8 Tips for Swim Parents About Team Hopping

by SwimSwam 38

December 19th, 2016 Club, Lifestyle, Opinion

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

Your swimmer isn’t getting faster. The coach doesn’t give your child enough attention. Your son was overlooked for the relay team. The coach yells at the swimmers. Your swimmer complains every day that she doesn’t want to go to practice. There’s a program close-by that’s getting lots of attention for success. There are many different reasons families switch teams.

Before you jump from one team to another, here are a few things to consider:

1. Follow team protocol.

If you have a complaint or concern, go through your team’s procedures. Usually, it’s having your swimmer talk to their coach. If that’s not an option, parents could meet with the coach. If your issue isn’t resolved, then the head coach may be called in, or an administrator or board member. But, don’t leave without giving your team a chance. A coach with a 45-year career told me he’s shocked at how little team loyalty there is today.

2. Weigh the pro and cons.

Make a list of what is positive about your team as well as what you don’t like. Remember, coaches on your team know your swimmer better than a new coach. You may give up continuity in your swimmer’s training. Your swimmer probably has bonded with training partners, and has friendships with teammates that have developed over the years. Is jumping into a new pool going to be better for your swimmer rather than working through issues?

3, Time management and financial costs.

Sometimes families don’t realize the toll of driving an extra 30 or 45 minutes each way for a new team. A switch may add homework pressure, a different practice schedule or no time for family meals. With the cost of gas and the value of our time, will your swimmer feel responsible for the extra burden on your family? If your swimmer doesn’t improve, are you going to be unhappy with their performance? Is that too much pressure to put on your swimmer?

4. Will other teams want you?

All parents want what is best for our kids. We will make sacrifices financially and time-wise in a heartbeat. But, if you hop from team to team, what does that say to a new team about your family? A coach told me he turned away one swimmer because it would have been his 8th team at age 14! Coaches often talk to each other and discuss reasons for switching teams and a family’s history.

5. The people you leave behind.

When a family leaves a team, it affects your kid’s teammates and their families. I’ll never forget when we had two teams at the same pool. One of my son’s best friends showed up on the opposite side of the pool—without ever telling the coach, my son or other friends. It was hard. If you do decide to switch teams, be sure to tell your coach first. Plus, pay any money you owe to the team you’re leaving. Understand that you’ll be causing hurt feelings for a lot of your kid’s friends and families.

6. Do your homework.

You may have heard great things about a team. Before you make a move, talk to former swimmers from that team, or current parents, without letting them know you’re considering a move. You may hear similar complaints on the new team, or problems with security of pool time, coach stability, etc. Is leaving for a coach a good enough reason? Coaches do move, retire or switch careers.

7. Learning life lessons.

Life isn’t perfect. At least not all the time. I’ve found when we’ve had an issue—time is our friend. Things blow over, our emotions settle down. Kids learn from both good and bad experiences. Of course, you don’t stay if your swimmer is being harmed psychologically or physically. But, there’s something to be said for learning how to deal with all sorts of people. Your swimmer isn’t going to have teachers or bosses they agree with all the time. If you make team hopping a pattern, you may be setting up your swimmer to run away from problems—rather than face them.

8. Who is the move for?

Is your swimmer the one who has asked to switch teams? Or, is the move driven by your own dissatisfaction? Are you making a decision on behalf of your child without their input? It’s tough to come back if you find you’ve made the wrong decision.

There are some instances when a move to another team is a good choice. Step back. Take your time and make sure this is what your child really wants to do and is in their best interest.

Special thanks to Jeff Conwell, CEO/Head Coach, Piranha Swim Team, for his help on this article.

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

Thank you for a very well-written and insightful article.

6 years ago

#8… Couldn’t agree more!
Great article Elizabeth, very well written . Thank you.

6 years ago

Team hoppers are the worst. Great article !

Surf lover
6 years ago

Swimmers change teams for many reasons. 1. Team Drama, 2. Coaching changes., 3. Swimmer out grew their coach. 4. Coaches are more interested in padding their swimmer count then actually focusing on being highly competitive. 5. Bad Pool. 6. Swimmer not improving even though giving 100% effort every day . 7. Change is good , fresh start with new coaches . 8. Coaches give punish sets that can injured their swimmers.

Don’t see anything wrong with team hopping for the right reasons . May take a few times to find the right fit.

Reply to  Surf lover
6 years ago

I agree with surf lover – there are as many reasons as there are swimmers to change teams. Why does it have to be set in stone and what if you realize after a while that it just isn’t worth staying with what isn’t working. Change is good if it is done for the right reasons. Hating on people who decide to make a change is wasted effort. Focus on how you can contribute and make it a good experience for the kids, parents and coaches and realize one team sometimes doesn’t fit all. Sometimes the team dynamic changes from an influx of other team hoppers and that is not the team you once enjoyed. Hey, stuff happens and it… Read more »

Tim H
6 years ago

Thanks for sharing seen many of your articles a lot of good points always.
Communication and patience as each swimmer develops a different rates. A few times I haven’t taken a swimmer because they expect the magic to be in the coach when it’s really in the swimmer and the family support.
thanks and continue the good work

Elizabeth Wickham
Reply to  Tim H
6 years ago

Thanks, Tim H for your positive comments. I appreciate your support!

Anne Lane
6 years ago

#7 tough experiences build character and it’s a learning experience for the kids and many times soul searching for the adult. Great article.

6 years ago

I have seen coaches job hop from team to team searching for the next great opportunity or the chance to align themselves with others that may further they’re coaching careers. Hence, we should be careful when judging swimmers who do so.

6 years ago

Good points to be looked at before making decision. But more often than not nothing gets better for the swimmer. The problem is they bring the baggage with them. After some years experience never got excited of some one coming in from another club. Many times said now I know why the other coach wasn’t upset when I told them you were coming over. For every change that works many do not. Now it is s little different in the older and new “Pro Level” we have. I am referring to mostly age groupers.