Every team has a few parents that the rest of us cringe at every time they walk into the room. As we explore the concepts of swim meet and swim parent etiquette we will be talking a lot about these types of moms and dads and how to avoid becoming one of them. So today I would like to present to you the cast of characters of my upcoming cautionary tales.
The Top Eleven Cringe Worthy Swim Parents:
1. Sally Screamer:
This mom should come with a warning on the back of her shirt. “Caution: sitting within 100 feet of my mouth may result in migraine level head pain and bleeding ears.” We all get excited at meets, many of us cheer and shout encouraging things when our favorite swimmers take the water. But reasonable swim fans remember that 1. the swimmers can’t hear a word you are saying, and 2. The people around you would prefer their ear drums not be broken while you bellow your child’s name. Sally however has never learned these important lessons, nor has she probably noticed the snickers and eye rolls between parents each time her swimmer is in the pool. Oh yes, the Sallys of the world are famous throughout their children’s swim leagues as they compete each week for the coveted title of most obnoxious swim parent in the stands. Oh and as an added bonus, Sally is also most likely to be the one standing on the railing in front of the bleachers blocking everyone’s view of the pool. Or on her lazier days she’ll just bring a giant sign, or a disturbingly large picture of her swimmer to wave in the stands. Don’t worry when asked to please sit down, or to move her ridiculous sign, she’ll explain that she has a swimmer she’s watching…because obviously the rest of us are just there because we enjoy breaking our backs in the oh so comfy bleachers while soaking up all the heat, humidity, and overwhelming scent of chlorine that the pool has to offer.
2. Dr. Imtoobusy:
As with any of your children’s activities Swim teams usually come with a minimum work requirement from parents. In addition to taking your kids to meets and practices, you are also expected to chip in once in a while and do crazy things like time at meets, bring cookies to an event, etc… Most swim parents are happy to do their fair share, except of course for Dr. Imtoobusy. This person always has an excuse… he has a very important job, he has more than one kid, he has a bad back, he doesn’t know how to run a stop watch, he doesn’t have time to bake or even shop, his dog is sick, his distant relative is pregnant, he stands all day at work and weekends are his only time to relax, his favorite football team is playing…etc etc Not only does Dr. Imtoobusy not volunteer, but he also somehow pawns off transporting his kids to and from practice on others as well. You know that guy in multiple car pools who never seems to take a turn driving? Yeah, the good doctor is never in!
3. Coach Dad:
Good ol’ Coach Dad (or mom), he’s an expert on all things swimming, and has the experience to back it up…after all if you threw him in the deep end he does have enough swimming talent to allow him drown in great style.
You’ll notice this guy anywhere; at meets he has long conversations with his swimmers before and after every race giving long lists of technical advice and critiques. When his swimmers are behind the blocks and the rest of the chumps of the swimming world are focusing on their race, he is giving his kid complicated hand signals that will both remind them to lengthen their stroke while breathing every 5, as well as help land several airplanes on a nearby aircraft carrier. At practice he sits and watches every second diligently taking notes either mentally or on actual paper so that he can later critique both his swimmer and his swimmer’s actual coach. Meanwhile, he’s also giving hand signals and testing his swimmer’s lip reading skills between each set. He will argue with coaches about techniques, practice set choices, and the number of yards his superstar should swim. Clearly the coach he hired for the job of coaching his 8 year old future Olympian is only a decorative piece on the deck. He’ll proudly list his qualifications to anyone who will listen….Coach Dad has visited several swimming websites, and read at least 2 Michael Phelps books, and played a sport (not swimming) in High School…he even once coached his kid’s t-ball team, back when they were allowed to do activities outside of swimming. He’s clearly the most qualified coach on this or any other deck.
4. Deloris Drama:
Every coach and every booster board member cringes when Ms. Drama enters the room, or when you see her name in your email inbox. You see, the cruel cruel world of youth swimming is always out to get Ms. Deloris Drama. After all in just one week, the coach bumped the littlest Drama from the A relay…though she does swim slower than the next kid, that couldn’t possibly be the reason for the change… obviously she was bumped because the politics of the team are conspiring against her. Then when Deloris performed her volunteer duties, she went to great lengths to inform every one of the tremendous sacrifice she was making to stand upon her weary legs for hours on a 150 degree pool deck, while rude swimmers purposely splashed her during their flip turns, which made the deck around her treacherously wet, clearly putting her life at risk if she should have to walk across that deck. Fear not brave readers., she did soldier on for the good of the team because she knew without a doubt that she is the glue that holds all things together…as we all now know she is the only one who can possibly press that stop watch button properly, and without her alerting everyone else to how they are clearly running their stop watches completely wrong, the whole meet, nay, the whole swimming world would fall apart. Then, just when you thought Deloris couldn’t sacrifice any more, she’ll spend the next four nights diligently writing strongly worded emails to coaches and booster club representatives to inform them of everything they’ve done wrong that week. Oh Deloris Drama, what would we do without you?
5. Constance Complainerton:
Constance is a close friend of Deloris Drama’s. Constance will leave no stone unturned when griping about the injustices of your team. From coaches, to booster board members, to the poor unfortunate soul whose only mistake was to sit next to her at practice, she will inform us all about her dissatisfaction. “The coaches don’t coach right, meets start too early, run too late, and are boring, the seating is bad, the deck is hot, the gym is cold, the lanes are too narrow, the lane lines aren’t tight enough, coaches don’t coach my child enough, my child should be faster by now for all the money I pay, the team uniforms should be a different color, style, and fabric…uniforms should be free, they should hire people to time so I don’t have to, the team fees should be lower, the other parents are mean to me, the booster president ignores me, I never know what’s going on…no I won’t use the website, read emails, or go to parent meetings!”
And that’s just how she says hello!
6. Sergeant Swimorelse:
A close relative of Coach Dad, this parent is the one who is waaay more into swimming than his child. In fact, all things being equal the kid would rather being doing just about anything else, but the good Sergeant won’t hear of it. After all his kid did say he liked to swim when he was 5, what could have possibly changed in the last 6 years?! The Sergeant will do whatever it takes to keep their swimmer going, bribes (just two more good meets for a new iPhone), ego boosts (you’ll never amount to anything if you quit now), motivation (get that Zone cut and I’ll let you eat a whole slice of pizza… in the off season of course), punishments (bad swim, give me back that iPhone!). Sergeant Swimorelse will not tolerate a quitter. His kids will swim at every single meet and pretend to like it, or else. That is of course until the little Swimorelse is old enough to find their own voice and rebel…the teenage years are a particular treat in the Swimorelse home!
7. Ginger Limelight:
Poor Ginger, clearly she needed more hugs as a child because as an adult she needs constant reassurance that she her swimmer is the best, and that everyone loves her her swimmer above all others. Every accomplishment must be shouted from the rooftops, every swim must have an award shinier and bigger than the last. She’ll plot and study every aspect of the record books to find ways her little darling can become famous. Strategies for winning awards are planned with the detail of a military assault. Newspapers, websites, and any coach’s speech must include a tribute to the best parent swimmer on the team. All other swimmers should feel blessed just to share a deck with the little Limelight Jr. Of course it can only be a deck that they share, it’s not like they could share a lane, the commoners might slow our most important parent’s swimmer down!
8. Stanley Works-ish:
Stanley is always right in the thick of it, standing as close as possible to the people doing the work without actually doing anything. While others are carrying chairs from one room to another Stanley is happy to straighten the chair out after you put it down. When others are running around setting up a meet, Stanley will stand next to you and chat about a variety of useless things. When people are emptying, then painting the storage closet Stanley will take pictures of everyone doing the work to tweet later. Stanley is also full of great ideas for fund raisers, fun events, ways to improve the team, but every suggestion starts with “Somebody ought to…” Of course, that somebody is never Mr. or Mrs. Works-ish…afterall they are too busy coming up with work for everyone else to do. If you think about it, Stanley Works-ish is actually a genius… stay near the people who actually do things and make decisions, pretend like you are one of them, but never actually do anything yourself. All of the influence, but none of the work…. Brilliant…he’s absolutely useless to the team…but brilliant nonetheless.
9. Ingrid Idunno:
They say ignorance is bliss, so Ingrid Idunno must be the happiest knucklehead to ever grace the pool deck. Ingrid never reads her emails, never logs into the team website, won’t attend any meetings, and yet insists that someone needs to hand hold her through every aspect of being a swim mom. If you don’t then it is your fault (coach, booster rep, etc) that she is out of the loop. One time Ingrid missed picture day even though notifications were on the team website for a month, in at least 4 separate team emails, in her team mailbox, and mentioned at a parents meeting…150 other kids managed to show up for pictures…but it was my fault that her kid missed it. Sure that sounds about right.
Mrs. Idunno also can never perform any job at swim meets because she doesn’t know how. The Advanced Rocket Science Stop Watch class must have been canceled. Thank goodness everyone else on the team was born knowing how to do all the jobs necessary to run a swim meet.
10. Imma Behind:
If there is one thing you can count on in this world it is that Imma will be late, with everything. Whether it’s meet entries, turning in forms, RSVPing to events, paying the bills, picking their kid up from practice, arriving at meets, showing up for their volunteer position, ….you can count on Imma to be behind. It is never her fault though, the list of excuses is impressive to say the least. The best part is how the complications that lead to her tardiness are unique only to her… “I had two kids to get ready”, “the meet is too early in the morning”, “I have a job”, “I had to cook”, “I forgot”, “I was too tired”, “I’m busy”,”swimming is expensive”, “My husband/wife is a doofus”, etc…
So you won’t mind making an exception for poor Imma just this 345th time, right?
11. Queen Nitpicker
Her royal highness is the expert on everything, and demands perfection from all the peasants muddling about around her. Nothing brings her Royal Excellency more joy than finding the meaningless mistakes of others so that she can wave her royal wand and decree that it must be fixed post haste! Her tireless services to the team include pointing out the unnecessary at parents meetings, and alerting us to egregious errors like typos on both websites and emails. From her throne she valiantly cracks the whip on her subjects to make sure everything is done on her timeline and to her specifications while ensuring that no actual work ever cross her delicate fingers, since clearly such things are for the common folk to toil with.
Now before you start to blush thinking that you’ve done some of these things, don’t feel bad. We all have a little of each of these parent types in us. The difference between a good parent and Sally Screamer, Deloris Drama, or Imma Behind, etc… is that we do things in moderation and have some awareness of our surroundings. Sure there is always something to complain about, but good parents understand that the volunteers running the team are just that, volunteers, and they are trying their best. So while constructive criticism maybe warranted, nonstop whining is not. And sure, we all are late once in a while, but we don’t expect the world to wait on us. As for Sally Screamer, yeah, I’ve been her once or twice during a really exciting race, but in an effort to be more reasonable, for the most part I’ve taken to mumbling under my breath during my kids’ races…so if you’re ever next to a woman in the stands whose mumbling seemingly random things to herself like, “turn, come up, finish, finish…touch, touch, touch”…it may be me. Your ear drums are welcome.
As a side note, if you are someone from one of my kids’ teams, past or present, no these descriptions are not based on you. You are all perfect, any similarities are purely coincidental.
Want more swimming giggles? Check out
25 Things Non Swim Parents…Just Don’t Understand