always have great advice for parents-especially parent of children who are athletes. My 3 children were all competitive swimmers who competed at D1 level.
Comparisons to other swimmers without recognizing the issues you raise is almost always destructive at one level or another.
Swimmers and their parents put so much time into the sport that it is very easy to lose sight of the big picture of life.
Your insights are almost always right on the mark, valuable and perhaps not read enough by those who need it the most.