Ask Swim Mom: Should I Help My Child Set Goals?

by SwimSwam Contributors 0

October 02nd, 2019 Lifestyle, Swim Mom

Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham 

Dear Swim Mom,

My child doesn’t seem that interested in setting goals for swimming. She’s 12 years old and I think she could learn so much by having reachable goals, rather than just going to meets and practice without goals in mind. Is it being too overbearing to sit down with her and help her form her goals? Or, should she talk with her coach about goal setting? It seems like having goals a little faster than she is now, or at the next level like from A to AA times would really help her. How do I bring it up? I’ve always found having short-time achievable goals are great stepping stones to reaching long-term goals.

If you have any ideas or advice, I’d appreciate it. Thank you in advance for your help.

—Goal Setter


Dear Goal Setter,

It can be frustrating for us if we are into goal setting and our kids don’t care about goals. The best advice I’ve heard about this was from David Benzel of Growing Champions for Life in a recent webinar. He said kids will have different approaches to goal setting. Some are really into it while others not so much. For example, my youngest child would write her swim goals on 3×5 cards and tape them to the bathroom mirror. My oldest had academic goals, but he mostly kept them to himself.

Benzel suggested asking “How good do you want to be at swimming?” By asking that question you’re opening a conversation about goals.

If kids like to set goals, they know how satisfying it is to reach them. It’s important that they set their own goals. If we make goals for them, we may set them too high which could be discouraging, or we could set them too low. They also won’t have ownership of them. I remember a swim mom who wrote out times for her child to be on an “Olympic track.” Of course that child didn’t stick with swimming.

As a goal setter yourself, share your story about how setting goals has helped you in various aspects of your life. Have you found that setting goals helped you achieve success in sports or at work? Please don’t finish your story by telling your child what they “should do.” Instead, tell your story and leave it at that.

Some teams start off the season with goal setting. In our experience, it wasn’t until the kids were a little older than 12 and in the senior group when they had to write and turn goals in to their coach. You may want to talk with your child’s coach about goal setting and find out what his or her thoughts are. There may be a plan to incorporate goal setting at a later time.

In swimming, a lot of goals are about getting faster and making certain cuts. But there are other types like learning new skills, attendance and attitude. When kids are young, we don’t want them to focus too much on times. They are growing, improving technique and having fun. If we are too intent on times, it can ruin our children’s joy for swimming.

Do you have any advice for Goal Setter to encourage their child to set goals?

If you have a question for Elizabeth Wickham, please email her 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

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