8 Ways to Win Gold as a Swim Parent

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Abigail Sheridan, Swimming World Intern. 

Behind every swimmer is the incredible swim parent. They wake up at all hours of the night to drive us to swim meets, they slave over countless meals only to see them devoured in a matter of just a few minutes, they sit through days of meets to watch us swim for just a couple seconds, and act as our emotional support on just a few seconds notice. When a parent can stand behind their swimmer and provide all these necessary things, the swimmer has the chance to thrive. What can you do to “win gold” as the best swim parent?

1. Buy us snacks.

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Photo Courtesy: Fancycrave

Swimming is incredibly demanding both physically and mentally: it makes you hungry, and that’s no joke. Parents – in order to avoid “hangry” swimmers, never forget the snacks when shopping. Snacks are a necessity in every swimming household because we can’t avoid being hungry between meals.

2. Cheer for us at meets.

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Photo Courtesy: Colin Sheridan

Even though we all know we can’t hear you cheering for us, knowing that you’re there for us is comforting and motivating. It’s one of the coolest things to see your parents smile (or wave crazily) at you before or after a race.

3. Don’t go crazy about attendance.

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Photo Courtesy: Colin Sheridan

Being crazy about your swimmer needing to go to practice every single day is extremely destructive. Attendance is obviously important, but missing one practice to recover, study for a test, or to attend another obligation is not the end of the world. Forcing swimmers to go to practice every single day, especially when they specifically want to take a day off for their health, is the fastest way to make them hate swimming. It’s true that you can’t improve while not at practice, but it’s also true that motivation enables hard work. Making a swimmer to go to practice means that they’re going to have much less motivation to work hard, as being there wasn’t their own decision.

4. Cheer us up after bad swims.

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Photo Courtesy: Pexel

It’s huge to know that we have a support system to cheer us through both our best times and pick us up during our worst times. The best swim parents never yell at their kids for not going a best time; they let them know that they have a chance to do better next time. Swimming can be one of the most fun parts of your kid’s life, so being supportive through the negatives is important. Adding time isn’t the end of the world – so don’t treat it like it is!

5. Let the coaches coach.

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Photo Courtesy: Deb Schaffer

Coaches are hired by swim clubs to do countless things, and they’re busy helping us improve at all times. We want them to be able to do their job without worrying about our parents. Coaches are qualified for their position, so don’t create confusion by coaching your kid, especially not if you give conflicting instructions.

6. Don’t get too involved.

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Photo Courtesy: Waldek Jablonski

Living vicariously will never be satisfying for you or your swimmer. Acting overbearing and too involved does not make you a good swim parent, but being supportive and encouraging definitely does. This careful balancing act is beneficial to both you and your swimmer. Coaches are able to help your swimmer improve by overseeing the day to day trials and tribulations, while you should give your swimmer space to grow.

7. Volunteer when you can.

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Photo Courtesy: Colin Sheridan

Looking at this picture, you can see the swimmer ready to dive in for her race. What you may not have immediately noticed, however, is all the parents timing in the background. Every meet takes the cooperation of many parents, coaches and swimmers. Volunteering to help these meets run more smoothly is just one thing you can do to become a great swim parent.  

8. Help us be on time.

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Photo Courtesy: Miguel Á. Padriñán

Punctuality is an important life skill, but until we are responsible enough to determine if we will be on time or not, the best swim parents help their swimmers be on time for practices and meets. Jude Sandt, an assistant principal at Parkland High School, likes to remind his students of this saying: “To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, and to be late is unacceptable.” Parents who help their swimmer learn this early on are helping them with a crucial life skill. 

While we explored specific examples of how to be the best swim parent, any parent who dedicates time to supporting kids is the best swim parent anyone could ever ask for. To all swim parents – thank you for every sacrifice you have made and continue to make to enable your kids to be who they are today!

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff. 

3 comments

  1. avatar
    Betsy C

    Nicely written, Abi. I appreciate your knowledge of what parents can do to help swimmers, as well as letting swimmers know parents are appreciated!

  2. Sarah Joy Haley

    Maureen Tom Haley you guys did all 8!