Why Do We Want Our Kids to Swim?

by Elizabeth Wickham

When I was brand new swim mom, I heard a few parents of older swimmers talk about how their kids were swimming to earn college scholarships. When I enrolled my children with the local swim team, they were in elementary school and scholarship money definitely wasn’t on my mind. It was water safety. Living in an area with backyard pools, it made sense to have my kids learn to swim.

During our first week of summer league, I’ll never forget sitting in the stands with another swim mom, talking away. When we glanced at the pool, we couldn’t find our boys. They weren’t in the pool anywhere. We found them playing under a tree with sticks. Bored with practice, our boys found something else to do. No, I definitely wasn’t thinking about college scholarships back then.

College is ridiculously expensive, but the pressure to earn a scholarship could easily lead to burn out—especially for young swimmers. A scholarship is a wonderful bonus, but by focusing on it, children may view swimming as work rather than a great life experience.

I asked Sarah Dawson, 11-12 Age Group Division Director for the Mission Viejo Nadadores, about putting pressure on our kids:

“Yes, swimming is an expensive sport and there may be early specialization, private lessons, monthly dues, plus travel to meets. But, don’t treat your child like they are the employee of your expectations. Don’t make them pay off the debt of swimming. You will take the joy right out of the sport.

“I learned from my own mom. We had five kids and I was the only one who swam. During a two-and-a-half year plateau, my mom was worried about the cost. It was a true concern. But, how does a child process that? As an age group athlete, how does a swimmer process the expense of going to a meet in Las Vegas? I had a swimmer apologizing to her mother for adding time at a Vegas meet.

“Have a truthful conversation and tell them you love to watch them swim. You want them to love the sport for the joy of it,” Dawson said.

Why do we want our kids to swim? There are so many great reasons, and yes, that may include a college scholarship. Here are three other reasons to be happy our children swim:


Fun and friendships.

Swimmers develop life-long friendships and really do have fun being a part of a team. When we watch our kids happy and thriving, it brings us joy.


Self-discipline and time management.

The sheer nature of swimming takes so many hours year-round, that our kids learn they don’t have time to waste. Self-discipline and making good choices will serve them well—long after their age group years.


Self-confidence and esteem.

Through learning new skills, improving and achieving measurable goals our children will have self-confidence and self-esteem that they earned.

There are countless more reasons for our children to swim. What are your favorite ones?

Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, Elizabeth Wickhamfundraiser, 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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This is again a great article! Thank you! I was criticized many times why I didn’t push my son to look for scholasrship after all those hours and time spent in the pool plus the money. I just smile and didn’t even argue. My son learned the best experience in swimming and I am always grateful he stayed with the sport even after all the trails that came with it.

Anne Lane

Great article. We must enjoy watching and being apart of our children’s activities no matter where they lead. My son was an athlete who earned several college scholarships and turned them down. He was burned out and did not want any college to own him. This made us sad but we wanted him to decide his life’s journey not us.

Masters Mom

In my opinion, the college scholarship should be the last reason. In any event, the number of scholarships available is tiny compared to the number of kids swimming. And if your priority is for your kid to go to the college that’s academically best for what your kid wants to study, the odds get even longer if your kid is not an elite swimmer. All this is likely to add up to disappointment for you and your kid. In addition to the great reasons listed in the article, I’d add the obvious one, that it’s amazing exercise with very little risk of injury. You can do it long past college, literally until your 100th birthday. I swam as a kid,… Read more »

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