Two Tips for Parents about Swim Meets – Swim Mom Wisdom

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

A coach once told me that his favorite swim parents are the ones who jump in and help–wherever they are needed–and don’t expect anything in return. Keep that in mind, especially at swim meets.

Here are two small things that can make a big difference:

Tip One:

When your team is hosting a meet–sign up early and often!

If you’re not on a mega-sized team that has parents waiting in line to volunteer, filling volunteer positions can be a major undertaking. Our team has a parent volunteer who fills all the jobs, signs up every family on the team and tracks their hours. Don’t create extra work for her. Volunteer right away.

Many teams require a minimum number of hours per family, per meet. Some families work every hour of the meet–from preparation months ahead–through tear down. Then, a few parents work a two-hour slot like it’s a major inconvenience and they’re too important to be bothered.

If you have the time, do more than the minimum. You’d be surprised how a few extra hours will improve the morale of your fellow parent volunteers and help the meet run smoothly.

Tip Two:

When you are at an away meet–say thank you!

At meets, things can and will go wrong. The coffee may be cold at 7:30 a.m., the check-in line may be too long or the weather may not cooperate. Please, don’t take these things out on the hosts. If there are rules for parents not to go behind the blocks with their swimmers, don’t insist to a volunteer parent wearing an orange vest that you have to get behind the blocks. Accept that every meet won’t run perfectly and realize volunteers are parents, too.

At the end of the meet, take a moment to say thank you to someone on the host team, an official, or administrator. The people running meets are usually former swim parents who love swimming and choose to stay involved. A few kind words at the end of a meet can have a positive impact and brighten someone’s day.

Remember–this is all about the kids. By volunteering and doing a bit more than asked, you’re setting an example for your children. Look around your pool deck. You’ll notice that swimmers who stick with this great sport through their high school years and beyond have parents who jump in and help wherever they can.

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:

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Sunday Tomlin
6 years ago

Thank you Elizabeth for a great article… Saying “Thank You” during and after meets goes along way. Love my swim team and will always go above and beyond to help this team have successful swim meets. We have amazing, hard working families that always asks “what else can I do?” Really appreciate it.

6 years ago

The biggest shock to parents at meets is that their kids can and do get themselves to their blocks for their races. If they miss a race, well then they learn pretty fast how to get there on time next time. Parents, let kids make mistakes and learn from them. Meanwhile, volunteer at every meet and cheer from the sidelines while you help out. I agree that modeling good leadership and team effort is necessary to the success of every swim meet. Please leave your anxiety, entitlement and negativity at the gate, and just enjoy being part of making the meet a success.

Donnen Purificacion
6 years ago

Thank you Elizabeth for another great article. We all can relate to this. I wore an orange vest just last Friday night and I got lucky I encountered some great respectful parents. The next day I was head timer and sitting next to the deck Marshall who was talking to this mother holding a banana insisting on going to her son to give the banana. Refused to follow our poor deck Marshall and went ahead and walked past her towards her swimmer. Came back few minutes later with a banana and said “my son didn’t want a banana.” Well, her son was ready to swim! Didn’t apologize, just walked past her.
I am blessed I belong to a great… Read more »

Peter Davis
6 years ago

Bald guy: “son, there’s more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking.”

Graham: “really?”

O Club chick: “no”

Reply to  Peter Davis
6 years ago

Didn’t realize what you were talking about till I look at the top photo. so funny.

Reply to  Peter Davis
6 years ago

you should start adding commentary to all the photos on swimswams stories. lol I thought this was hilarious.

6 years ago

I think your comment about the two hour parents is way off the mark. My children are involved in multiple activities multiple sports with multiple parent commitments. My husband is on the road 4 days a week works a second job the days he’s in town. I work full time & go to grad school. So guess what if the min is 2 hours the team gets 2. If it’s 4 it gets 4 if there’s no mandatory I generally sign up for something I can do on the go (mailings, food donations, etc.) It’s really unfair to say we aren’t good swim parents to do the minimum.

Reply to  Swymwynnmom
6 years ago

“If you have the time, do more than the minimum.”

It sounds like you don’t have much extra time, so I don’t think she was directing that at you. And it sounds like you do stuff when nothing is mandated, so you are doing more than the minimum anyway. So thank you!

6 years ago

Agree with this with one exception. Every team has one mom who does this for the reason…it’s about HER and making sure HER kid is favored. Bringing the coaches brownies and coffee to ensure her kid is favored. This is really the team helicopter mom disguising as a helpful mom…it does usually work, but makes the other parents nauseous.

Reply to  swimfanhere
6 years ago

I am the volunteer coordinator for my club. I don’t do it so I can receive special recognition or so that my kid gets special treatment. I spend many, many hours before and during the meet (and many after tracking all the hours) getting enough volunteers so that our Club can host a great meet for all swimmers both ours and visitors and so that everyone has a great time and amazing swim experience! I even organize meets where my child doesn’t even swim! I can understand that there are parents who are extremely busy but I hear the lamest excuses from some parents about why they can’t fill their volunteer commitment – book club, working out with friends, etc.… Read more »

Reply to  swimfanhere
6 years ago

You are so right about that! We have one and she is a bully on top of it. I have years of competitive swimming under my belt and along other swimming alumni parents, just laugh at her feeble attempts to create disorder and anarchy in between the donut, Starbucks and Subway bribes for the coaches.

6 years ago

I love volunteering so I can watch the progress of not only my kids but others on the team. That way when my sons ask me if I saw “so-and-so” race? I can say I did. I volunteer mostly as an official and love being on deck with the kids and coaches. It is truly an inspiration to be around these young people as they work so hard to achieve their goals. To watch the coaches interact with their teams is also wonderful to see. I am so grateful to everyone who participates in USA swim programs as paid employees or volunteers. It’s truly amazing.

6 years ago

Thanks so much for everyone sharing thoughts positive and negative. My daughter is on swim team for the very first time. First swim meet this Saturday, first time mom volunteering, I have no idea what to expect for my daughter with the meet or for me volunteering. I’m hopeful it all will be a good , fun experience for both of us, swimming is all new to both of us.