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.

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5 years ago

Thanks for sharing! Great balance. Unfortunately I have been stopped in my tracks hearing parents tell their kids to “crush it” and “kill it” to their 5&6 year olds in their first experiences at neighborhood swim league this summer. My parents knew nothing about swimming. I knew that I had their support, but I never once felt pressured to swim. It was always my choice.

5 years ago

That is perfect!!! Thanks for sharing.

5 years ago

The best incentive for me was always my dad saying “if you win, I’ll buy you a new suit” or “if you go this time…etc”. Boy did he pay the price when he told my sister “if you get your junior national time in the 100 fly, I’ll get both you and your sister two new suits each”. He didn’t think she would do it. Oops!

But ya, saying just have fun was always the best advice in my eyes. It alleviated the pressure of knowing you had put in all those everlasting hours in the pool (with dryland). It gets inside your head like oh my god I have put in the time but will I perform?

Reply to  Kadee
5 years ago

This made me fondly recall my orthodontist father’s “incentive” promise to me at age 10, if I took three seconds off my 50 fly and break the record he would take my braces off!! Thinking of course there’d be no way I could lower my time that much – so when I beat it by 3.5 seconds and gleefully came to him, he admitted there was no way he could take off the braces yet!! Oops. I didn’t get them off for another year. LOL

5 years ago

We are on our 5th kid in competitive sports – first in swimming. She recently made her first senior national team. We were asked what advice we would give parents – we have been struggling to answer. Hope you are OK if we reuse it – this is the best we have heard .. it articulates so well what we have tried to instill in her (and her brothers and sisters) over the years.

5 years ago

Who’s the swimmer in the picture?

Reply to  mikhail05
5 years ago

I believe that is Brandon James.

Captain Ahab
Reply to  completelyconquered
2 years ago

He needs to take the earring out of his ear.

Bicycle Bill
5 years ago

My dad gave me the best advice ever when he told me, “even if you’re dead last, finish the race”.

5 years ago

Best advice I’ve heard is “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

Reply to  mcgillrocks
5 years ago

Just so everyone knows this is a quote from a Will Ferrell movie. It’s not meant to be serious.

Reply to  Mcgillrocks
2 years ago

That don’t make no sense, there’s second, third, fourth, even fifth…

5 years ago

Best tech suit advice I’ve ever heard: If you can get the suit on, it is not too small.

Sean Sullivan
Reply to  Ferb
3 years ago

I’m sure Ricky Berens and Nathan Adrian thought the same thing.

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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