What’s The Best Advice For New Swim Parents?

by SwimSwam Contributors 10

January 02nd, 2017 Lifestyle

By Elizabeth Wickham

While swimming Masters, I introduced myself to a fellow swimmer and learned she had a four- and six-year-old in learn-to-swim and the youngest group on our club team. I told her, “You’re going to have so much fun in the years ahead. Enjoy it!”

I felt a tinge of jealousy along with a flash of memories driving to meets in the early mornings with my kids, laughing with other parents in the stands, and watching my kids dive off the blocks earning a long sought-after cut. My years as a swim parent are closing, while this swim mom has years of exciting times ahead. She told me that her son insists on going to practice every single day. I told her my daughter is like that, too, and that’s wonderful. We can’t force them to love swimming.

Here are a few things I’d suggest to a new swim parent:


Passion for the sport

You cannot make your children love the sport. Children want to please us and they will try to swim if it’s important to us, but if it’s not their passion, it’s tough to stick with it. We cannot want swimming more than they do. If they aren’t passionate about swimming, let them explore something else they may love more.


Stay away from drama

At some point, you’ll see some problems erupt between kids or parents. You may notice some people who are negative and have nothing positive to say about your team, coach or other parents. Stay away from negativity and drama and you’ll be a happier swim parent.


Encourage your swimmer

We can encourage our kids by getting them to the pool consistently, cheering for them and volunteering. We can ask simple questions about how practice is going and how they felt during a race. We can be good listeners and enjoy hearing about their experiences.


Allow them ownership

We can’t swim for our kids or put in the effort day in and day out. Our kids are the ones who are putting in the hard work. They will learn so many lessons when they take responsibility for what they do on a daily basis in and out of the pool.


Six simple words

I’ve seen parents visibly upset when their kids don’t do well and even yell and pull their swimmers out of meets. If children love swimming, surely this isn’t the way to get them to continue to enjoy it. The best advice I’ve heard is to say six simple words and see how it works with your kids: “I love to watch you swim.”

What advice would you share with a new swim parent?

Elizabeth 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
6 years ago

Get involved on deck! It’s an amazing thing to learn and watch. You don’t have to go far up the officiating ladder if you don’t want to. But whatever position you do, it brings you more knowledge of the sport and will strengthen that parents swimmer bond. But remember, you are an official and not a coach; let the coach coach your swimmer!

6 years ago

Everything you say is so true. It took me way to long to realize those six words. And now in a year and a half my swimmer child is off to college to swim there and I will miss watching her at every meet. Luckily I now have a six year old just starting. Enjoy the times at the pool, and let their coaches worry about the times in the pool.

6 years ago

1. Breathe, being new is overwhelming but it passes. 2. Volunteer 3. Learn as much as you can 4. pay it forward to other parents regardless of if they are new or not. Even after 7+ years I learn new things all the time about this sport my kids love/hate 🙂

6 years ago

Excellent article!!! I remember so well my first year as a swim parent. We were clueless! I would add one more to the list… #6: NO QUESTION IS A STUPID QUESTION. Your kids may learn something that you don’t know or understand – if you were not a swimmer, or even if you were! So much has changed about rules, and even strokes. (I was a breaststroker and, WOW, how that stroke and the rules have changed since I was in high school 30 years ago.) Also, parents are your wealth of information. Veteran parents should seek out new parents, introduce themselves, and offer to answer questions. New parents, seek out the other parents at meets. ???? Usually, hopefully, the… Read more »

6 years ago

I was a swim parent for 9 years. My best advice for new parents is learn as little as possible about the sport. Don’t pay attention to anything. Just take your kid to practice when possible. Don’t stay at practice if you can. Go to meets only watch your child’s events. Never look at the scoreboard. Never look at times. Never look at heat sheets. Never look at results. Overall be as uninvolved as possible. Ignorance is bliss. Go to a meet and hide from others.

Reply to  Gpo
6 years ago

Thanks for the reply. Perhaps us “experience” swim parents should be a bit nicer to new swim parents as well. It might appear that we don’t want to help them or bring them into the fold- and perhaps that is why we end up feeling like you do- doing everything for the team and then complaining when the new parents do exactly what you have just described.

Reply to  Gpo
6 years ago

Hope you are kidding…total opposite to what a parent needs to do! Except maybe worrying about results for newbies! I am a coach of 64 years and Was a parent for 15.

6 years ago

Become an involved parent- no not the one that creates the drama, the one who is there to help run a meet (time, become an official, learn the timing system, you get the idea). If you as a parent are interested in helping the team the kids see that you are involved in what they are interested in. Be friendly with the other parents, cheer for all of the kids. We all were new sometime. I say the same thing for Scouts and other activities.

T Hill
6 years ago

Thanks for sharing – on # 1 share with their coach if they are struggling as a simple conversation with their coach may help. #5 Yes & Yes and/or I love how you supported your teammates, listened to your coach or how you worked thru some disappointment, or share what you learned about yourself today that you can work on going forward. Always tie in life skills or use as teaching moment; but not coaching as it’s their swimming.

Reply to  T Hill
6 years ago

The handbook for my kids’ first club team had an excellent “rule”: swimmers swim, parents parent, and coaches coach.