The Parent’s Survival Guide for Dealing with a Taper

by Olivier Poirier-Leroy. You can join his weekly motivational newsletter for competitive swimmers by clicking here.

The role of swimmer parent is a rich and diverse challenge that requires a vast and evolving skill set; from scheduling car pool, fundraising planning, officiating and much, much more.

During the period of the taper, a several week long period of equally intense bouts of doubt and confidence, the parent also becomes psychologist, hostage negotiator, and counselor.

To better understand how to cope with your athlete, here is a breakdown of the 7 most common stages of the tapering swimmer, along with suggestions for how to help your swimmer and you get through the taper with sanity intact:

1. The Second-Guesser. The swimmer will become inundated with thoughts of regret battered with panic, of wishing they hadn’t missed that one morning workout three months ago, and now, because they had, all those hundreds of other workouts are completely for naught. If only!

Remedy: Remind the athlete of all the work they did put in. If they have a log book, sit down with them and go over all of the practices, all of those nightmarish main sets that they whooped. Remind them that at this point, one more practice is merely a drop in the bucket of all the hard work already done.

2. The Phantom Pain Menace. Whereas a few weeks ago in the midst of 5k+ two-a-days there was barely a mention of aches and pains, now your swimmer is over-analyzing every soreness, acheyness and oh-my-god-is-that-a-headache-what-could-that-be-from? Anything that might remotely feel like an injury is given the complete House treatment. General panic and disorder ensues.

Remedy: Limit their Googling; the swimmer will look up their aches and pains and be terrified by a long list of diagnoses. Achey shoulder? Irreparable shoulder injury. Fatigue? Sounds like mono. General soreness? Definitely mono.

3. The Bouncy Ball. The taper is a magical thing in that everyone responds a little differently. For some, they are initially more fatigued than they were during hard training, while for others it is go time. With a nearly limitless surplus of energy this athlete can be found careening through rooms in the house, picking up new interests such as cleaning (?!), and also seeking out new activities outside of the pool to drain their energy.

Remedy: Put that kid to work! Just kidding. Very often swimmers will look for ways to burn this energy off, from playing hoops to going on Ultra-marathons. Try to limit the latter as to not completely decimate the swimmer’s taper.

4. The Hulk. On edge and irritable this athlete is frustrated with everything; how the taper isn’t going as well as it could, how they don’t feel as good as they’d like in the water, and how the big meet is two time-zones away. Two time-zones! The Hulk, well, smash.

Remedy: Food. More sleep. A couple Disney movies. Not thinking about swimming.

5. Lost & Bewildered. This swimmer comes home from practice with a stricken, mildly confused look across their face. As though stepping into another dimension, they aren’t sure if they have fully crossed over into the tapering phase, or they are in the pre-taper phase still, or even if they are in a pre-taper recovery-power phase. Sorry, where am I?

Remedy: Seek clarification about an exact date, hour and minute that the taper officially began with coach and placate athlete.

6. Mr. Feel Good. With the yardage down, and the rest up, a tapering swimmer is likely to feel rather, well, fantastic. So much so that it would behoove them to get another workout in. If it feels good, do it, right? Nope!

Remedy: Don’t support them scratching this itch. It’s a normal part of the tapering process. Hide goggles, running shoes and/or any surgical tubing laying around the house.

7. The Emotional Pile Up. For the entire season this athlete has stoically pounded out everything his or her coach dished out. They performed at the in-season meets, posted some hellishly fast get up swims in practice, and invested every last ounce of energy into swimming their pants off come championship season. However, with taper in full effect this athlete’s stoic facade promptly collapses. Wild and unpredictable mood swings varying from a calm depression to an hysteric giddiness leaving all those in their wake to wonder, “Now, what was that?”

Remedy: Remind your swimmer that the taper is a leap of faith, it’s a process, and that no matter how un-awesome they feel at the time, to trust that their body will show up ready to slay some best times on race day.


Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer. He’s the publisher of YourSwimBook, a ten-month log book for competitive swimmers.

Conquer the Pool Mental Training Book for SwimmersHe’s also the author of the recently published mental training workbook for competitive swimmers, Conquer the Pool: The Swimmer’s Ultimate Guide to a High Performance Mindset.

It combines sport psychology research, worksheets, and anecdotes and examples of Olympians past and present to give swimmers everything they need to conquer the mental side of the sport.

Ready to take your mindset to the next level?

Click here to learn more about Conquer the Pool.

COACHES & CLUBS: Yuppers–we do team orders of “Conquer the Pool” which includes a team discount as well as complimentary branding (your club logo on the cover of the book) at no additional charge.

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bobo gigi
6 years ago

How many lists like that do you have in your possession?
It’s impressive!

Talking about taper and swimming parents, Peter Andrew doesn’t have that kind of problems with his son Michael. 🙂

Reply to  bobo gigi
6 years ago

Yes, and soon you will see Michael breaking more AG records and never winning any meaningful title when counts because tapered kids will be faster.

bad parent
Reply to  PsychoDad
6 years ago

How hard of a run do you want to make at a 15 year old kid? Is this really nessesary? This kid is like 2 years older than your kid – how would you feel about your kid getting comments like this?

There have been a billion kids that have trained “traditional” methods that have been amazing age group swimmers – only to fizzle out as they got older. We all know this….why does MA have to hold up the entire philosophy? He is killing right now….he is SOOOOO freaking fast. His METER 100 br time is sick…like big boy sick.

You need to avoid this subject.

Reply to  PsychoDad
4 years ago

Jealousy is very unbecoming.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  PsychoDad
1 year ago

Well, this didn’t age well.

Mr Piano
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
1 year ago

Neither will any of your comments when Dressel goes 46 in the 100 free 😉

Coach Josh
Reply to  PsychoDad
1 year ago

This comment from Psychodad didn’t age well 😂

bobo gigi
6 years ago

And I don’t know if taper has really begun at NCAP. :mrgreen:
Andrew Gemmell has shared on his Twitter some training indiscretions with Katie Ledecky from the past few days.

6 years ago

I remember the first time I tapered for a meet. I was so hyped the day before the meet that I went to the gym and maxed out on bench press. The older guys convinced me that I had to cover myself with tape as well and use nair on my arm pits… I was very naive and very much in agony.

About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 he was thrown in the water at the local pool for swim lessons and since then has never wanted to get out. A nationally top ranked age grouper as both a …

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