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.