How Great Swimming Parents Help Their Swimmer with Goal Setting

Contributor Rick Paine is an expert on the college recruiting process. He is also the Director of Swimming at American College Connection (ACC). AAC is a Swimswam Partner. 

All of the great coaching your swimmer receives from their club and high school coaches and from swim clinics and all of the brilliant advice that I provide will be wasted if your swimmer does not have the proper support system at home.

This is proven time and again with athletes in all sports. It takes a lot of learning and work on the part of the parent to nurture and help their swimmer reach their full potential.

You must encourage them to sit down with their coach to establish goals. The coach should have a plan for their training and they know what are and what are not realistic goals for your swimmer.

The most important thing to learn when trying to help your swimmer is “DON”T PUSH!” I hope you know by now that the more you push your advice or help on your swimmer the less likely they are to accept it….and if you haven’t figured this out by now, then you need more help than I can provide.

Avoid Avoiding

You can help them with goal setting by trying to get them to avoid “avoiding.” Goals such as “I want to break a 1:05 in the 100 free” are barriers that they will continually bounce off of. The brain doesn’t hear “I want to break”. It interprets the statement to mean I want to avoid a 1:05.0. The goal should be stated, “I will go 1:04.9 or faster”

Count the Cost

Encourage them to count the cost of achieving their goals. Try to get them to make sure that they understand what they have to do in order to reach their goals such as, attending more practices, improving their technique, getting more rest, organizing their time better or eating better.


Once they determine that their goals are worth the price, encourage them to commit to their goals. Words like “I will try”, “I hope to” or “I want to” do not express commitment. Help them “talk the talk” so the coach can help them “walk the walk.”

“Do or Do Not. There is No Try”


Write Them Down

Insist that they write down their goals and place them where they can see them regularly. This really does work. Encourage them to share their goals with you and their support group. It helps them commit.

Ya Gotta’ Believe

Remind them that you believe in them, but don’t over do it. They know that you believe in them because you are the parent and that’s what parents do. Always let them know that you love them because of who they are as a person not as a swimmer. One common denominator among great swimmers is they don’t allow swimming

Define who they are as a person. This helps keep the pressure off. There is nothing more pleasurable for a parent than to watch their child achieve their goals. Love and appreciate your swimmer and remember,

“the worst swimmer is still better than the best video game junkie.”

ACC Recruiting is a SwimSwam ad partner. Go here and learn more about ACC and their team of college recruiting experts. 

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What do you do when your teenager who has swam competitively for 7 years comes out with, “ I don’t know if I want to swim anymore. I might go back to track”,He is going to be a Jr. in September so Colleges will be looking at swimmers his age. He said it came out of no where, he was training for his goal of making Jr. Nat’ls in August. He doesn’t know why either. Any thoughts, suggestions?

I would have him go speak with a therapist. There’s lots of very highly qualified people around that can help figure out what’s going on and help your son find his happiness. That person could help diagnose if there were depression going on, or some other mental health issue contributing to the “it came out of nowhere” part. If there’s something going on, then getting him some help with that issue would address the root of the discussion, and then you all can start from a better place when deciding if his heart lies in track, swimming, or the NARP life.

Good luck! I know it’s not easy!


I am sorry to hear that. My son quit for a year but he was in middle school. I know it’s not the same. Your son is struggling at a more crucial age. I can tell you as a swammer and swim dad of three kids who have Jr National cuts etc that there are so many who quit in HS, quit right after or fade out in HS. They come to practice but don’t have the love for it. You have to find a way to take the pressure off and try to get him back in the water but it has to be on his own terms. He has to own the sport. Some things I tried were… Read more »


It’s their life, their choice. If he/she wants to do something else, then he/she should do something else! As long as your child is involved in a healthy activity of their choice, it’s all good. Maybe they will come back to swimming, maybe they won’t. It’s all okay.

Rick Paine

Susan, After 30 years of coaching I find kids “retire” when they stop having fun. They stop having fun when the work they need to put in is not worth the rewards they receive from swimming fast. Sit down with your son and see if he can remember what he really enjoyed about swimming…what was fun. Most kids remember the relationships they develop and the friends they make. All of the ribbons and medals get stuck in a drawer somewhere. Swimming is a very sensory depriving sport. Your head is buried in the water for hours on end and there are only so many black tiles you can count on the bottom of the pool. It is entirely possible the… Read more »


I don’t like the title…goal setting with coach(es) yes.

Sun Devil Swim Fan

There are some really great people on SwimSwam. Rick Paine happens to be one of them👍.

Rick Paine


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