Four Reasons Why Swim Parents Should Act Like Grandparents

by SwimSwam 20

July 05th, 2018 Club, Lifestyle

by Elizabeth Wickham

Have you ever heard that swim parents should act more like grandparents? This nugget of advice comes from Mike Koleber, Head Coach of Nitro Swimming, one of USA Swimming’s Gold Medal clubs. I agree with this idea—especially at meets. For example, my dad—a grandpa—approaches swim meets very differently than I do. I believe that if I could adopt his outlook, I’d be calmer and happier at swim meets.

Here are my observations of how grandparents act at swim meets and what we can learn from them:


Happy to be there.

Grandparents are thrilled to be a part of their grandkids’ lives. They are content to sit back at a meet and watch. You rarely see a grandparent pacing up and down the pool deck. They enjoy the entire spectacle of the crowds, watching little ones try to swim fly, and are thrilled to watch their grandkids race. If they can get a few words in with their grandkids to tell them how great they’re doing, it’s a bonus.


Not focused on results.

Grandparents are more removed from the competitive aspect of meets than parents. They see the big picture and realize this is a tiny slice of our lives. They aren’t overly concerned if it’s a best time or a win. They’re proud no matter what. It’s a win-win for them to share in the experience and see their grandkids participate in a healthy activity.


Won’t challenge officials or coaches.

In my 15 years on the pool deck, I’ve seen a few parents confront officials or coaches. Not very many, mind you. But, I’ve never seen a grandparent do that. Have you? They would never think of criticizing the coach or try and coach their grandkids themselves.


Loves the snack bar.

My dad looks at a juicy hamburger from our snack bar as a treat. It’s part of the experience of swim meets that he genuinely looks forward to. How many parents have that attitude? Or, do we think, “Not snack bar food, again?” Grandparents find joy in the little things.

You can read more advice from top swim coaches in the latest issue of SwimSwam Magazine. To subscribe to the magazine, click here:

In what other ways do you think we should we be more like grandparents at swim meets?

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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geraldine Linnane
5 years ago

I agree as a grandparent my self, i spend most of my life at the pool size watching swimming, i am now watching grandchildren swimming and water polo, it is great to sit down and relax, all the best from ireland

5 years ago

How about an article entitled, “Four Ways Coaches Screw Up Athletes”? As a part time coach I can attest to this. Often it seems to me that it’s too easy for people to blame parents most of the time. I could tell some parent stories, but a few coach ones as well.

Reply to  Mikeh
5 years ago

I would like to see some balance brought back to the sport. My son swims and plays baseball. Summers are interesting.
It’s telling that every select baseball coach he’s had understands my son will miss a tournament or two because of swimming. His swim coaches DO NOT get it. It’s a constant battle with them. I’m not even going to get into the lack of understanding about not swimming 200 fly and 400IM during baseball season (the boy is a pitcher). There’s no balance on the swimming side. No tolerance for the multi-sport athlete. One coach told my son “it was unfortunate that he’s still playing baseball.” Why is it OK for a 15-year old to be told that… Read more »

Ernie and Bert
5 years ago

This article has came out of retirement more than Michael Phelps.

7 years ago

Regarding #3, there was a grandma who was so upset about her 7 or 8 year old grandson being disqualified that she pushed the official into the pool! She was removed from the meet, but it sure makes for an interesting officiating story!

7 years ago

Its easy to act like a grandparent when coaches act professional,are organized, stay off they’re phones during practice, treat all swimmers equally and fairly, show commitment to improvement as a coach, and answer the infrequent email or text. My kids have a coach like this. Not all coaches are like this. Have been a member a member of two teams and and witnessed the best and worst the swim coach profession has to offer.

Karen L
7 years ago

Steve Lintz also has a Goofy hat. Pretty fun guy at swim meets. At USMS meets, he has a great way of making one feel like a kid again! Thanks Steve!

Jo Porter
7 years ago


Mike Koleber
7 years ago

I would reply by not replying. Too much air time / space given to the negative folks as it is. I thought Elizabeth wrote a neat article. But the world has more than its fair share of critics. If I had listened to them I’d still be stuck in a cubicle somewhere under fluorescent lights. Be well!