The 8 Swim Parents You See at Your Local Swim Meets

  188 Olivier Poirier-Leroy | January 08th, 2016 | Featured, International, Lifestyle, Masters

Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer based out of Victoria, BC. In feeding his passion for swimming, he has developed YourSwimBook, a powerful log book and goal setting guide made specifically for swimmers. Sign up for the YourSwimBook newsletter (free) and get weekly motivational tips by clicking here.

There’s at least one at every swim meet.

That parent.

The one you purposely avoid, the one you rue having to make small talk with. This parent comes in many forms and shapes, and not only is a parent for someone on another team, but is also often a parent from your club. Sometimes this parent is you.

While some of the following swim parent stereotypes may infuriate and annoy us, they also provide some amusement and entertainment when our own kids aren’t in the pool.

Here are 8 different swim parents that grace the decks at our local swim meets–

1. Cpt. Obvious. Exuberant, loud and shrill, this parent’s version of cheering runs the gamut of things that are all too apparent—

“Pull harder!”

“Kick harder!”

“Swim harder! Swim faster!”

On behalf of swimmers (and nearby spectators) everywhere: Uh, yeah, thanks. Note that when stating the obvious volume is key and necessary to earn this ironic title. Sometimes a simple “Go!” is more effective than “Pull harder than your contemporaries in the lane next to you who also appear to be swimming at a rapid pace in the hopes of gaining same objective as you!”

2. The Chin Hair Puller. Quiet, thoughtful and analytical, this parent is quietly judging, counting, noting, judging, always judging, but keeping their thoughts to themselves. They know their kids’ competition splits and stroke rates by heart and are quietly plotting the rest of their kid’s season while the rest of us are just wondering when that snack tray is going to make the rounds again. Look for a copy of Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” nearby.

3. Ari Gold. This parent is part authority figure, part business manager. They know for a fact that their kid is going to the Olympics. Which one? All of them. They have one eye on their smartphone seeking out prospective endorsement deals and the other on potential areas where the brand (a.k.a. the product, the money, the swimmer) can vertically integrate. The parent-agent is frequently locked in a daydream of the potential millions their 7 year old is bound to make.

4. Mr. Positivity. Even though their kid just had the worst swim of their life, this parent is so aghast at the thought of his or her kid losing self-confidence that they will sugar coat it until the very end. “It’s okay Timmy, no one saw your suit come off! Or your DQ! And I am sure that no one would ever to think about posting the video on social media! You’re still my sugary honey bunny to me! Love you!” Positivity is good and great, but sometimes levity instead of faux optimism can be just what is needed to defuse a crappy swim.

5. The Shrieker. Otherwise calm and composed, this swim parent seems to lose all sense of dignity and shame the moment their child hits the water. This shrieking is usually on full and slightly embarrassing display when the athlete re-watches their race later on a friend’s iPhone, insuring the well being and use of mute buttons everywhere.

6. The Tomato. It’s understandable—it’s difficult not to get wrapped up in the awesome intensity that is a kid swimming laps back and forth. But for the tomato, this face-exploding experience borders on evidence for mandatory anger management. The rage materializes in a vein-popping redness that causes sunburns at a distance of ten feet, severe burns within 3 feet. Approach with caution if child has swum below expectations. Is a known cause of jeez-it’s-only-a-sport-man-itis with passerby.

7. The Nail-Chewer. It’s amazing this parent still has thumbs. Or hands, really. Quiet and reserved, they extoll their anxiety via chewing what is left of their thumbs. (Advanced nail-chewers typically graduate to the pinky and index fingers when the thumb nail is “not in the game.”)

8. The Stopwatch. A coach’s nightmare. Will generally walk away after their kids’ swim mumbling about how they coulda, woulda, shoulda coached their kid to a better time. Seems to know better than coach, often gives contradictory advice, and is frequently caught peering over coach’s shoulder at stroke rate, splits and so on for not only his or her swimmer, but also the competition.

Any other swim parents you see on deck at swim meets? Let us know in the comments below!

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188 Comments on "The 8 Swim Parents You See at Your Local Swim Meets"


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beachmouse
2 years 3 months ago

My mother was the Colorado Whisperer for her uncanny ability to keep just about any ancient timing system functional and acceptably accurate long past its normal expiration date. There were a few teams that paid her to keep coming back to run their meet timing systems after her kids were gone for the local scene because she could nurse it through to the bitter end of the session.

John
2 years 3 months ago

“The Ex”- a parent who was a swimmer as a child. The least competitive and least accomplished ex-swimmers are normally the most vocal of this group. Their 2-3 years of country club swimming has given them more wisdom than most coaches gain over the course of an entire career. The Ex also has magical ability to still improve on their best times: “I went a 1:10 100 IM when was 10 years old”. Same parent speaking a couple months later, “My 100 IM time was a 1:06 when I was 10 years olds”.
The Ex can comes in the form of a former NCAA All-American who never talks about swimming and avoids the pool at all cost. He is often the target of many of the above parents who seek out his opinion on their child’s potential.

Lisadmonroe
1 year 7 months ago

I am the ex who can’t stand to be in the stands. I breeze in and out in perfect time just to see my daughter swim. My best times vary depending on the point I am trying to make. Eg: I couldn’t break a minute for 4 yrs, then went 58.0. Reality: best time 1:01

swim coach
2 years 3 months ago

8a. the parent-“coach.” the parent who has their child come to them for critiquing before and after a race, before the the swimmer goes to the coach. when the swimmer doesn’t perform, the parent-coach blames the actual coach, even if the parent-coach gave the bad advice. and when the swimmer performs well, it’s all the parent-coach’s advice.

hschler
2 years 3 months ago

You forgot the parent that becomes an official so as not to have to sit in the stands with parents mentioned above!

RTS
2 years 3 months ago

Exactly! I’ve been an official for ten years and love it.

Off I. Cial
2 years 3 months ago

Swim parents are the reason we have volunteer officials! An escape route :). Go blue

Andrew McDonald
1 year 9 months ago

I know several of them.

Swimmom
1 year 7 months ago

I have been an official for 4 years, and plan on staying on deck, those stands can get ruthless!

my2swimmers
1 year 7 months ago

Yes! ! Officiating keeps me on deck with best view of the pool and away from drama/criticism about coaches or other parents in the stands.

Mom2boys
1 year 7 months ago

SOOO correct!! The pool deck is the best place to be! I HATE the stands.

anon
1 year 7 months ago

I preferred to sit on deck and watch the events instead of sitting with the Team parents and was criticized by the coach for doing so.

W3T
7 months 15 days ago

Parents don’t belong on the deck unless they are doing a job that requires them to be there (officiating, timing, etc.). If you are sitting on the deck doing nothing, you are a distraction and are doing nothing that will help your child.

GO TIDE
7 months 15 days ago

I’m the parent official so I don’t have to be Parents 1-8!

DH1967
2 months 10 days ago

Too funny, that is why I became an official, interesting to know other officials feel the same way. Its safe on deck!

Jennifer
2 years 3 months ago

The Whistler-possibly kin to 8a. parent-coach. Usually these folks sit behind me and choose to whistle in my ear through the entire breaststroke race.

strkswim
2 years 3 months ago

A few are missing:

1. The “before dawn and after dusk chauffeur”
2. The “short order cook”
3. The “banker with funding for training, suits, meets”
4. The “academic counselor who helps with studying”
5. The “wellness facilitator” who handles illness, Dr. appointments, PT
6. The “volunteer” (timer, official, meet marshall, hospitatilty, computers, posting, set up, clean up) who,wthout there would be no swim meets

Unless Mr. Poirier-Leroy was independently weathy at age 8 and hired people to perform all the above services, his success was contigent on the love and support of the very people he is making fun of above (and the very people he is trying to sell his product too. Good luck with that.)

Shame on Swim Swam for publishing something so offensive.

Peace Out
2 years 3 months ago

STRK

You’re serious about this being offensive? You’re a wet blanket. You must have seen a bit of yourself in each one of the writer’s list of parents. And, I guess you are one of the parents who wants to give each child a medal or ribbon even if they come in 24th out of 24 swimmers just so their feelings don’t get hurt?

FaceMelter
2 years 3 months ago

The STRKSWIM. That swim parent that is a hybrid of all swim parents, #1-8

Coach
2 years 3 months ago

Offensive?? Everyone in this country is so offended about everything… it’s absurd… It’s tongue and cheek on a PG level… Get over yourself.

mcmflyguy
1 year 7 months ago

i’m offended… your comment should be rated pg-13

STRKSWIM's Kid
2 years 3 months ago

You come across to me as the tomato. Someone I wouldn’t want to be around after I swim.

Dan
2 years 3 months ago

Maybe the “takes credit for their kid’s accomplishments as though it’s their own” parent? This is all great stuff, but I think it falls into the realm of stuff you are supposed to do as a parent.

Red
2 years 3 months ago

This makes me laugh. You take things way too seriously. Get over it. All parents cheer loudly or whistle or encourage. They want the best for their kids. But to say this is offensive you are too higly strung.

strkswim
2 years 3 months ago

You all are mssing the point entirely. What I find offensive is that an athlete whose success was dependent upon parental support, who is aiming to make a career on that very sport would belittle the same parents who were part of the community that contributed to his success. Maybe they were not HIS parents (but he seems to have a very good grasp on these folks) but they were the timers behind his lane, the officials running the meet and on and on.

My kids are long gone from this sport but ran the spectrum of summer league to National team. we could care less about their achievments. What mattered to us was supporting their goals whatever they were. The knew that and still appreciate our support.

It is and always will be offensive to belittle those that support the infrastructure of a sport.

Off I. Cial
2 years 3 months ago

What I find offensive is your lead sentence.

mcmflyguy
2 years 3 months ago

I’m offended, because i’m not on this list. I demand an apology.

likeswimminglikecoachinglikeswimcoaching
2 years 2 months ago

i think you may have been looking for the “parentofswimwam.com” which is totally different than the “swimswam.com” site…this site is for “swimmers” & “swammers”

JoeMomma
1 year 7 months ago

Guys, STRKSWIM’s comments are narcissistic. He / she alone is responsible for their child’s athletic accomplishments, much like Psychodad is responsible for his son’s perfect backstroke and eventual Olympic team spot.

Swammer
2 years 2 months ago

That’s ok, we can just categorize you as the “special parent” because apparently you are special from any other parent. The article is a joke so laugh.

AntiPC
1 year 7 months ago

Lighten up, Francis! If this fun little write up hurts your poor little feelings, I’d say that you get your feelings hurt a little too easily.

MindoMom
1 year 7 months ago

#9. The Stick Up the *** parent. See STRKSWIM. All parents here, buddy, do everything you listed and have a sense of humor to boot. Umm, it’s called BEING A PARENT – it’s in the job description. I know I make an idiot out of myself at a meet because I’m proud and excited for my kid and I’m okay with that. In fact, I had a coach come up to me after my kid swam at a major international meet this summer to tell me that the coaches got a kick out of my cheering abilities, and as I told him, “Hell, it’s not for her, it’s so I don’t have an aneurysm sitting quietly in the stands!” My kid loves it and knows it’s for fun (operative word), so it’s all good… Life is too short, relax!

liquidassets
1 year 7 months ago

Hey if it’s just cheering too much or too loud then that’s fine. In fact, I think there could be more energy like that at meets; although with the very long age group tip meets, I know it’s hard to sustain for 10 hours! ;-

PsychDad
2 years 3 months ago

Definitely type 2 here.

Sprintdude9000
2 years 3 months ago

“The Tomato” aka the “Arnie on the surface of mars” parent

2 years 3 months ago

Think you kind of forgot about the parent who pays the bills, provides taxi service, doesn’t talk about swimming at home unless their swimmer brings up the subject, the parent who expects their swimmer/s to own their sport – the parent that allows the coach to coach, their swimmers to swim – the parent that allows their swimmer to have a healthy, positive and personally successful swimming experience….. at meets and at practice…. I just described almost everyone in our parents group…. don’t assume that they don’t care about swimming – just because they have a healthy perspective on the sport!.

redbirdfan
2 years 3 months ago

That would be the elusive “Dream Parent”. the best kind to have on your team, but not as entertaining to make fun of online!

Dan
2 years 3 months ago

My parents were this way, and I really liked it. They didn’t know much about swimming and let it be between me and my coaches. I always felt bad for the kids whose parents were overly involved, always talking about their times, cuts they were trying to make, etc.

Uxbridge Jim K
2 years 2 months ago

I prefer adults you row beside you every inch of the Chokopi Mile and give you the appropriate feedback at the end…. Thanks for your time and effort Mike and I hope things are well!

PAC12BACKER
2 years 3 months ago

Isn’t No. 1, Cpt. Obvious, and No. 5, The Shrieker pretty much the same type?

Hoosiermama
2 years 3 months ago

There is an even darker side…the parent that has developed an unhealthy hatred for the competition. They are joyously happy when some poor kid has a bad day and verbally bashes the kid and his/her parents.

Dave Bott
2 years 3 months ago

The Al Bundy. The former swimmer who has no problem exaggerating about how “great” they were in their hay day.

shanmac_swim
2 years 3 months ago

The “Psycho-Parent” who is on pool deck for each and every practice and provides gels, red bull, etc between every race to their 7 year old swimmer who always happens to be wearing the latest expensive performance suit!

mcmflyguy
2 years 3 months ago

you could call that the sugar daddys/mommys? get it? lol ya I know pretty lame.

ScotsFan78
2 years 3 months ago

What say you @cwilli208?

mamallama
2 years 3 months ago

Well, someone has already come up with the Whistler, so my variation will be the “Bronx Whistler”…one year at Junior Olympics in the Bronx, this woman with a teen boy swimming (you’d think she would know better, but no) stood up in the “no standing” area where the entrance feeds out into the balcony overhang, and whistled relentlessly, in matched syncopation with her son’s strokes. It was absolutely ear splitting and painfully piercing. It was impossible to even talk.

And every time a person (usually another parent) would politely approach her and ask her to stop or even hold it down (and occasionally pointing out that there was no way her son could even HEAR her), she would turn and scream at them to F-Off.

All I can think now is, poor kid.

Been there, seen that!
2 years 2 months ago

Ah yes, the joys of busy meets at Lehman. Place always was a circus for those big meets!

anonymous
2 years 3 months ago

I see the meme of implicitly criticizing the parent who tries to coach their kid cropping up here. Usually this is propaganda from USA Swimming as they want to make their member coaches’ lives easier. Often, however, it is the “parent coach” who keeps the coach on his toes and does a lot of good work to improve his child’s swimming.

ChestRockwell
2 years 3 months ago

If this is sarcasm, it is the single best comment in the history of swimming websites.

gator
2 years 3 months ago

Chestrockwell is right – on!! Even parents that actually are USS coaches generally do a lousy job coaching their own children in my experience!

swimm
2 years 3 months ago

At my club we have multiple coach parents. All their children are amazing swimmers- making state, zones, and national teams. But only one or two actually coach their own children on a regular basis

Coach and Parent
2 years 3 months ago

I coach at a huge club. We have at least three parents who are volunteer or paid assistants, many for the workout group of their kids. I’ve never seen one coach their kid’s lane or provide feedback at meets. Every single time we ask the other coaches to take their lane and provide the feeback. The coach/parent is toxic often. The parent coach you refer to rarely has the interest of the team at heart and most often jeopardizes the success of their own child and the team.

QRK Coach
2 years 3 months ago

This type of “parent-coach” is every real coaches nightmare.

pricklychip
2 years 3 months ago

“Parent Coaches” were the reason I stopped coaching after Athens. Leave coaching to the coaches and the parenting to someone else.

Allen
2 years 3 months ago

Unfortunately, the vast majority of age group coaches are not very good at what they do. I let my son tried swimming and be coached by the coaches, and he was in the bottom 1% in his first year. I decided to take matters into my own hands and coached my son in the off season by watching Youtube videos. He became the top 1% overall in the conference the following year. Then I stumbled upon Dr. Brent Rushall’s works and find it so much easier to get kids to swim faster. So many of the kids have been swimming for more than 5,6 years, but they can’t streamline properly or swim with a high elbow. There’s a lot of bad swimming out there!

coach
2 years 3 months ago

Good for your kid… but I would venture to guess his conference meet is pretty slow (comparatively)…

Allen
2 years 2 months ago

I think the time standards for the team and league is very slow, but the coaches and other parents do not think so. The league records are usually AAA or AAAA standards.

Mark Cianciolo
2 years 2 months ago

Although this could very well have been your reality, it is not permanent. It is not long term. I am willing to bet your son was about 9-10 years old. I have been there and done that and it does not last. 12-13 at the most and they will not listen to a single thing you have to say, regardless of what you think your relationship is now….it won’t last. I am not telling you what to do, or that you are or were wrong, just letting you know what will happen with almost 100% certainty, let’s just say I have been there.

Allen
2 years 2 months ago

I assume from your post that you coached your own kid and it didn’t work out. Will you share how and why it didn’t work out? Thanks in advance.

Mark Cianciolo
2 years 2 months ago

Allen,

This is a very long subject, and it is still evolving every day.

First. I am sure it has to do with that age when all children are trying to find themselves.

Second. When you the parent is in a constant critique mode (what it takes to coach them at a high level) they will start to resent you. You cannot be a parent and a coach during the swim practice for a teenager. This works for some at the early ages, when they just want to please you, but when they get older it is a whole different story.

This is just the 101 version to your question, you will be more then welcome to contact me if you would like to discuss in greater detail the level that I was trying to coach my daughter and all of the pit falls it creates.

My daughter has been trained under two legendary coaches with a combined experience of almost 90 years. Both of them told me the same thing. I am not here to tell you what to do, or that you are wrong. That is not my style. I let everyone be who they are, but if my experiences can help someone else….I am more then willing to share.

[email protected]

Swimmer
2 years 2 months ago

I was a recently a competitive swimmer for about 13 years and eleven of those years were with USA swimming. I can guarantee that it is 99% of the time better to let the coach do the coaching. The parents are there to support their kids not to coach them. It creates all kinds of psychological problems and blocks when it comes to swimming. I know many parentes who try to coach their kid and tell them things to do that contradict the coach. Little do they know, is that the coach don’t tell their kids to do somethings for specific reasons. I teach swim lessons now and I have a first hand experience in seeing what bad advice from the parents can to do a kids stroke. Yes, some kids don’t develop their stroke to a parents satisfaction, but in those circumstances I would say to find a new team or a new coach that will work with your kid the way they need to be worked with.

Neukay
2 years 2 months ago

Well said 🙂 I have at times cringed when I see a parent-coach or an ex-coach approach one of my swimmers at a meet to tell them what they “should do”. It is interesting that this advice is never given to the swimmer when I am close by. I spend hours with the swimmers analyzing strokes and gauging their mental “game”. At times what they need to do isn’t the “obvious” as seen by a parent from the stands or by his coach from 2 years ago. An athlete, especially a teen student-athlete, has week-by-week social and emotional changes that affect their in-water performance. It’s not always just the stroke or timing…

lilymom98
1 year 7 months ago

The first thing i was told when my daughter started swimming almost 8 years ago was that she’s mine when she’s dry and the coach’s when she’s wet. Best advise I’ve ever gotten!

Anonymous
2 years 3 months ago

I sat next to a #5 for a full 9 hours last Saturday!! Not only shrieking for her own kid but her kids entire team. Sometimes 3 of them in the same race!!

Coach
2 years 3 months ago

You forgot “The Spreadsheeter,” which is often a derivative of The Stopwatcher. I was advised the other day by one of these that he/she keeps times of other kids on their spreadsheet as a comparison.

Oh, and how about The Videographer. This is the parent that tells you they should be allowed on deck because they are filming their kid for video analysis at home later.

ChestRockwell
2 years 3 months ago

Yeah man, that iPad you are holding up is surely to give excellent angles on what you need to see from 40 feet + 3 lanes distance.

SwimBob
2 years 3 months ago

There is the TigerMom on a rival team that we see at dual meets, league and state every year, a combo of 1, 5, 6, 7, and 8, she only wants perfection. And if she doesn’t get it, there is hell to pay. Sadly, it’s her kids that pay. We’ve seen it for years now, berating her kids after a swim, often leaving them in tears. She has a ten foot cloud around her that nobody wants to wade into. Don’t worry, it’s not just swimming, said behavior apparently is just as common in soccer, music, everything she signs her kids up for. Never have seen their dad show up for a meet, must not be allowed to go.

liquidassets
1 year 7 months ago

…Or he’s too embarrassed by her to show up! And it can go the other way too with TigerDad on deck and mom hiding at home… 😉

love2swim
2 years 3 months ago

The FastClique parent: This parent is sure to position him/herself with the clique of fast parents. Their kid may be fast so “in” automatically or may be “medium” so they have to strategize and schmooze FastClique parents. Parents of “slow” swimmers will not fit in, no matter how glowing their personality. The FastClique parent holds breath during swims and prays their kid will hang on to his/her successes so they can continue to be accepted by this group. This parent cannot imagine life not as a SwimMom/Dad and lives for weekend meets.

NewSwimParent
6 months 18 days ago

Bahaha! You nailed this!

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About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 he was thrown in the water at the local pool for swim lessons and since then has never wanted to get out.A nationally top ranked age grouper as both a …

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