Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham.
As swim parents, there may be an afternoon or early morning when our children don’t want to
go to practice. Does it mean they want to quit the sport? Maybe, but more likely they might want
a break or day off. Swimming is a tough sport. It’s demanding because of the sheer amount of
hours each week—for not only swimmers but families, too.
We had a coach who said that he lost some swimmers once they got a driver’s license or a
boyfriend or girlfriend. He explained when they’re teenagers, other things in their lives look more
attractive to them than swim practice. Our kids have to have ownership of their sport and truly
want to be there. They can’t be swimming for us. It has to be their passion to keep them in the
Here are five things to think about when your child wants to skip practice:
They are children.
Your child is just that—a child first and foremost. Yes, our children are swimmers, but in reality,
they are children who happen to swim. They are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters,
friends and students—before they are swimmers. Keeping their sport in perspective in the big
picture can help us when they would rather not go to practice.
Make a commitment.
Many parents have their children make a commitment for a season, a year, or a certain period
of time. They let their children know that at the end of the time commitment they are free to
revisit swimming and decide if they want to sign up again. That approach can teach children
about responsibility and create ownership in their sport.
Read the signs.
One of my kids seemed to have too much homework or didn’t feel well enough for practice
often. He was sending clear signals during high school that his interest in swimming had faded
and he wanted to put his time and energy elsewhere. He didn’t want to disappoint us and tell us
he wanted to quit—but all the signs were there—if only we’d been open to them.
Talk about it.
Communication may help you understand why your child doesn’t want to go to practice.
According to the National Alliance for Youth Sports, 70 percent of children quit sports by age 13
because “it isn’t fun anymore.” Is there something going on at the pool you need to know about?
Do they feel like they’re not making progress? Are their friends still on the team and showing up
for practice? Are they having fun? Being able to talk to our kids about their feelings can help us
understand what’s going on and hopefully help them.
Every child is different.
Even the most talented swimmers may lose interest in swimming. As painful as it can be for
parents who have schlepped to and from the pool for years, we understand that every child has
different interests and passions. They may have goals to swim in college or may want to try
something new. As parents, we can support our kids with unconditional love and respect their
choices. If they choose to leave swimming at any point in time, they may come back to the sport
later and remember why they loved to swim.
What do you do if your kids want to miss practice?
Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on ther 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.