Ask Swim Mom: Why Tear Down a Team After Leaving?

by SwimSwam Contributors 11

February 20th, 2019 Lifestyle, Swim Mom

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.

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4 years ago

I’ve been a coach who left a club for a job change to further my career and was basically blacklisted by the former club and had former colleagues just simply not contact me anymore. And currently experiencing exactly what this article is describing with a family who left soon after I arrived, but is now continuously bashing my team and me and my boss and reminiscing about “the good old days” with former families and some current families all over social media. Part of me is hurt, but another part of me sees it as kind of sad for them, especially reminiscing about the good old days stuff and “when this team used to be good” posts. At some point,… Read more »

L. Rose
4 years ago

“Keep in mind you may not know the whole story of why someone left.”

Exactly. Thanks for saying that.

The sad thing is, most people don’t bother to ask. Perhaps those who leave speak up to spare others the miserable experience their own child had with a team or coach. Perhaps it’s to defend against lies being told. Leaving a team is not easy. Imagine how much harder it is when the coach and his/her followers talk badly about the kids and families who left. Unfortunately, when all other avenues have been exhausted, leaving is often the only thing that makes sense.

5 years ago

It goes both ways. My daughters were on a team that has completely collapsed. My kids left the team at the same point around 30 others swimmers left. The kids that left the team were called names, cheered against, it even went so far as bringing signs to swim meets. This all comes down to bad parenting. Parents need to teach their kids how to behave properly around swimmers leaving a team, wether you leave, or others leave. Parents also need to learn how to behave, as some continue to act poorly years later.

5 years ago

I will confess it is tempting to criticize. It serves no positive purpose, so best to say “thankful for the experience but this is the best change for us”.

5 years ago

Our family has experienced this but in reverse. We left a team and it was a heart wrenching decision but right for the athlete. Prior to our leaving, our athlete talked to the coach, met with the coach and a board member, and continued to train a couple more seasons. The decision to switch clubs was not quick or impulsive but dragged on longer than we as parents would have liked. We left the timing to the athlete. Once we left, as a family, we committed to not being negative about our former team. When our athlete notified the coach about the departure the coach’s response was “Well you know…s**t rolls downhill”. (gee thanks). Since that time, our athlete has… Read more »

Reply to  malleesmom
5 years ago

Terrible the athlete is being heckled for their choice. Your positive guidance and life lessons will long survive petty parents and ex-team members.

5 years ago

I’m not saying this justifies the behavior of bad mouthing a team after leaving, but I can see that in a scenario where swimmers and their parents tear down another swimmer out of jealousy for their success. I’ve seen it a few times and frankly would think the adults would be better role models for their kids. I’ve seen kids have mental breakdowns from this type of “team” environment. Typically the coaches don’t do anything as oftentimes the parents behaving badly are significant contributors to the team in terms of time and money.

5 years ago

The process of being a better swimmer can be full of emotional ups and downs. Leaving a team or kicking someone off a team is often a lack of understanding or respect for the process. Most teams have a protocol for handling conflicts. That protocol should begin with a swimmer talking to a coach then later a coach, swimmer, and parent meeting. Both sides need to try to understand. A fair window of time needs to be given to resolve the issue. If no understanding can be reached, maybe moving on is the solution. When quick irrational choices to leave or throw someone off the team without following the process, it comes from lack of understanding and insecurity. When a… Read more »

5 years ago

More often than not, when a “swimmer” leaves one team for another, it’s not the swimmer that’s making the decision—it’s the parent/s. The parent/s–needing someone to “blame” for their kid not dropping time, not qualifying for the big meet, or not being on a relay–start blaming the coach. The kid–who may not be progressing simply because of not being that into swimming anymore and/or not putting in the effort at practice, or their early growth spurt isn’t such an advantage anymore–is perceptive and realizes that the coach is being “blamed” for their lack of progress instead of themselves, so the pressure from mom and dad is off! Now bad swims turn into bad meets and perhaps even an entire bad… Read more »