Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham
Dear Swim Mom,
Recently a family left our team and has been badmouthing us and the coach. If we decided to switch teams, we’d move forward with our decision and not look back. I don’t think these parents understand that they are hurting our swimmers including my own kids. Why do some people think it’s okay to tear down the team after they leave? I get that they’re making a different decision than us, but why not let it go at that?
Thanks for any help,
Troubled Team Player
Dear Troubled Team Player,
I think you make a good point about moving on with your life if you choose to switch teams. I honestly don’t know why some parents take actions or spread gossip that is harmful to their former team. Maybe it’s to justify their decision. Switching teams can be a difficult decision to make and some parents second guess themselves. Pointing out problems about their former team may reinforce their choice and make them feel better.
I don’t have advice for you on what to do about the family who left, except take the higher road. That’s really all we can do. Focus on your own family and team and enjoy your children’s experience. It all goes by so quickly. If you think there are valid reasons why a family left, maybe you can work to improve the situation, making your team better for everyone.
When a family does switch teams, as parents we shouldn’t badmouth the prior team. Our kids have friends on the old team—and who would want to harm their children’s friends? Second, what if the new team isn’t a good fit? What then? Will families be able to come back or did they burn their bridges? Third, swimming is a small world and we’re all in this community together. Spreading gossip or rumors isn’t a good look and doesn’t help anyone in our sport.
That’s why I believe it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before making a move. We may have reasons that justify a move like a long commute or inadequate coaching. If your child is unhappy with their current team, what will make them enjoy swimming with a new team? Hopefully, parents are making decisions that are in the best interest of their kids and not because of their own desires.
If there is a problem serious enough to make someone want to switch teams, please address it with the coaches or board. Give the team a chance to respond to the issue before giving up on them.
It’s a good idea to talk to former swimmers or current parents from the new team, without letting them know you’re considering a move. You may hear similar complaints or problems such as pool time, coach stability, etc. If you do decide to switch teams, be sure to tell your coach first. Plus, pay any money you owe to the team you’re leaving. Understand that there will be hurt feelings for a lot of your kid’s friends and families who are staying behind.
If everyone respects decisions and isn’t judgmental, then it can be easier for everyone. Keep in mind you may not know the whole story of why someone left. Remember, you’ll be seeing the family and swimmer at meets in the future.
What advice do you have for families leaving teams and those parents staying?
Do you have a question for “Ask Swim Mom?” If so, email Elizabeth Wickham at [email protected] and your question may appear in an upcoming column.
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.