Are You a Supportive or Overly-Involved Swim Parent?

by SwimSwam 30

June 12th, 2018 Club, Lifestyle, Opinion, Swim Mom

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

There is a fine line we parents walk on the pool deck. We want to be supportive of our kids who love swimming and pursue the sport. But, where do we cross the line from being supportive, to being “overly involved?” Look around at a swim meet and see if you can spot “those” parents. Then, take a look in the mirror and check to see what kind of swim parent you are.

Here are seven “Dos and Don’ts” to test yourself to see if you’re a supportive parent, or an overly involved one:


  1. Cheer for your child and other swimmers, too.
  2. Talk to parents from other teams.
  3. Say thank you to officials after a meet.
  4. Accept your timing assignment with a smile.
  5. Ask your swimmer after a race, “How did that feel?”
  6. Get your swimmer to practice consistently.
  7. Meet with your swimmer’s coach if you have any concerns.


  1. Only cheer for your own swimmer.
  2. Give other teams or certain swimmers the evil eye.
  3. Argue with the official after your swimmer gets DQ’d.
  4. Refuse to time, because you have more important things to do.
  5. Wait at the blocks for your swimmer to finish his race, so you can give your critique before he talks to the coach.
  6. Get your swimmer to the pool AND record their practices so you can review them later at home.
  7. Tell everyone on deck how your kid’s coach isn’t paying enough attention to your swimmer.

What type of swim parent are you? What other tips do you have for parents to be supportive—rather than overly involved?

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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Swim Mom
6 years ago

I would add the following:
1. Don’t run around with a clipboard and laminated charts of time standards and your child’s best times. It makes you look obsessive.
2. Don’t expect your child to swim best times at “regular, in-season meets”. That’s not realistic, especially as they get older. Your child can tell if you are disappointed.
3. Don’t sit and watch practice every day and critique the coach to other parents or to your child.
4. Don’t sit around and brag on your child’s accomplishments OR sit and complain during meets. People won’t want to sit with you. Swim meets are long, and it’s much more fun to sit with a pleasant parent who is interesting and fun.

6 years ago

I have to learn DO’s #2 and #3…

I need to understand how other parents can be so happy of their swimmer’s race and here you are with your swimmer who just had a bad race. I need to understand that my child is working hard and her time will come to shine with hard work, dedication and trust in our coach.
Thank you for a great article.

Reply to  SwimMom
3 years ago

You raise a good point – just because other parents are being/acting a certain way doesn’t mean it’ll be good for you to do so!

Reply to  SwimMom
3 years ago

Over the many years of watching meets I’ve learned so much. I think it’s best not to have much of a reaction at all. You wouldn’t be “sad” or “mad” or ecstatic after your child’s Piano lesson so why react so much to a sport? It’s your child’s extracurricular activity. Not their job to please you. It’s really made me sad over the years to see so many parents show major disappointment after their kids’ Races. Really upsets me. They’re kids. If they have big goals, support them. But most kids just want to have fun so let them. They’ll still gain a lot of positives from the sport. Find your child’s unique talent and praise them for THAT not… Read more »

6 years ago

I really could of used this weekend!

swim parent
6 years ago

I’ve witnessed occasions where an upset parent HIT an official because the child got DQ’d, when a parent has called an official derogatory names, and yet other times when parents have bad-mouthed the coach the entire swim meet because the parents were upset about the coaching their kids did/did not receive. I hope that those parents see this article because they need to get their heads on straight.

Reply to  swim parent
6 years ago

It isn’t just at swim meets that we have to listen to that parent complain all day……being a board member, I get my share of complaints about coaching or about how they feel their child isn’t getting enough attention. We are here for the kids and to support them in what they love doing whether they are a star or not.

Anne Lane
6 years ago

My kids were not on swim teams, but they were both athletes and they competed in club team sports. Some parents identify their strengths through their children’s successes. Unfortunately, this creates an unrealistic expectation of the athlete and others involved. Kids learn how to behave at meets from their first teachers, the parents. I think we forget they are learning the sport, the rules of the sport and how to be a good sport. Great article, it really hit home.

Anne Grieshop
6 years ago

DO: Give your kiddo a huge hug after their event (regardless of the time or placing) and tell them you’re thrilled that you got to see them race.

Reply to  Anne Grieshop
3 years ago

Amen to that. And you may not realize it now if you have a young age group swimmer but before you know it they are graduated from college and that last swim meet is in the rear view mirror!

6 years ago

Always tell ur child how amazing they r . On good days & bad days. Build them up. As a grandmother raising 2 grandchildren. One of mine swims .I myself was on a swim team in high school . & 2 out of my own 4 kids was also on a swim team Also. & 6 out of 14 grand children r on a swim team . SO Swimming is a family thing. So go out there & have fun. Even on the bad days ! Remember to Live & laugh & always share the love !

6 years ago

DO educate yourself about swimming. Talk to college swimmers or parents who did club and college swimming so you understand the ups/downs/plateaus of swimming.

DO NOT expect your child to swim a best time every race. NO swimmer does that, repeat NO ONE, not even the very top swimmers.

DO NOT helicopter around practice disguised by bringing coffee to coaches or brownies for the swimmers. (DO involve others by collecting a group fund and allowing all to contribute, make it from THE GROUP not just from you in order to get better treatment for your swimmer. Everyone knows what you’re up to).

DO tell your child, “I love to see you swim!”