Things To Say – Or Not To Say – To Your Swimmers

by SwimSwam Contributors 1

September 11th, 2017 Lifestyle

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

When I was a newer swim mom, Id get all excited at meets and blurt out something to my kids that Id later regret. I dont know if any other swim parents have been in my shoes, but Im learning to measure and think about what I say before saying something less than helpful. I also try not to hash and rehashevery race. One thing that makes me very uncomfortable at meets is overhearing parents berating their kids after a race. I wonder how long theyll last in swimming?

Ive talked to many coaches and read books from sports parenting experts about what to say or not say to your kids after competitions. The number one thing the experts agree on to tell your kids, whether its after practice, a race or an entire meet is: I love to watch you swim.

Those simple six words say it all. Its non-judgmental, non-threatening and non-lecturing. Say those words and step back and listen. Allow your kids time to talk to you. If we take over the conversation after a race or on the drive home, our kids may withdraw and not want to listen to us. If we allow them room to reflect on their race and we offer support, theyll open up. Kids seek their parentsapproval. If we criticize their swim, theyll believe were disappointed in them as a person when all were trying to do is offer advice and help them improve.

Other positive things to say include:

Did you have fun?

How did that feel?

Im proud of you.

I saw how hard you tried.

I love you.


Things to avoid saying are:

Wow! What happened?

What were you thinking?

Why did you let Johnny beat you?
Youre faster than that.

You should have won.

You need to.followed by technical advice.

I cant believe we traveled this far for you to add time.

What things do you think parents should or should not say?

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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6 years ago

I just started watching my son and I am or should I say was that dad. Today is a whole new day and I will only give praise and love.