Swim Parent Tip: Seeing the Big Picture and Trusting the Coach

Courtesy of  Elizabeth Wickham

I remember when my daughter had just moved up into the senior group as a 13-year-old. It was September, the first meet of the season, and we had a new head coach. He put her and other swimmers in hard, killer events. The 400 IM, 1650, 200 fly, etc.

The group she had just moved up from swam “fun stuff.” 50 free, 100 free, 100 fly.

At the time, my daughter felt life was unfair.

Her coach had many years of experience and entered his senior kids in these tough events for a reason. Probably for several reasons. He was getting a baseline. This would help him all season long in planning their training. The swimmers were also learning what they were made of. I’m sure there were more reasons than I fully understand.

He was questioned by more than one parent during the meet:

“Why is my swimmer in all these hard events?” or “It’s the beginning of the season. My swimmer isn’t going to do well.”

Looking back with 20-20 vision, I see more positives than negatives from that one swim meet. My daughter and her fellow swimmers survived. No, they didn’t get all best times, but they rose to the challenge and swam to the best of their abilities.

Parent Tip:

Parents need to step back and let our kid’s coach do his or her job. Let’s not second guess them.

At AA and JO meets, my daughter balked at having to swim the mile and 200 fly back to back. When she complained, one of her coaches — a former distance swimmer — said, “Get used to it. That’s life as a distance swimmer.” At first, it was a mountain she didn’t want to climb. After a few times, my daughter embraced it and felt a sense of accomplishment and pride.

Fast forward to college and she’s swimming either the 1000 or 1650 plus the 500 free at every dual meet — in a time period often under two hours. You bet she thinks of her coaches from when she was 13 — who always put her in tough events. She’s probably even thanking them.

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: http://bleuwater.me/.

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5 years ago

So, true, Elizabeth. I’m in the same situation, my 13-y-o daughter is swimming with the “big fish” on her team now. She often questions the coach’s practice sets and mostly distance meet entries, because she doesn’t yet see the big picture. It’s all part of the learning experience, and I hope she continues to swim in college and will look back, as your daughter is doing, and realize that it was great preparation for all aspects of life!

5 years ago

Did the coach communicate his plan to you, or did you just accept his training on blind faith alone?

Elizabeth Wickham
Reply to  FletchMacFletch
5 years ago

Thanks for commenting. Communication with the coach to gain understanding is a positive. Good coaches will educate parents as well as kids.

Reply to  FletchMacFletch
5 years ago

Is it the coach’s job to communicate to you, the parent? I know I spend plenty of time defending my position to my parents and it takes energy to do that — energy well-spent perhaps on planning further training.

I stand there and come up with new things to get people faster…on the spot. Do I have to communicate this to the parents? Or must I stick with this “plan” that I’ve gotten everyone to check off on?

Reply to  Coach
5 years ago

Coach, I agree that what coaches do is not fully recognized or appreciated by most parents. I think that the point being made is that if you take the time to communicate in a “structured” format you can convert questioning parents into educated advocates. There are inappropriate times that parents MUST be aware of, to not approach coaches, such as not during practice, a meet, or other times that distract the coach from doing his primary job of coaching.

Reply to  Coach
5 years ago

I’ve found that all the great coaches we’ve had are completely transparent with what they are trying to accomplish with their practice elements, chosen meet events, even comments to the swimmer that may have been a little, shall we say…pointed. The important point to make is that those questions are usually answered via an email, or a text when the coach is NOT directly occupied with trying to do their job.

As far as the coach above feeling no compunction AT ALL to communicate the training plan EVER to the parents, you better rethink that position. The Parent signs the checks after all, and they are your customer!

Dave R
Reply to  Coach
5 years ago

Some parents (typically those new to the team) may ask questions because they are still evaluating whether you are acting in their child’s interests (i.e. you do not have enough of their trust to operate without answering questions). It’s important for parents to have confidence in the adults who influence their children’s lives. A swimmer whose parents don’t trust you is in an unhealthy situation for the swimmer, for the family, for the team, and for you. Don’t expect this sort of question to go away if unanswered. Alternatively, most parents ask questions at least in part to learn and better understand the sport. Such questions offer opportunities to improve your athletes’ support structures at home – after all, parents… Read more »

5 years ago

So true! Thank you Elizabeth. My daughler is the slowest in her JO group right now but I trust her coach and I do my job as a parent to remain an encourager and supporter