Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham
Dear Swim Mom,
I need your help. My mom and dad used to come to all my practices and sit and watch in the stands. They can’t now because of the new rules because of COVID-19. I was one of the only kids to have their parents there every single day. They feel like they are helping out by volunteering and bringing Starbucks to the coach, but I feel like they are taking over my team. Then at meets, they yell for me so loudly it’s embarrassing. I don’t want to hurt their feelings, but how can I get them to stop?
Dear Embarrassed Swimmer,
First, thank you for reaching out to me. I’m sure your letter may make other parents realize that that their actions may embarrass their kids, too. As a parent who loved to help out at meets and volunteer for our team, I thought I was helping the team survive and didn’t bother to think if my actions affected my kids.
We need to be reminded that swimming is our children’s sport. Although we want to be supportive and involved, there should be a limit to our involvement if we are negatively impacting our kids. My kids never told me that I embarrassed them until after they left age group swimming. I wish they would have spoken up, but I’m sure they felt like you and didn’t want to hurt my feelings.
As for cheering at meets, I’m sure your mom and dad are excited and love to watch you swim. Parents in the stands can go a little crazy. When or if you swim in college, you’ll find they can be even more enthusiastic complete with signs, silly props and outfits. If you truly find them so annoying that it hurts your performance or stresses you out, the best thing to do is let them know. They want what is best for you and will most likely follow your lead or advice. To stick with swimming, it has to be fun for you. Parents do not want to be the reason for you to not enjoy it.
If you don’t believe you can talk to your parents, maybe you can talk to your coach. Your coach most likely would be supportive of your position and may have ideas. For example, your coach may want other parents to take over some of your parents’ volunteer jobs and spread the volunteer hours around.
I hope I was helpful and thank you again for your letter. It’s eye-opening for me as a former age group parent.
What advice do you have for Embarrassed Swimmer?
If you have a question for Ask Swim Mom, please email Elizabeth Wickham at [email protected].
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.