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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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.


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.

Tim H

Excellent – can I share?

Elizabeth Wickham

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

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