The Swim Parents I Couldn’t Understand

by SwimSwam 48

February 20th, 2018 Swim Mom

Courtesy Elizabeth Wickham

During my childrens age group years, there were always a few parents that I didnt get.We were an overzealous swim family and once both my kids decided they wanted to be year-round swimmers, we dove in. We were supportive in any way we could be. If there was a fundraiser, my kids would compete to raise the most money. If we had a bring a friend day,wed bring a carload of kids to the pool. Pretty soon my days were filled with an overabundance of swim mom things, like organizing banquets, year-round swimmer gifts, and writing newsletters and press releases.

There were other parents who viewed swimming as a burden and would rather be anywhere than at a swim meet. I didnt understand that my enthusiasm for swimming wasnt felt by each and every swim parent on deck. But it most definitely wasnt.

Here are six things parents did or said that surprised me:


After years of sitting with a swim parent at meets and practices, I was surprised when she said,Thank God were done with club swimming and my daughter can swim for high school only.


As a board member, I had to ask a family to make up work for not helping the required hours at a meet. The mom readily agreed to help distribute flyers to local schools. A week later, I handed the flyers to the dad. He barked at me and said, No way! We dont have time for this.


We always needed timers at both club and high school meets. Getting some people to time was impossible. We motivated people to time by giving them a ticket after their shift. I cant remember what the tickets were used for, but people would time to collect that little piece of paper.


One family didnt sit with the team and were across the pool from the rest of us. The meet manager had to track them down for their shifts to work at meets. Maybe they were the smart ones.


I remember watching more than one parent argue with the head coach about why their child needed to be moved up to the next level group. Or, that their swimmer wasnt getting the attention they deserved. The coaches were extremely patient and I admire them for that.


One of my friends from the childrens elementary school was briefly a swim parent. Shed drop her boys off at the pool and say, I cant stand to watch them swim. Im out of here.

What have you seen swim parents do or say at the pool that surprised you?

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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48 Comments on "The Swim Parents I Couldn’t Understand"

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The ones who think they know more than the coach.

The funny thing is, the ones who may know more than the coach know better than to act that way – and – the ones who act that way make themselves look bad and sadly do a disservice their kids, it perpetuates an ‘I know best’ mentality.

Ohhhh, this is the “all swim parents are bad and all swim coaches are amazing” author. Swim coaches at the age group level, are not widely known to be the sharpest tacks in the box, but a small minority are indeed committed and very hardworking.Typically these are young people, former swimmers, who haven’t found their career path yet and are looking to earn a few extra bucks to pay the rent. At the other end of the spectrum are older swim coaches that are often dead set in their ways, sometimes for the good with proven programs and sometimes for the bad because they consistently fall head of heels for their latest 10 and under wonder and abandon the rest… Read more »

I’m sorry that your experience with age group coaches was not a positive one. Our kids were fortunate enough to work with a fantastic age group coach. He taught our kids about hard work and having fun at the same time. He expected a lot from our kids, but never took himself too seriously. My kids love the sport, and they loved swimming for him. Thanks to his energy and enthusiasm, both of our kids had a great start in the sport and they continue to do well at the college level. Thanks, Mike Chapman!


Remember one parent who’s talented daughter was invited to Colorado Springs for a long weekend of training and getting to meet others at her level. Mom did not understand the value and she never got to go. Opportunity missed.

I agree to an extent, but coaches should not be giving nutritional advice aside from very very basic advice (eat healthy, more veggies, don’t eat a lot of junk food, etc.)

That is just blatently wrong. If improved nutrition can help a swimmer’s performance, it is well within the bounds of a coach to work on that with their athletes.

…to an extent, yes. Improving an athletes nutrition can be done with basic tips; however, prescribing specific eating plans for improved performance is out of bounds for a swim coach. For the safety of the coach and the athlete.

Keto is the latest trend. Want your 12 year old’s club coach telling them to go on a keto diet?

It goes the same with weight lifting. Yes, weight lifting is extremely beneficial for swimmers. But do you want a club coach who is not certified teaching your kid the barbell snatch?

I am speaking about liability. Coaches need to be careful about how they go about giving out advice, especially regarding diet. The more specific you get, the more in trouble you can be

Or if I as a coach were to give out a specific caloric restriction/maintenance/surplus for a swimmer, it would be completely out of bounds

I couldn’t agree more. My age group coach would frequently come to our weight sessions and give me instructions that were completely opposite to what our strength coach said, and usually wanted me to go faster, even if it meant sacrificing technique. Also, in terms of specific nutrition plans, I also believe it can involve the coach, so long as it is actually fact-based and healthy. My coach was generally good with this, especially reminding everyone to drink water and to eat enough.

Not sure why the downvotes. This stuff needs to come from actual dietitians or doctors. A club swim coach should not be giving their athletes dietary advice, other than extremely basic information.

Judge ye not… a good motto in swimming.