Swim Mom: Coaches, Parents and Swimmers – Staying In Our Lanes

by SwimSwam Contributors 1

September 23rd, 2020 Swim Mom

Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham

We’ve heard that swimmers swim, parents parent and coaches coach. But what do these jobs entail?

In a webinar by sports parenting coach David Benzel of Growing Champions for Life, he discussed the different roles in youth sports. The topic was “How to Survive and Thrive with Your Coach.” Although most of the talk focused on coaching styles and how to build better relationships, he also touched on the different jobs of athletes, parents and coaches.

For athletes, the objective is to have fun, learn new skills and develop character, Benzel said.

Parents should teach character lessons, build family unity and reinforce the sports message. Coaches teach sports skills, build team unity and reinforce the character message.

It’s important that we stay in our lanes yet work to build on each other’s roles. We need to know what our job is and not get confused and jump into someone else’s role.

When we were new to swimming, we looked up to a swim parent who was eager to give us advice. He told us that we needed to learn about technique and suggested books and videos so we could help our kids improve. This was not the best advice for us. True, we knew nothing about swimming or stroke technique, but that advice led us to believe that we should coach our kids. Knowledge is not a bad thing, and our learning about stroke technique was helpful for us to understand more about the sport, but coaching our kids is the coach’s job.

Because we thought we were supposed to help our kids with their swimming skills, we crossed over into the coach’s lane. After meets or practice, we would tell our daughter to “keep her head down” or tell our son to “kick hard before his flip turn” or some other nugget of advice they didn’t want hear from mom or dad.

Parents coaching (who aren’t their children’s coach) can confuse our kids. Unintentionally, we may undermine our children’s confidence in their coach, especially if we’re giving contradictory information. Or, worse yet, they may feel like they aren’t pleasing us. One of the driving motivators in children is to please us. If we are correcting them — even with the best intentions — they may believe they are failing us.

By reinforcing character lessons like good sportsmanship, courage, hard work and never giving up, we can help our kids get more out of their swim experience. Our family unity can be strengthened by volunteering for the team, spending time together at meets and showing we value their team. Coaches can reinforce the character and team unity messages and will probably be thrilled we’re not trying to coach. In the end, the kids need to have fun or they will miss out on the many benefits swimming can give them.

What do you think are the best ways to help our kids as swim parents? What advice would you give a new swim parent?

If you have a question for Ask Swim Mom, please email Elizabeth Wickham at [email protected]

Elizabeth 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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Louisa Slingsby
7 months ago

I’d advise new swim parents to get to know other parents in the club and read all the emails that the club sends out. Then if they have any questions to ask the committee, another swim parent or the coaching team. Learn enough to be able to empathise but you are not the coach. Trust the coaching team, we do know a lot. Tell the coaches or welfare officer if you have any concerns about your swimmer or if we need to know anything that may affect their training. Support your swimmer to become self sufficient, they should be packing their bags, for example. Lead by example and don’t undermine coaches, committee and swim meet officials. Help them to learn… Read more »