Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham
Dear Swim Mom,
My 12-and-a-half-year-old daughter is experiencing swim burnout. She said she is finishing out this season, but doesn’t think she wants to swim next year. I asked why and she said that it’s too repetitive and boring.
I let her know that it was a rough year, etc. Things were very different (as she knows because she’s been swimming a few years) and I think she should give it a few weeks into the new season. We agreed to register to hold her spot to give her the option of returning. I let her know that the decision was hers, either way, but I would hate for her to give up on something she enjoys just because she’s burned out.
My daughter has always known that there is no way she could disappoint us by leaving or trying anything she wanted to try. We have always reminded her of that and this time is no different. She is doing archery in addition to swim and enjoys that as well.
How can I help her determine if swimming is really over for her or not?
Thanks for any advice. I’d like to know if other parents are going through this because of the past year, too.
—Mom of Burned Out Swimmer
Dear Mom of Burned Out Swimmer,
Last year was tough for everyone! I’ve read many articles of how kids under 18 were especially hit hard due to lack of sports, activities and in-person school. The isolation due to COVID-19 led to skyrocketing numbers of our kids suffering from depression and anxiety. Keep in mind that a majority of kids (and adults) lost motivation for many activities, if they were able to do them at all.
I’m impressed your daughter knows she won’t disappoint you if she decides to quit swimming. I wasn’t so lucky with my son. We were so invested in being a swim family that he kept telling us he didn’t want to quit swimming — when his interests were in other areas. I’d sign him up for meets, pay monthly dues and he continually missed practice and meets. It’s so obvious looking back that he was done with swimming, but didn’t want to let us down.
I agree with you that your daughter should have the freedom to choose whether or not she wants to swim. Only she knows if she is done or not. We cannot make our kids swim, nor can we motivate them. Motivation is intrinsic and swimming is not for everyone. I talked to a swim coach who said it was hard for him to face that his son didn’t like swimming. He’d get frustrated when his son was goofing off and not paying attention during practice. Then his son tried rowing and he was focused and motivated. The coach realized that his son had to follow his own passion.
Swimming has to be fun for kids to stick with it. This past year has not been fun. Is your team able to get together now outside of practice? Our kids spent summer days between morning and afternoon practices hanging out with teammates and it made the tough practices better. Also, our team families would take turns hosting dinners and movie nights. I believe that hanging out with friends — as well as experiencing success — helps swimmers stick with the sport.
If your daughter chooses to quit, you may feel like you’re losing friendships with families you see at the pool. My friendships remain today with several swim parents after our age group days ended. True friendships last. If you want to stay involved with the team, you could volunteer or swim Masters.
What suggestions do you have for “Mom of Burned Out 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.