It was during a Long Course meet.
While enjoying a delightful conversation with a Swim Dad
(chatting about everything, BUT swim – the best kind of
meet conversation) – Swim Dad looks at me and says, “Oh,
oh, oh, oh …nooooooo, we missed your girl’s race! I am so
so so sorry!”
I said, “I’m not. It’s okay. I am here. She knows I am here
and it’s okay. I wanted to listen and talk with you and I
should have paid more attention to the events. And…”
So our conversation continues. We are telling funny tales
of, “The time that…”
When suddenly, I say, “OH MY GOD, we just missed your
son’s race! I am so so sorry!”
At this point we agreed to lie. Forever bonded over an
untruth. We ceremoniously rushed an imaginary pinky
swear during which we agreed to never tell our children
how we missed their respective races. And then we
laughed. A guttural laugh that only two swim parents can
share while resting our numb bottoms on the metal
These are the moments I treasure.
There will always be another swim meet. For me, the
lesson is, find your joy at every meet. Prelims and finals?
I’ve got this. Got crafts? Got funny conversation starters?
Packed enough snacks to hand healthy vittles to the
starving team mate with a faraway stare? Got humility
and deleted Time Standards from your phone? If not, do
Swim meets are not about a swimmer’s time, not for the
parent. Leave all that swim stuff for your child and the
coach. Child and coach have their own swim mindset and
they KNOW, oh boy do THEY KNOW, the goals, the effort,
the times…let them work out those small details.
YOU, Swim Parent, YOU have your own goals.
Focus on nutrition for your child. Pack swimmer fuel for
the meet, lecture, no, threaten your child with your lowest,
albeit meanest form of parental dictator voice with, “YOU
WILL drink water and in fact, if you want a headache and
to feel sick and dehydrated, well, forget that, that’s not
happening, I am here to tell you, DRINK MORE WATER!
I’m watching your water intake!” Bring bananas, toss the
banana lecture in on the way to warm ups…but only after
you’ve had your Starbucks. And from that point, enjoy.
For swim meets belong to the athlete in the water and the
coach on deck.
Be a student of Swim Parenting. Google, “What makes a
horrible swim parent?” and “What makes a great swim
parent?” Google the snot out of swim parenting and
research and learn what you need to do to be the best
swim parent you can be.
Hand your child to the coach and get away from the
swimmer side of the pool. The parent bleachers should be
your safe haven. Where you, Swim Parent YOU, can relax
among swim parents and laugh about the fact that this
sport requires an insane amount of family dedication.
Then pivot to fun conversation that has NOTHING TO DO
WE have the better deal. First, we don’t have to swim.
Second, we laugh a lot. Giggling over how we put the
towels in the washer the night before and then groaning
over how we didn’t give ourselves enough time to start the
dryer in the morning.
Tell funny stories. Life dramas. A lot of the time sit in
silence and in solidarity knowing that Swim Parenting
(yes, we have all earned that verb) requires an
unparalleled commitment in the club sports arena.
Together we bond and it has nothing to do with times,
comparing athletes, charting your child’s progress, (please
don’t do that…like …ever!) …etc.
For our most beautiful and indelible moments are to be
treasured as we preach in a collective refrain, “At least
we’re not soccer parents!”
Enjoy one another. Lift each other up. See a parent going
off the rails? Don’t call out and criticize. Reel that parent
in and help the swim parent gain perspective. Experienced
swim parents understand the journey. Help new swim
parents with your patience and respect for the sport.
Patiently explain the swim 411 to new parents just as
someone taught you about Meet Mobile, A, B and C meets
and how to dress and feed a swimmer. Be supportive and
cheer the C swimmer who just made that first B time. Tell
the parent, “What a great swim and a great day! So happy
for you!” Be the example that you needed when your
family started this never ending swim life.
If we have some extraordinarily talented athletes in age
group or high school and our child falls somewhere in
between, remember this…that star swimmer is in OUR
CLUB and not in Houston, Austin, Dallas…
The magic of HARD WORK belongs in our water.
Be sure to have a warm and kind discourse with the parent
of the star swimmer that has nothing to do with swim. The
parent of the superstar is just like the parent of the
swimmer who hasn’t learned a flip turn, both just want the
best for their child and to feel comfortable at the pool.
Celebrate every champion and encourage the swimmers
(no matter their results) who are reaching and believing in
their own efforts and goals. And as for the swimmers who
can’t swim to be among the fast crowd, encourage them.
Find the positive when you see a swim and tell that
swimmer, “Great effort, great job. You’re working hard
and it shows.”
WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.
Our swim parent job is twofold.
1. Get your swimmer to the pool on time. Preferably
2. Get out of the way and leave the sport for swimmer
and coach. You have fun conversations to be had with
other swim parent comrades – again, chats that have
nothing to do with swim!
Bring your positive spirit and especially your hilarious
complaints about the mundane things that make us
Superhero Swim Parents…heck, cart some parent snacks,
camping gear, and good stories.
The rest takes care of itself.
Katie Gianotti is “just” a Swim Mom in south Texas. Her 13-year-old daughter Emily swims for AAAA – Alamo Area Aquatics Association and for Coach Jeremy Block at the George Block Natatorium (named after Coach Jeremy’s Dad). AAAA, led by Head Coach Derek Howorth (of UT fame), is a large swim club in San Antonio, Texas. Katie is exceptionally proud of AAAA and the swim parents she loves to spend time with at meets. Katie enjoyed a long career as a journalist and writer, but finds being a student of Swim Mom-ing to be her calling. She, like every other swim parent in the chlorine cloud, is learning as she goes. Katie would like to thank each and every veteran swim parent, in her club or not, who has generously shared information, tips, consult, care, and above all…encouragement! Go Swim Parents Go!