Ask Swim Mom: What About Burnout?

by SwimSwam Contributors 4

May 25th, 2021 Swim Mom

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.

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Masters Swammer
2 years ago

I think kids should have the opportunity to try multiple sports and other activities (music, art, scouting, church youth group, etc.) to decide what they like. Swimming is relatively unique (along with a few other sports like gymnastics) in that many kids start swimming year-round at a young age.

I started swimming year-round when I was 10. By the time I was 12, I was swimming 6 days per week, so it would have left a big hole in my life if I’d decided to give it up. This was very different from my cousin, who was my age, and was playing volleyball in the fall, singing in a choir, participating in dance competitions in the spring, playing softball… Read more »

2 years ago

Is the child in question on a year round club team? Summer league can be a very nice way to switch it up, different teammates, pool and coach. Same with High School in a few short years.

2 years ago

12 years old is pretty young to quit but you can’t make somebody participate in a sport like swimming.From 12 on the number of practices etc. will just increase, your athlete has to be fully invested.I would just try to make sure it wasn’t,t related to bullying or some other issue.Ask her to think about getting into a different activity to replace at least partially the fitness aspect.She might quit and then change her mind,I,ve seen that more than once.Also ask her how she feels about the coach, it would be good to know if the relationship is good.

2 years ago

Very good advice, and I would probably add to have a conversation with the coach. Perhaps practices are boring and repetitive because they have to social distance in their lanes, or on the pool deck. Maybe the coach is doing something a little different this year and it’s just not working. When my daughter was younger, our team would burn through assistant coaches at her age level every short course and long course season, so maybe that could be the cause. I think I would just dig a little deeper into what she does and does not like and see if you can get to the root of it. Maybe she’s enjoying something else more, or her friends are no… Read more »