Do Our Kids Learn Ethics in the Pool?

by SwimSwam 6

January 20th, 2017 Club, Lifestyle, Opinion

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

My daughter was assigned a paper about how and where she learned ethical behavior. Like the great kid she is, she first gave credit to her mom and dad. She also mentioned church—and to my surprise—her club swim team.

Exactly what is meant by “ethics?” Here’s a short definition from Merriam-Webster: “rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good and bad.”

How do our kids get ethics from their swim team?

Who do they learn ethics from?


From an early age, our kids are watching us. They model our behavior. It’s a scary thought that someone is watching your every move, isn’t it? We may be passionate about how well they swim, but we need to find a balance. If our body language says that we’re upset, or we argue with coaches and officials, or berate our kid after a bad swim—we are showing our kids how to behave when facing disappointments—and not in a good way. Seriously, this is not the lesson we want to teach our kids. It’s our ethical obligation to be better role models.


Our coaches have a huge responsibility to teach our kids. They develop training regimens, teach technique plus ensure a safe and healthy environment. Kids are impressionable and coaches are more important to our kids than their school teachers. Not having favorites, showing respect to officials and teaching the importance of good sportsmanship are part of the ethical responsibilities of coaches. A great coach takes his job seriously and brings out the best in his swimmers, both as a person and as an athlete.


One of the major ethical problems written about in youth sports today is cheating. We are fortunate there aren’t a whole lot of ways to cheat in the pool like in other sports. With the exception of doping, there’s not much that swimmers can do to change the clock. In practice, swimmers know who leaves a few seconds early off the wall. Or, makes a trip to the bathroom during the tough fly set. A lot of ethical behavior gets sorted out during the long hours of practice.

What ethical lessons have your kids have learned from swimming? Work ethic, following rules, goal setting, sportsmanship and how to be a team member are what we hope our kids learn.

Do you have more to add to the list?

Elizabeth WickhamElizabeth 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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Sane Swim Parent
5 years ago

We’ve had a couple parents who’ve upbraided officials, and it just reflects so poorly on them as people. It’s an embarrassment to the team.

5 years ago

Get your children involved in sports, it will teach them valuable lesson. HERE IS WHAT I HAVE LEARNED…a great deal of parents are self serving, will do just about anything to gain advantages for their swimmers with coaches (lying, bribing and worse), and specifically will attack other swimmers on very personal levels. The children those parents raise, follow suit because that is what they are taught. AND a great deal of coaches, some who like to think of them as famous, will do everything and anything for that one swimmer that brings them that fame. Everything gets treated like crap.

5 years ago

Do ethics exist is the question. If there is no higher authority above man, man has that authority. Therefore we decide ethics individually. Man seems to have an innate sense of ethics.

Reply to  SwimmerFoxjet
5 years ago


Craig Zello
6 years ago

While there isn’t a lot of ways to cheat in the pool, I wish there were more DQs with the younger kids starting at age 7. Last summer, I had a hard time seeing girls beat my Daughter in the breast stroke doing a flutter kick. I don’t blame the kids, wish the adults would do the right thing.

7 years ago

Both of my kids are swimmers. They started with different sports at a young age and I believe that contributed a lot to the commitment they have for swim. I remember my daughter being a member of a young dance group that performs every Christmas weekend anywhere around the valley. No family events Christmas or birthday parties can stop her from going to a commitment she had for her dance team. I believe ethics starts at home, after school club coaches teachers have a big impact on these kids to be ethical in their behavior. I am proud to say that we belong in a good swim club that both my kids look up to the coaches as role model.… Read more »