9 Ways to Push Your Swimmer to Swim Faster Times (For Better or Worse)

by Jeff Sullivan 13

January 23rd, 2015 News, Training

About the Author: The Splashfather (a.k.a Jeff Sullivan) is a real life Swim Dad, Publicity Director for his Club Team, and President of his neighborhood summer swim team.  He has generated a monster love for the sport of swimming and has started the Splashfather Chronicles as a place for swim families to laugh and learn more about the Fellowship of the Chlorinated.

We are well into Short Course Season, ladies and gentlemen, and hopefully things are going ‘swimmingly’ for your athletes. They’ve all been working hard under the watchful eye of coach, and are ready to go. Many of them have most likely swum in a few meets so far this season, and are quickly approaching spring Regional and State qualifying meets. They’ve probably improved leaps and bounds from the beginning of the season, but how do you help them swim their fastest and forge to even faster swim times, perhaps even championship qualifying times? Here are nine tips on how to help your swimmer get even faster!

1. Performance Enhancement: have you ever noticed that your child has distinctly more energy when you’ve just let them have a sugary soda? Now imagine the possibilities if you hand them a Red Bull or a Monster Energy Drink. Picture your child moving at 2-3 times the speed of sound with a wild look in their eyes reminiscent of Hammy the Squirrel from Over the Hedge in the memorable De-Pelter Turbo 2000 (outlawed in every state but Texas) scene.

Warning: it may take several hours for your child to stop bouncing off the walls following the use of this technique.

2. Fear Factor: you know when you watch a horror movie involving a shark or other sea creature about to catch and devour a hapless victim trying desperately to reach a boat or other safe haven to escape certain doom? I don’t know about you, but I always say to myself, “I think I could swim faster than that if I was being chased by that two headed killer dolphin!” Then the light bulb comes on. Fear is the mindcontroller. For example, which technique do you believe would get your 7 year old to swim faster: telling them you’ll be so proud of them no matter how fast they swim, or turning to the swim parent next to you and saying, “Should we tell her about the sharks they release halfway through the race if you aren’t swimming fast enough? Probably not….” just within earshot. That flutter kick just got a little more intense with the image firmly planted in their head of Jaws bearing down on them from behind.

This specific technique will most likely not work on an older swimmer. In this case, you have to get a little more crafty. For an image obsessed teen, perhaps you may want to volunteer that there that the chemicals in this specific pool are known to make your eyebrows fall out if you are in the water longer than (insert desired best time here). Or perhaps you casually mention that there is an old legend that if you are wearing a (insert color of child’s bathing suit here) colored suit and you don’t win your heat, the ghost of an old Indian Chief whose Burial mound lies under the land the Aquatic center was built on will fog up your goggles in each of the rest of your races (this one may actually be true, I heard it at a campfire once). For the even more skeptical, just state,”I just saw the kid who will be in the lane next to you, and he looks like he has that Enterovirus or something, I wouldn’t be near them any longer than you have to.”

Warning: use of this technique may result in them not wanting to swim the heat at all…or swim ever again for that matter.

3. Rivalry: If your swimmer has a particular arch rival, playing on their extreme desire to grind them into the proverbial dirt can be a powerful motivator. You know the one I’m talking about, the swimmer who kicks yours in the face when they try to pass, puts an arm bar out to give yours a chop on their way by out of the flip turn, or maybe just looked at the girl he likes a little too long. Totally uncool. So use that swimmer to charge yours up. “Hey, I heard Trudy Muffinpants is swimming in this meet. But I think she is disguised as the swimmer right next to you in every heat you are swimming today. Just thought I’d throw that out there.” Yeah, that should do the trick.

Warning: Don’t be surprised if a fight ensues at the end of the race between your swimmer and the one they think is Trudy Muffinpants. (Apologies to anyone whose child is actually named Trudy Muffinpants, I’m sure she is a darling girl.)

4. Bribery: Greed. Potentially the most powerful human motivator. When heat winner rubber ducks just aren’t cutting it, it’s time to play on this most basic human emotion. You have the ability to give your swimmer something they want IF they reach that milestone today. Could be a slice of pizza for some, maybe a new game at Gamestop for others. I could go the route of Starbucks Java Chip Frappuccinos with my daughter, because it’s not like I won’t buy them anyways. You can get as aggressive with this as you want. Say your swimmer is nearing 16 and the topic of getting a new car has come up. Maybe you promise a used Dodge Dart for a BB time, a slighter better car for an A time, all the way up to a loaded Ferrari for a AAAA time (after all, you’ll make the car cost back in the tuition you’ll save from their swimming scholarship).

5. Blackmail: The digital age is amazing isn’t it? I mean, the amount of ways to communicate at the click of a button now is truly astonishing. With a simple phone pic of your teen doing something they would take an immeasurable social hit for, or an old photo when they looked, well, less cool, combined with the threat to post said photo to Twitterbookagram if certain standards are not met in the upcoming race, you can create a climate of absolute desperation to get a best time.

Warning: Don’t be surpised to find your entire phone wiped to factory default settings the next morning, or cracked into a million pieces under the tire of your teen’s car.

6. Existentialism: Ok, so many of the above tactics may seem a bit over the top or downright harsh. So here is one I am sure everyone can get behind. The existential approach goes something like this: “Listen closely, Paduoan Learner/(Child’s name)-san, you must become one with the lane, one with the water, one with the starting block. For if you learn to become one with the pool, it will be as if the timer pad is just right before you waiting to be touched. You must Do or Do Not, there is no Try. ”  This approach is best delivered in the voice of Master Yoda….or maybe Mr. Miyagi.

7. Psuedo-Celebrity Boost: Many kids are motivated by pep talks from their coach. Fewer are motivated by pep talks from their parents. But almost every kid would be charged up by a pep talk from Ryan Lochte or Missy Franklin!! So just before their race put them on the phone, and have ‘Ryan’ or ‘Missy’ tell your swimmer that they know they can get a best time today. We’ll keep it our little secret that that was actually Uncle Bobby/Cousin Annabelle on the line instead.

Warning: Make sure your celebrity stand-in actually sounds remotely like Ryan Lochte or Missy Franklin. Your 80 year old Great Uncle/Great Aunt may not be able to pull that off, even with a 6 year old.

8. The Urge to Purge: I don’t know about you, but when I need to..a-hem…use the little boys room, I find that if I have something I need to finish before I can go, it ends up being finished at a much faster clip. The same concept can apply to your child’s swim. Just pump them full of fluids, and then flatly refuse to let them go to the bathroom until after their race. Or if you really want to go out on the edge, slip them a few Ex-lax brownies with breakfast. You’ve never seen someone swim so fast as when they feel they might shut the pool down with an accident. True story, we had a 4 year old girl on our swim team. She had swum the backstroke maybe 3 times so far, but in this meet she blazed a simply mind-blowing time, which would have beat all but a handful of 6&Under Back swims in our league that week. When she jumped out of the pool and her Dad rushed over to praise her performance and asked her how she did it, she said, “I have to go poopie and I didn’t want to go poopie in the pool.” Point proven.

Warning: As there is a high likelihood your swimmer will relieve themselves of #1 whilst swimming, it would be wise not to share this tactic with anyone else at the meet.

9. Threats: When all else fails, you could resort to the good old fashioned punishment paradigm. Best time, all is well. Not best time, we are going to spend Thanksgiving this year at Aunt Mabel’s, the one who always wants to give your child tons of kisses with her bristly mustache. If your child is young, perhaps the closet stays open all night after bedtime. Or you could just promise to actually accompany him and his friends to the movies, so you can be one of the guys. Absolutely mortifying. The look of horror could very well turn into faster swim times gold!

Warning: You’ve just guaranteed you will never see your grandchildren swim in a swim meet. Ever.

Just so I don’t get a mountain of emails and comments for those not capable of seeing through the sarcasm, the Splashfather would never suggest you do any of these things. Instead, do the one thing that will make an enormous impact on your child, whether or not the time they swim that meet is their best time or not. Give them a hug, tell them they did a great job, and that you can’t wait to see them swim again…..oh, yeah, and then buy them a Java Chip Frappuccino.


The Splashfather.

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Why post this? I get that there is a disclaimer at the end… but this isn’t helping anyone or anything.

It will do more damage than good. Booooo!


I’m with Hulkswim. I’m often impressed with the quality of articles on Swimswam, not this time. I get that this was supposed to be tongue in cheek humor but it wasn’t really even funny. There are too many parents that actually DO this sort of thing and it’s quite sad.

Laugh a little

The entire article is one huge satire piece as is evidenced at the bottom….if you read that and you are one of those people, it is probably going to dissuade you from doing it rather than encourage you, everyone of those points is presented so over the top, I’m not sure how many people could be sitting there saying, “Good Idea!!”

I’m just not sure joking about performance enhancing and other poor behaviors is a good idea.

Laugh a Little

That’s what satire is. I’m just not sure you are grasping that concept.

Anonymous Swim Parent

As a 15 year (and still counting) veteran swim parent, I have seen and experienced most everything with our swim children and their swim friends at various levels of meets. I’m chuckling at every one of your “pointers”, and, sadly, have actually ashamedly done a few of these bad swim parent moves myself (although the giant seagull landing in my young daughter’s lane in the middle of her 500 free race to “motivate” her was not my clever planning). I can look back and laugh now, even though I know it was not ideal to push/motivate my swimmers in the said way(s). One of our kids was highly motivated by money, so we drew up a long term swim goal… Read more »


I appreciate your honesty! I’m a “young” swim dad with a daughter that quickly showed talent and elite potential. I struggle to reel in my desire to help/push/bribe/threaten, and I’ve done a really good job and keeping everything balanced so far, but reading your comment truly helps. It’s hard. There should be a sports-parents support group. 🙂

Our blog is swim parent centric, and even moreso newer swim parent centric. Not all of our blog posts are as satirical as this, we have plenty that are educational, what we call ‘Swim Parent 101’, but always delivered with a touch (if not a fistful) of humor. Please come by sometime… http://swim-Splashfather.maanspace.com .

The Splashfather