Three Tips for Swim Parents About Effort

by SwimSwam 2

June 20th, 2016 News

By Elizabeth Wickham

As parents, we all want our kids to do their best. We want to see an honest effort from our kids at school and in the pool. Is there anything we can do to promote effort and a good work ethic?

I spoke to Jon Sakovich, Head Swim Coach and Aquatics Director of the Bolles School Sharks, for “17 Coaches Share Secrets of Swim Parenting Success” in the 2016 Swimsuit Issue of SwimSwam Magazine. Here’s what Coach Sakovich said about effort:

“My advice to any parent, the most important thing is it’s the child who is swimming, you are paying for it and supporting them. Your enjoyment should be from watching your child put forth an honest effort, not if they are winning or losing. Life is all about putting in an honest effort— whether you’re coaching, swimming, teaching, running a website, or writing an article.

“The goal as parents is to teach our kids good values, how to work hard, and enjoy what they do.

“I ask my kids, did you work hard? Did you do your best? To sum it up, the best thing parents can say is ‘I love watching you swim and love when you put in your best effort.’ ”

Another point Coach Sakovich made is that kids have to enjoy what they are doing, or they won’t put in their best effort.

“I tell kids who are whining and complaining about practice, if you don’t love it, find something else that you do love. I may tell a child 12 or 13 years old to stick with swimming, but someone 15, 16 or 17 knows what they want to do. They are not going to work hard if they are not happy.”

How can we help our kids develop effort and a good work ethic? Here are a few simple tips:


Praise our kids’ effort and hard work rather than their natural talent or results.


If our kids don’t enjoy swimming, we can’t make them like it. We can let them try a variety of activities to discover what they do love.


Let kids learn from their mistakes or failures. Step back and don’t make excuses or try to make it better. They’ll shake it off and keep trying.

How do you instill the importance of an honest effort in your kids?

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.

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
T Hill
6 years ago

So true – but most swimmers know when their is effort is Great to Poor or need help. The book & research “Mindse”t by Dr. Carol Dweck – covers a good deal of this in any arena. Weather your a B swimmer or Olympic Trial level swimmer. Effort matters & in most cases carries over to life skills. Ask the swimmers to rate their meet performance/effort & preparation over a period of time leading up to a meet, and in most cased they’ll be right on, especially when they get into their early teens. 5 = Excellent, 4 Good, 3 Solid/mix, 2 Fair, 1 need help or show up daily. Have many good days with great/excellent sprinkle in, few 2… Read more »

6 years ago

I couldn’t agree more. When my son was entering Senior year, he told me he’s done with swimming. He wants to try other things. He said he’s getting burnt out and stressed out and it’s not getting him anywhere. He promised me he will continue to work hard, he will finish HS season and try to get his goal and finish strong at CIF. He did and I’m very proud of all the hard work and dedication he put in this sport. I just wish he could continue to swim until college and until now I’m still hoping that maybe someday in college he can go back to the water to do the thing he used to love most, swimming.… Read more »