Ask Swim Mom: What If the Coach Has Favorites?

Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham

Dear Swim Mom,

Kids talk a lot among themselves and I’ve overheard my son and teammates say they feel like the coach has a favorite. The kids say the coach doesn’t pay enough attention to them and spends all his time with this one swimmer.

Is there anything I can do to make this situation better for my son and his friends? Your thoughts about this are appreciated.


Not a Fan of Favorites


Dear Not a Fan of Favorites,

There could be more to the story about the coach and swimmer that your child and teammates are not aware of. There could be extenuating circumstances that are private. In any case, if it is truly a problem for your child, you can make an appointment with your coach to talk about it. Or, better yet, if your child feels strongly enough, they can talk to the coach on their own.

I have noticed that kids who show up every day and have great attitudes, sometimes get more attention from coaches than swimmers who show up sporadically. Not that this excuses a coach for having favorites, but you can see how difficult it would be to not focus on kids who are invested in their program.

Other situations I observed where it looked like certain kids were getting more attention than others were due to things we weren’t fully aware of such as a learning disability or other physical limitation.

I’ve heard more than one coach say that they try to treat each kids fairly although it’s nearly impossible to treat everyone the exactly the same. They say that kids have different ways of learning, talent, maturity, ability to follow directions, etc. It’s a coach’s job to figure out what works for each swimmer.

Obvious favoritism can be harmful to the esprit de corps on a team. Through their swim careers, they may have a dozen or so coaches starting in learn to swim programs through college swimming. Each coach will bring different abilities, skills and talents. It’s important that your child is swimming because they love it, not because they are trying to please a coach, or their parents.


Elizabeth Wickham

What advice would you suggest to “Not a Fan of Favorites?”

If you have a question or topic your want addressed, please email Elizabeth 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.

Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
2 years ago

As a coach, I would just say that I think that kids who show up every day and have great attitudes being favorited by the coach is absolutely excusable, and advisable.

Reply to  Coach
2 years ago


2 years ago

Fair is not always equal and equal is not always fair. You want your child to be treated equally as a human being, basic human rights, feelings, emotions, etc. As EW wrote, there are often circumstances you are not aware of.

Many coaches have favorites, but many coaches have many favorites for different reasons within the context of their primary group. I am one of those, here is my anonymous list: Funniest swimmer, hardest worker, most consistently punctual, most detailed, best teammate, most consistent attitude, most willing to make stroke changes, most unafraid to ask questions, that one swimmer smarter than me, most willing to share during team meetings, best taste in music… get the picture?

When it comes to… Read more »

To the top
2 years ago

I don’t agree with everything Jon Leonard writes but this is a good one.

2 years ago

I was accused of favoritism from all angles. My “favorite” athletes (in this case, swimmers; I coached other sports) had an age-appropriate understanding of their ability, and, their level of commitment. I received as much joy from first-time, heat ribbon winners and up-achievers, as Jr-Nat’s qualifiers. As time goes, I miss coaching … Sorry, I miss it … less.

2 years ago

Favoritism is part of life. Athletic teams, teachers, employers etc. Its not going to go away. Just something we all have to deal with.

Ol' Longhorn
2 years ago

Well, the good news is her son will never have to deal with a boss, friend group, etc who plays favorites. Every adult gets a participation trophy!

2 years ago

My coach has said on more than one occasion he has favorites and he would be lying if he said he didn’t. He said his favorites were the ones who showed up had a good attitude and were ready to throw down. And honestly I agree

Reply to  Jimbo
2 years ago

Honestly who wouldn’t favour kids that show up ready to go each day? It’s like teachers preferring students that are in class every day and show they’re interested in what is being taught. Any person that makes your job more enjoyable will obviously be wanted vs the people that make it more difficult

Chris H
2 years ago

As a college coach I make the “favorites” talk part of my recruiting pitch and remind my student athletes as well. It’s simple, work hard and BE COACHABLE. Those are the favorites….it’s human nature, you will get less feedback if you don’t make an effort to use that feedback. The more you use what a coach tells you in your training and races the more you get.