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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Mike Anderson
5 years ago

The man with the clown fish hat looks like Steve Lintz, long time coach from Reno, NV. He is known for always having very entertaining hats at swim meets and keeping it fun for the young ones.

Jo Porter
Reply to  Mike Anderson
5 years ago

That is Steve! Funny thing is he wore this hat at Master’s Nationals! Great coach and mentor!

Greg Lintz
Reply to  Jo Porter
5 years ago

He wears funny hats at all meets. Funny thing is, he’s been the kind of parent described in this article forever. Now that he is a grandpa, he is bringing our son to the pool all the time. Of course, he’s one and not quite doing laps yet.

5 years ago

You forgot the most important reason to act like a grandparent – to reduce the accountability of coaches.

Reply to  Anonymous
5 years ago

This. Honestly my mother was always more like a grandparent in regards to my sports when I was a child, and on the teams that I was on, every one of my coaches had little to no accountability and treated me in particularly (because my mother was one of the only parents who acted this way) quite badly. From what I’ve heard on the internet, American parents can be a little extreme when it comes to their kids’ sports, but this grandparent malarkey is just as bad. Find a middle ground. Is that so hard?

Reply to  Anonymous
3 years ago

Hahaha well said.

Dianne Lintz
5 years ago

Yeah, that’s Steve Lintz alright. My dear husband. While it’s an adordable photo of a swim coach and grandfather, he’s always been a mellow presence on deck. And he’s been wearing goofy hats for decades.

Mike Koleber
5 years ago

This has been Cal Ripken Jr’s main advice he gives sports parents in his little league organization. It was an article about him that I first heard the simple guiding principle of “be more like the grandparent, and less like the parent.” It has stuck with me ever since. Easier said than done, as I have two of my own involved in various activities/sports, and I am caught reminding myself to follow that advice. Thanks for the article Elizabeth!

Elizabeth Wickham
Reply to  Mike Koleber
5 years ago

Thank you, Coach Mike Koleber!

NM Coach
5 years ago


How would you reply to anonymous’ response of “less accountability for the coach”? I too loved the article…but hated the negative comment that followed.

Reply to  NM Coach
4 years ago

As a coach, who are you accountable to? Telling parents to pay they’re monthly dues and be quiet only works when you are a great coach. In our association the best teams have the least coach turnover. The marginal teams go through new transient coaches every year.

Mike Koleber
5 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!

Jo Porter
5 years ago


Karen L
5 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!