The Best Advice I’ve Ever Heard a Swim Parent Give Their Kid

By Olivier Poirier-Leroy. Join his weekly motivational newsletter for swimmers, coaches and swim parents by clicking here.

Having been in and around the pool deck for almost my entire life I have seen all manner of swim parent.

You got the red-faced screamer. The parent who thinks he is the coach. The bubble-wrap optimist. The scoreboard whisperer. And everything else in between.

What do they all have in common?

They are trying to do right by their kid.

They are trying to give their young swimmer the best chance possible at making the most of their talent and ability, while also developing them into someone of character and who is resilient.

The Best 10, err, 11 Words a Parent Can Tell Their Athlete

I was strolling into the pool last week for a casual little swim workout when an SUV rolled up to the curb. The door swung open, and inside were the familiar frantic movements of a young athlete–running late–and his parent trying to gather the yard sale in the back seat into his swim bag.

“Are you late?” asked the parent, handful of swim towel in one hand.

“Nope, I should be able to get on deck in time,” said the young swimmer, probably no older than 10. The swim bag was double checked–everything looks like it is there–and the swimmer leaned out.

“Be the hardest worker and the one having the most fun,” came the parting words of the parent.

“Sounds good!” The truck door closed, and the swimmer scurried indoors, swim bag bouncing wildly off his back.

The parent’s statement stopped me dead in my tracks, if not physically, then definitely mentally.

After all, this wonderful piece of advice was comprehensively powerful and gave exactly the right message: You can work hard, and have fun at the same time.

And really, isn’t that all we want?

For our young swimmers to challenge themselves, to learn proactive strategies for improving and developing themselves, while also feeling the satisfaction and pride that comes along with it?

Recent research on elite athletes has shown a set of consistent traits among the highest performers. A proactive and positive approach to challenges. And parents who were not only supportive, but generally hands-off. This situation helped to foster a situation of accountability and ownership where the athlete looked inwards for motivation (the familiar intrinsic motivation).

The statement that the parent gave that day exemplified this perfectly.

Work the hardest. And have all the fun.

As coaches and parents that’s all we could ask for or really want.


Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer. He’s the publisher of YourSwimBook, a ten-month log book for competitive swimmers.

Conquer the Pool Mental Training Book for SwimmersHe’s also the author of the recently published mental training workbook for competitive swimmers, Conquer the Pool: The Swimmer’s Ultimate Guide to a High Performance Mindset.

It combines sport psychology research, worksheets, and anecdotes and examples of Olympians past and present to give swimmers everything they need to conquer the mental side of the sport.

Ready to take your mindset to the next level?

Click here to learn more about Conquer the Pool.

COACHES & CLUBS: Yuppers–we do team orders of “Conquer the Pool” which includes a team discount as well as complimentary branding (your club logo on the cover of the book) at no additional charge.

Want more details? Click here for a free estimate on a team order of CTP.

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3 years ago

Was told by a coach when my child was small and growing and wondering why she tried the hardest but her times were not improving.. ….
Train hard, when your body is growing and making improvement nearly impossible ,
for when you come out the other side, your resolve will be bulletproof .

3 years ago

Love this. However, hard work and having fun will on take you so far in college swimming. Big schools, NC State for example, don’t care how hard you work or how much fun you’re having. They won’t pick a conference or travel team based off of your passion, dedication, or attitude. It’s a corporate business to them. Just like the real world. If you want your kid to get great exposure to the real world, send them to NC State, but be prepared for many disappointments if you’re not a foreign superstar, “5-Star” recruit, or have a really.. really deep wallet.

Reply to  TheTruth
3 years ago

You must be fun at parties

Karen hodges
4 years ago

As a parent who raised to swimmers I couldn’t agree more. Encouraging disciplined hard work and joy of swim carried over into every aspect of their lives.
Thanks for the reminders we all can use!

4 years ago

Right on

Findlay Wildcat
4 years ago

I have been telling my daughter since she started swimming year round 7 years ago “Have Fun, Swim Smart, Swim Fast”. Even today she smiles, might roll her eyes a bit and goes on her way. Every now and then, when she looks unsure I add “And don’t be afraid to be great!”

4 years ago

Listen to your coach, wear sunscreen, have fun, love you, and swim straight.

4 years ago

My dad would say, “Swim fun, have hard!”

4 years ago

“Do your best. Be yourself.” #thanksdad

Reply to  Thirteenthwind
4 years ago

I tell my six year old this everyday when I walk him to the school gate:

“Be a good listener, a good helper and a good friend. Have fun and I love you.”

I tell him the same things when he plays soccer. Then I just sit back, watch and laugh. After the game I tell him that I am so proud of him and ask him if he’s hungry.

About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 he was thrown in the water at the local pool for swim lessons and since then has never wanted to get out. A nationally top ranked age grouper as both a …

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