Two Top Tips for Age Group Swimmers and Parents

by SwimSwam 20

October 25th, 2014 Club, Masters, Opinion

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

As an overly-involved swim mom for close to 15 years, I learned many lessons from our age-group years. Here are my top two tips to pass along to swimmers and parents.


Never lie to your coach. Reinforce to your child to never lie to their coach.


Respect the planning that goes into a year-long swim calendar and schedule your vacations accordingly.

The lying sounds obvious and ridiculous, right? Your child never lies. You never lie. But, you’d be surprised. Even if you truly fall in the category of the family that never lies, others do lie. What happens when your child is asked by another swimmer not to tell why they missed practice? Or, what if your child knows that a teammate is at Disneyland and not sick in bed and the coach asks her point blank where that swimmer is? It all comes out in the end — so avoid this embarrassment — and never, ever lie. When the coach finds out the truth, which inevitably will happen, your swimmer will lose credibility. How does he or she get that trust back?

The second tip is also a matter of respect. If your swimmer is a serious year-round swimmer, there will be a certain point in their career when you can’t take off whenever you want. Time-wise, it’s usually around the age of 12 or 13 for girls. Perhaps a little older for boys. I bet you didn’t know that the coach has training cycles and plans out an entire year’s practice in advance — sometimes plans 2 to 3 years out or longer? I bet you didn’t realize that when you go visit Aunt Sally for a week at Christmas you may be missing a huge workout week that is setting up your swimmer for success for the rest of the season? Respect your coaches and their training cycles. They actually put in vacation weeks during their year’s plan. It’s so much better for your swimmer to have your family’s calendar and the team’s on the same page.

My two cents worth. What advice do you have for successful swim parenting? If you have a tip, please post it below.

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swim parent
8 years ago

I agree with the tip re: honesty. It directly ties into integrity & personal responsibility, which is are valuable traitsregardless of whether or not you swim competitively.

Like another poster, I, too, have heard parents berate their kids for not swimming fast enough. At a meet this past summer, I overheard a father ream his 7-yr-old son out for not swimming well enough. It’s no wonder that kid didn’t care for swimming that much…his dad had taken all the joy out of it.

I also agree with the suggestion for parents to parent and for coaches to coach. Some parents are also USA certified officials, so technically speaking, they would be qualified to offer suggestions to their kids of what… Read more »

8 years ago

Wow. Unfortunately, I see too many parents that think like Anonymous. First, sports are not school. They are not mandatory, they are not necessary unless you have a driving passion to do them. Billions of people have lived fulfilling lives without ever having played a sport. An education at least in some form is necessary and essential for humans to prosper. A parent has to require this of their children. It’s absolutely essential.

A sport is for the participant. Everything you do as a parent to undermine their joy and love of the sport undermines their performance ability and longevity in the sport. As a parent, you have the right to require your to child follow the rules, attend practices,… Read more »

Reply to  ohioswimmer
8 years ago

You are right that sports are not mandatory. But what is mandatory, at least in my house, is doing the best you can at whatever you do. Even with casual playing I want my child to do their best, even if that only means being respectful, thoughtful, etc. Why do you want to hold swimming to a lower standard than everything else? If the parent can help with swimming, then he/she should help. Some parents might only be able to help by being encouraging, but that is the minority of parents in my opinion. Most can provide constructive criticism.

Reply to  anonymous
8 years ago

I have no problem with constructive criticism around the criteria I mentioned. Respect, practice attendance or lack thereof, behavior in general, even effort, though from my experience effort can be hard to judge for someone else sometimes. As I said, a parent has that right, and those things are well within parental responsibility. Something like swimming doesn’t work unless it is self motivated. It’s too much work, too time consuming, too everything unless it is what the kid wants. In my swimming career, I saw ten year old locked in a bathroom stall with a parent while a parent berated their performance. The kid was a really good swimmer, but you stopped seeing her at the high level meets by… Read more »

8 years ago

parents, you have an important role but remember, this is not about you, this is about your child and it is our responsibility as coaches to make sure that your child has the ability to progress through the sport and move on to bigger and better things beyond their club years. being the best 12 year old in the country is awesome but don’t be blinded by the fact that doing so can ruin their future in the sport. Don’t be consumed by cuts, swimming doubles, having a strength coach outside of normal dryland, winning at an early age, buying $400 suits because they have to swim fast RIGHT NOW! BUT and this is a HUGE BUT… don’t expect major… Read more »

8 years ago

I have seen a posts here talking about parents supporting your children regardless of outcome – nonsense! When a child says 2+2=5 the parent should not simply be proud of the effort and say “the teacher will fix it”. No, the parent acts as teacher and fixes it. Similarly, parents can coach their kids to the degree they are capable – regardless of what USA swimming says.

8 years ago

Swimming is a lifetime career, simply because it opens so many doors for any one who pursues it. Definitely, it isn’t just a sport, to even take it for granted for it builds everything in a child, from values to life skills. Swimming teaches & develops our children’s life skills (discipline, sportsmanship, goal setting, time management) which they can use as tools for their future endeavors. I’m a mother of 3 swimmers, from the Philippines. Modesty aside, all of them made it to the national swimming team of our country, while my youngest son pursued & qualified to Beijing Olympics in 2008 after receiving a scholarship from the Olympic Solidarity, in Lausanne, Switzerland to study & train at the Olympic… Read more »

8 years ago

Anonymous: You’re just trying to weaken your competition, right?
My biggest gripe are the swimmers who have no ownership of their swimming. They float in and out, forget warm-ups, technique, and have no short or long term goals. They don’t know their times and are only there because swimming is cheaper than day care. They usually sit alone at meets (if they come) because they don’t know anyone and of course miss at least one swim/meet and are late to warm-ups to boot. They have no clue what the concept of “TEAM” is…their loss. Gotta love it or the tsunami of great swimmers will wash you ashore.

8 years ago

Join a team that does not have mandatory practice and then skip practice whenever you want.