What Does It Mean to Let Your Child Take Ownership?

by SwimSwam 3

July 19th, 2016 Club, Lifestyle

By Elizabeth Wickham

Letting our kids take ownership of their sport is something we hear over and over. But, what does it mean and how do we do it?

I spoke with Chris Plumb, Head Coach/CEO of the Carmel Swim Club of Indiana, a Gold Medal Club in USA Swimming’s Club Excellence Program, to ask him his top tips for swim parents. You can read more in “17 Coaches Share Secrets of Swim Parenting Success” in the 2016 Swimsuit Issue of SwimSwam Magazine.

His number one piece of advice was to let our kids take ownership and the sooner the better. “How do you give ownership? By asking good questions. Good questions are when you are not telling your swimmer what they should or should not do, but instead ask questions that will let your swimmer think and reflect on what they are doing,” Coach Plumb said.

“Examples of good questions are ‘What did your coach say?’ ‘How did you feel about your swim?’ or ‘What are you working on?’ Let them think through what they are doing and always tell them, ‘I love watching you swim and compete.’ ”

In addition, Coach Plumb said he’s not in a big hurry with his swimmers, he uses patience and a holistic approach to coaching.

“We want them to fall in love with the sport. We continually send out good information to parents like newsletters and great articles about Long Term Athletic Development. In every piece of communication with parents we reinforce our belief in LTAD over and over.”

Here are a four questions to discover if we are giving ownership to our kids:


Are we more enthusiastic about swimming and our child’s success than they are?


Are we sharing the experience with our swimmers, or is it more about our feelings than theirs?


Are we happy they’re learning life lessons and staying healthy? Or, do we focus more on results and performance?


Do we know what our children’s goals are in swimming? Or, is it more about our own goals?

What do you do to help your children take ownership of their sport?

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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5 years ago

So is it okay for kids to get feed back from other coaches??

5 years ago

Great article – and you will see that kids are more motivated when they take ownership as they are swimming for themselves, not for their parents or others.

Susan Nelson
4 years ago

This is an important topic that transcends swimming; as parents, we need to ask these four questions about a lot of things we encourage our kids to do. As you point out, focusing more on results than lessons can certainly interfere with our children’s desire to take ownership, and can even lead to a lack of interest in the sport.