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 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.
Switch teams if you want to. You are free to make mistakes and also free to choose whose care you place your children in. If it’s a mistake you own it. If it’s not, maybe you’re slightly better off. I don’t understand why these articles keep popping up? It gives the impression none of us are qualified to be parents. I am sure some of us are.
There is something to be said about learning to deal with all sorts of people in the world and then there’s psychological abuse, punish sets and underhanded team drama. Knowing the difference and when to walk away from a toxic experience is important when it’s your kids lives involved and your paying for a service.
My child was on a club team when she was in elementary school. Her elementary school had no swim team. When she went to high school which had a swim team, she couldn’t swim for the school and had to wait because she swam for another club. Why is that when she was transferring from a school that had no swim team?
I have been at this forever. My daughter is a senior headed to a D2 program next year. This is a two way street. Coaches can be really stupid too – focusing only on achieving national cuts or disappearing when things get tough. In reality whether your kid has B times or a line up of AAA this sport is about the experience. This will all end one day. My advice. Pursue Moments. Go where your kid can do this.
Why are we as a adults – parents, coaches, board members and journalists saddling our swimmers with such a negative label? Team hopping implies that little consideration is being given to the matter, but for the majority of swim families that have switched teams nothing could be further from the truth. For many, the decision to switch is one that has been agonized over for months and the transition for the swimmer can be difficult even when they are the one who wanted to switch teams.
Swimming is an expensive and time consuming endeavor for both the swimmer and the family. Too much time is spent in the pool, driving to and from the pool, working and swimming at… Read more »
Or the mom is a neurotic freak who sows discord in all of her personal and professional relationships and swimming is the only place she feels she can exert influence by yanking her kid from one program to the next. Don’t let the door hit ya’…
We are debating having our child leave current club. Been with club for 4 years. It’s a small club. She is 11. She’s only one in club with AAA times. She’s going to championship meets alone because she’s the teams only qualifier. She trains with a group of girls with most BB times. Coaches are good to her and daughter loves the sport. Should we move her to another club to have more swimmers at her level? Worried and want to do what’s best for her. In a very large town with many 3 good options of larger swim clubs to join.
Only you and your swimmer can answer that question. Things to consider: Is she happy with her coach? Is she happy with her swim team? Is she still progressing? Does she mind not having other swimmers from her team with her at certain meets? Will things change when she ages up into an older swim category (will there be more swimmers for her to go to meets with)? Just because we watched it again this weekend during the snow storm I will mention this – in Touch the Wall, Missy Franklin’s parents talk about keeping Missy with her team because she was happy and excelling even though people told them that Missy was ‘the real deal’ and that they should… Read more »
I was in this situation– My parents almost moved me from a team I loved to a big team because I was “too fast” for my small club. My parents expressed this to my coaches and they switched me to training with an older group certain days so I could feel challenged. And thank god they didn’t move me, because puberty hit me like a ton of bricks and had a long plateau just a little over a year later. Other kids caught up as I stayed the same and stopped being fast enough to get the attention I needed at the larger clubs.
I think it only matters if your daughter is unhappy: unhappy with her coaches, unhappy… Read more »
How about – be classy? Don’t bash your old team or encourage others to leave. If people want to know your reasons – they will seek you out. Keep your opinions to yourself. And realize that if there are issues with other swimmers – your kid may not be blameless.
Bad personal experience, LOL? Most people who change teams do not feel the need to ‘bash others’. Many leave just as quietly and they joined. I do have to wonder though – where are the coaches if there is conflict between swimmers? After all, the swimmers are children and do need adult guidance to navigate some social issues.
Follow the protocol….ok, probably right. However, I would be curious what the coaches/swim clubs do with the feedback. Will a coach with xx years of experience really listen to a parent??? I say not. Swim families…I say go with what you feel is right for you.
These are all really good suggestions. After being on a team for 7 years, the last year was really bad. Our swimmer spoke with the coach, and we spoke with the coach together. Getting responses of “those aren’t my decisions, you have to speak to so and so”, we all did just that. Met with the team of coaches and expressed our concerns. They were honest with us and clearly showed us they know very little about our swimmer, and we finished the season, which was our commitment. It was extremely rough, but we knew it would be going into it. So happy we made the move to the new team and are extremely impressed. Bonded well, and the coaches… Read more »