Ask Swim Mom: What Do I Say When My Child Misses Their Cut?

Dear Swim Mom,

I need some advice on how to handle a certain situation.

My daughter is now nine. She needs to hit a qualifying time to be in our big meet coming up. She missed it this weekend by a few tenths of a second in several events.

She’s really put on brave face, but it does sting her a bit to be the only one in her group of friends that hasn’t qualified, yet.

She’s a little discouraged at the moment. She’s a hard worker and never misses practice. Her coach said she always gives 110%. But now she’s down in the dumps that her hard work didn’t translate to a qualifying time.

Just wanted to know what’s the best thing to tell her and pep her up.

Thanks for any advice,

Agonizing Age Group Mom


Dear Agonizing Age Group Mom,

Thanks for your question. I feel for your daughter and you! We experienced something similar when my daughter was nine. The girls in her age group were competing to be on the relay for our So Cal Junior Olympics meet, which was their biggest meet of the season. The four with the fastest 50 free times at the “last ditch” meet would be selected. The entire season our daughter was first or second fastest and at that one meet she was fifth! She was crying in the warm down lanes until everyone left the meet. My dad had gone to the meet with us and he chastised me for putting her in such a competitive sport and pressurized situation. I don’t know if my personal story helps you, but I definitely relate to what you’re going through.

I found through the years that when my kids tried too hard, they would miss their cuts by fractions of seconds. One of our favorite coaches told me that our kids had to be having fun to swim fast. He said that when they tried too hard, or thought too much, they tightened up and didn’t swim as well as when they were happy and having fun.

Make sure your daughter is having fun and isn’t too focused on times. At nine years old, they need to have fun to stick with it. Sometimes missing a goal can be fuel to try harder the next time. Reassure her that there are many more big meets in her future and that if she keeps working hard, she will see results.

If she doesn’t make it to the big meet you can treat her to a fun activity that day, or even go to the meet and cheer on her teammates. Also, be sure to tell her from time to time that you love to watch her swim.

Good luck!

What advice do you have for Agonizing Age Group Mom?

If you have a question for “Ask Swim Mom,” please email Elizabeth Wickham at [email protected] and your question may be in an upcoming article.

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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James Ash
2 years ago

Fantastic advice. Going to the meet to cheer the relay team on she didn’t make is huge! It just might make the difference for them getting any medal at all or a meet record. And they will never forget her for it.

JOSEPH / coley
2 years ago

Tell them you didn’t make the cut because you didn’t train hard enough! please stay off the video games
do other sports and stay athletic. the cuts are for average swimmers not above average swimmers

Reply to  JOSEPH / coley
2 years ago


Joseph Condorelli
Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

Braden that’s not nice lol

2 years ago

The mom needs to show some initiative and taper her daughter on her own by holding her out of a few practices. All the parents do it

Reply to  Taa
2 years ago

27 people didn’t get your humor..

2 years ago

I am 11 and I do competitive swimming. I missed the cut by a fraction of a second and was really disappointed. I just used the disappointment as motivation do go 100% at the next meet. There’s always next time!

Joseph Condorelli
Reply to  Ansel
2 years ago

Right on buddy you will beat everyone one day!!!!!!!

2 years ago

I remember when my daughter first really started paying attention to qualifying times. At first she was all about just getting personal bests, but when she started actually using qualifying times as her goal times, her approach changed. She missed a few by fractions of a second, and then she began to realize how every little thing counts. The start, the breakout, each wall and underwater, not taking that breath on your first stroke after the wall, not breathing the last few strokes into the finish, and not taking extra unnecessary strokes at the finish. She started watching other swimmers critically–as a coach would–instead of just cheering them on, and just personally noted what they could do to go faster… Read more »

joe bagodonuts
Reply to  BGNole97
2 years ago

Yes! This is an excellent response. Try to figure out what else you could have done to achieve your goal and what others who have met the cut time do differently, then try those things in your swims. Attention to the detail, especially when learned early (obviously, within reason – before anyone chastises), can help establish a mindset for setting goals and managing when you come up short. Not being defeated by the disappointment is proper mindset – within sports and outside of them, as well.

2 years ago

In age group swimming, and even more so 12 and under swimming (pre-teen aka child), qualifying times are benchmarks, not goals. As a coach who has taken athletes to some of the best competitions in the world it sickens me to see parents focus on “making the time” as a measure of determining “how good” their child is as a swimmer. It’s worse when I see so many coaches doing the same.

There are SO many things a developmental athlete must control when racing (developmental = anything under nationals finalist). So many things of far greater value to use as a goal. Focusing on a time is just ludicrous. That time is called a result for a reason: it is… Read more »

Reply to  KinSwim
2 years ago

Well said.

joe bagodonuts
Reply to  KinSwim
2 years ago

I disagree that focusing on a time is “ludicrous.” Making the achievement of that time become the be-all, end-all of your perception of yourself as a swimmer IS ludicrous. You can test your improvement against that time as a measuring stick of your progress – even if you come up short. Your time, in swimming, is the goal. Improving your time, even if you don’t achieve the desired time, is how you measure success – your training and hard work has paid off and you are faster in that particular event. You wouldn’t tell a baseball player that batting average or fielding percentages are useless measures – but those measures, like whether or not you achieved a critical cut time… Read more »

Reply to  KinSwim
2 years ago

I really like the way you said all of this. My daughter will be 9 soon. The coach has her set goals each meet. (the coach is very experienced.) They are not “Q times” they are just her own personal goals. If she doesn’t make them, it is never a big deal, it is just something for her to look forward to beating her own best time. No one else’s. When she gets out of the water, and we know she has tried hard, (because she always does) we tell her how awesome she did, and how much we love to watch her swim. Do you think this type of goal setting is ok? (She is such an amazing little… Read more »

Reply to  sieshell
2 years ago

As far as setting time goals for each meet, if they are going to do this, they should at least be aware of any potential qualifying times. At one point, my daughter just started picking arbitrary goal times that seemed within range. But then I pointed out to her that going a tenth faster would qualify her for an end of season invitational meet. If she had achieved her initial “goal time” only to find out how close she was to the invitational, she probably would have said, “Why didn’t anyone tell me I was so close?!” Once our kids started getting to the point where their times were close to qualifying for invitationals, they stared using those as goal… Read more »

2 years ago

Here are my advices to Swim Parents after 8 years off age group swimming parenting:

1. Do not let them overtrain. No reason 12&U should be swimming more than 4-5 times a week max. 8&U no more than 3 times per week max. I used to take our kids out of swim club most of long course seasons and had them into Summer League. They had blast and they did not miss anything. None of our kids ever had any injury. They still swim Summer League every year and miss long course practices. We never change our family plans or vacations because of swimming practices or meets. There are always more meets.
2. Keep talking about paying attention to… Read more »

2 years ago

the real question is or should be did she got a best time ! If yes that’s all you can ask for her !