I’ve been a swim mom for 16 years now and in that time I’ve seen lots of swim parents come through the various teams my kids have been on. Some are absolutely amazing and some seem…misguided. What’s funny is occasionally some of the worst swim parents have the fastest swimmers, so many people around them think that they should mimic their bad habits, because it must work. But that is simply not the case, there is more to this swim parent thing than just the swimming and the scoreboard. There are other things to be considered like allowing the experience to enhance your child’s character, strengthening your relationship with your child, modelling respectful, moral, and sportsman like behaviors in your interactions with other swim families, and so much more.
So here I will discuss habits of a good swim parent.
I have a whole post dedicated to this topic, so I won’t rehash it all here, but I will remind you that you should allow your swimmer’s coaches to deal with training, technical critiques, and general coaching stuff. The best swim parents find a good coach for their swimmers and then let them do their job.
Good swim parents get involved with the team for the good of all the swimmers, not just their own. No team can run without the support of their volunteers. Not only does this help the team, but it also shows your child that you value their team too, and that it is important to give back. Plus it helps you gain a better understanding of the sport and it gives you a better opportunity to connect with more coaches and parents. A good swim parent is always eager to do their share.
The best swim parents are humble. I’ve known swimmers who have had amazing careers, Olympic trials, D1 scholarships to big name schools, team captain of a Big Ten team, etc…. Their parents all have one thing in common, if you didn’t know them for other reasons, you’d never be able to pick them out in the stands They are quiet, humble, and gracious. If you do talk to them they always ask about your swimmer and are very humble when you ask about theirs. If you compliment them they will graciously point out that it is their swimmer’s work, not theirs. I’m sure we all have seen parents who do not follow this great example…you know the ones who as soon as their swimmer shows any promise in the pool they start acting like the king/queen of the team expecting the world to revolve around them. Don’t be that guy!
Sadly, swim team parent gossip sometimes ranks right up there with the high school mean girls. There is always something brewing, and nothing constructive ever comes from it. In fact, I’ve seen it get so ugly that parents have forced their kids to switch teams because of gossipy nonsense that got so out of hand. The best swim parents do not engage in this juvenile behavior. If they have real concerns they know who to go to that is in charge to get the accurate story. Always remember your focus should be on giving the kids the best experience possible, not on your social life within the team or your ego.
Swimming is a bit of a fringe sport. Unlike football or basketball most people do not sit around chatting about swimming unless it is that one week every four years where everyone is watching Michael Phelps rack up the Olympic golds. But for those in the sport, it is every bit as exciting and interesting as the NFL or NBA. My serious swimmers talk about national team swimmers like “normal people” talk about Tom Brady and LeBron James. It can sometimes frustrate swimmers that not many others share their passion. Good swim parents take the time to learn about the swim world so they know what their kids are talking about when Katie Ledecky breaks another record or when Anthony Ervin comes out of retirement to win the gold. Believe it or not it can make for some interesting dinner conversations.
I once heard a swim mom say that if she had to sit in the stands for another day of prelim/finals swimming that she’d drive herself off a cliff. This was the mom of a kid who won just about every race he swam. What pure torture it must have been for her to endure watching her child be supremely successful at the one thing he loved to do the most. Good swim parents don’t treat their child’s passion like it is a burden. Kids can only swim for a short time before real life gets in the way. Take it from a mom of a college senior beginning his last swim season, never make your kids feel guilty for loving the sport and enjoy each moment, they go by far too fast!
Swimmers who are passionate about the sport will at some point fall short of a goal or make a mistake. They may likely be heartbroken and feel defeated as they wonder what was the point of all their hard work. You too may feel disappointed and frustrated. Good swim parents can put their own feelings aside and comfort/support their swimmers and help them see the positive side of things. This is where it is absolutely crucial that you leave the coaching to the coaches. Your job is to be their soft spot to fall, a shoulder to cry on…it is the coach’s & athlete’s job to fix the swimming.
This includes the coaches, board members, volunteers, meet workers, fellow swim parents, and swimmers. With some people it seems like they are on a mission to find something to complain about. If you feel like everyone is out to get you, the problem may actually be you. Good swim parents show respect and appreciation to those working with their swimmer and team. They also show respect to the spectators around them and are interested in and supportive of the swimmers around them even if they don’t share DNA.
When it comes down to it there is more to being a swim parent than just showing up and paying fees. You have responsibilities to both your swimmer and the swim community you’ve chosen to become a part of. Be sure you are a positive influence rather than a detriment to both.
Want more on swim parent behaviors? Check out 11 Cringe Worthy Swim Parents