One Tip for Swim Parents – Enjoy the Process

by SwimSwam 16

November 19th, 2014 Club, College, Lifestyle, Opinion

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

NC State Parents-TB1_8192-I’ve noticed that swim parents — myself included — get way too caught up in the moment — especially at swim meets. We are thrilled when our swimmers drop time and win races. It’s so exciting! Is there a better feeling than watching your swimmer come from behind and touch the wall before everyone else?

It’s disheartening to watch your swimmer swim slow, come in last, or not get a best time. My daughter plateaued for a year and a half several years ago. It was tough to go to meet after meet when she wasn’t getting personal bests. She stuck with it and managed to break out of that plateau, but I’m telling you it was a hard 18 months.

Even though her times weren’t improving, it didn’t mean she was at a standstill. Her character was growing. She learned how to handle disappointment. How to persevere. Sometimes the bad swims are the ones where our kids learn the most. I’m not a coach, but I’m hoping her coaches saw improvement in her strokes and ability to focus and work hard.

Evan Pinion will swim for Tennessee next year.

Evan Pinion will swim for Tennessee next year.

My tip of the week is to slow down, let go and enjoy the process.

Don’t compare your swimmer with teammates or competitors. They make progress in separate events and they grow and mature at different times. Why on earth compare your swimmer’s 50 free to her teammates and wonder why your swimmer isn’t as fast? It’s okay for your child to be competitive and push themselves by racing teammates — but parents — stay out of it!

Enjoy this unique experience we’ve been granted. Be a supportive swim parent through the ups and downs. Trust me. Your swimmer’s time will come. You’ll discover your time as a swim parent races away all too quickly.

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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9 years ago

my thirteen year old began swimming competively a year ago. She is always a good 45 seconds behind her age group peers… But she loves it and is making friends. Meets are painful for me but again she loves it. Thoughts should I pull her or will her time really come?

Reply to  Mickey
9 years ago

If she loves it, let her swim! If she hates it, time to go. Life is too short not to experience all it has to offer!

9 years ago

I see what is trying to be highlighted but times/stagnation of times are irrelevant. The sport is just that a sport, even more so at any age below 15. Enjoy, not just the process but the small intricacies that go with it.
I had the joy of coaching one of the best breaststrokers in the world all the way until 18, we never emphasized the pressure of the sport or the “job-esq” myopic approach of other coaches. He became better by wanting to be better,
They are kids
It is fun/a sport
Coaches are volunteers
Officials are human
It is not the Olympics (yet)

9 years ago

Great words…

Swim Fan
9 years ago

I have a son who swims at a very high competitive level. I also swam in high school and college. I do not see the value of swimming as a function of times or wins. The real purpose of swimming is to take on a challenge. To be willing to do something very hard and commit yourself to the task over a period of time which will inevitably include failure, frustration and only intermittent success.

I don’t look back on my own swimming career revelling in the medals or the success or even the great comraderie. Swimming taught me the power of having a personal goal and the willingness to work hard over a long period of time to… Read more »

9 years ago

Yeah I think some folks don’t get it. You really only race yourself against the clock. You are just trying to improve. Who cares if you are last or not. If you are working hard and put in the time eventually the time drops will come and those are the best. Sure there are times when you don’t drop for a long time. Many swimmers can’t handle that and drop out. The kid the keeps at it and keeps putting forth the effort eventually wins in the game of life.

I say this all the time. I respect any kid the gets up on the block meet after meet. Because when you step up on the block you have… Read more »

B Parent
9 years ago

My kids swam for 15years. My daughter started near the bottom of the pack. She learned how to persevere, time manage, team spirit, volunteer, and how to be coached. She also ended up swimming 5 years at University, 3years as team captain, long after the natural talent early winners had dropped out. Most of her University team mates went on to do professions such as engineering, physio, dental, dietitian, pharmacy. That is where the time management helps.

9 years ago

I get the impression that some of the parents who commented before me completely missed the point of the article. What do you want your kids to get out of swimming? Is it really completely dependent on them swimming fast, or not finishing in last place? Is swimming only a positive experience if they are winning, or scoring ribbons/medals? At my kid’s club, there are 14-year olds that have slower times than some of the 10-year olds, but they come to practice, work hard, and enjoy their friends & being part of the team. Maybe if they keep at it, they can swim on the JV team in high school, and it will be one of the best experiences of… Read more »

swim mom
Reply to  Ferb
9 years ago

I agree. It’s all about perspective. Take a swim meet our family went to just last weekend. A tiny little 7-year-old girl was swimming 100 fly for the 1st time ever. Honestly, none of us were sure if she’d be able to make it the whole way without getting DQ’d, but her coach was great and said, “The only way you’ll know is if you try.” My kids and a bunch of their other teammates from their practice group went over to cheer her on. She didn’t get DQ’d and it wasn’t the fastest butterfly, but a huge win nonetheless for that little kid. She had a huge grin on her face all afternoon. It was great watching the kids… Read more »

swim mom
9 years ago

Totally agree. Even Olympic athletes don’t win every race every time.