Oh The Parents You’ll Meet (At A Swim Meet)

Photo Courtesy: Taylor Brien

Swimming World is producing the live webcast of the 2016 CeraVe Invitational on the campus of Rutgers University. Click here to watch the live stream, view video interviews and watch races on demand!

Commentary by Emma Miller, Swimming World Intern 2016 CeraVe Invitational

Scattered intermittently throughout the piles of stray equipment, the throngs of cheering teammates, and the clumps of exhausted swimmers sit an integral part of every athlete’s life: the parents. With varying levels of enthusiasm and dedication, these men and women have spent countless hours planted in the bleachers, eager to see their child swim. After growing up with chlorine in my veins and goggle marks permanently etched around my eyes, I have found a way to amass the various types of parents that can be found at any swim meet.

Though the vast majority of them can be found in the bleachers, there are a number of other places that parents tend to hover around.

Some parents can be spotted patrolling the decks serving as volunteers for hospitality, or maybe they’re stationed behind the blocks with stopwatches in their grips. Others, though, find a way to slip past the officials until someone approaches them with the words no “coach-parent” wants to hear: “Ma’am, you need to return to the spectator section.”

So back they go to mingle amongst the toddlers and PowerBars, slightly annoyed but never dissuaded. They whip out their notebooks and stopwatches, watching their child intently as they scribble down their splits.

Two rows in front of them sit the five-member families that have dragged their young children to the stuffy pool to watch their older sibling compete. The parents arrive bearing mobile devices and action figures galore, hoping that they will serve as distractions for the younger ones while their star swimmer is in the pool. The plan succeeds, but only after numerous trips to the snack bar and the bathroom, respectively. As their child steps up onto the block or jumps in the water for their backstroke event, the parents desperately devote all of their attention to the pool. Food, toys, cell phones – anything will suffice to keep the youngsters occupied as the swimmers hit the water.

There are always a handful of solitary parents that find empty seats wherever possible, hoping to avoid as much commotion as possible. They are equally as committed to the sport as the rest, even if they don’t show it. But from my spot in the last row, I can see that they all have their DeckPass apps open, checking to see if their swimmer made finals and to see how their times rank against the best in the meet.

Photo Courtesy: Kalina DiMarco

Photo Courtesy: Kalina DiMarco

Amateur photographers and videographers litter the stands. The precariously hanging straps around their necks are telltale signs that these parents want to document every move their child makes. They may allow themselves to get distracted for a moment, turning to Facebook for some entertainment during the vacant moments of the meet. As soon as their child steps foot on the deck, though, they swiftly remove the lens cap and switch on their cameras. The furious snapping of photos can be heard as they smile to themselves, watching the preparation for the race. Within a few moments, they are in the water and when the film is reviewed later, the only audio available will be enthusiastic shouts of “Go, Charlie” and “Come on, Sarah!”

Despite the contrast in outward appearances, there is one element that is static for every parent in the stands: the proud smile that splits their face when their child stops the clock after a hard fought race.


  1. avatar

    Emma, your article made me smile. Great stuff. Tks.

  2. Mary Lesko

    Uta Mocniak Field Benjamin Field

  3. avatar
    John s

    What about those parents that choose to officiate? Rather than sneaking past us, become one!

  4. John Squires

    What about those who officiate ? Rather than sneaking past become one!

  5. Katie Nolle

    Spot on! I just wish she had seen me back in the day when I would engage for every lap of the 1500 or 1650!

  6. avatar
    Julie straub

    Or do both, coach and officiate. Of course not at the same time. The best way to give back to a great sport! You never lose the chlorine in your blood. No matter how old you are.

  7. Kim Thornburg Belfore

    I don’t know! I never got to sit in the stands! Bahahaha ( like a dummy) I take that back! Maybe 5 times in over 10 years

  8. Patricia Walls

    Brings back memories- before my husband and I became officials! The best place to be- up close – those were the days- miss watching them compete?

  9. Jen Thompson

    Laura Travis…read this, isn’t that Jerry in the pic?

  10. Charlene Tallen

    I have met many friends in the stands. I love watching the meets. I cheer for everyone’s kids. I’d never trade those hours.

  11. avatar

    Loved this, Emma! You transported us all there. Well done.

  12. Maria Capelja Mitreski

    Doug Vohs & Matthew Muir he looks like he might be louder than us put together with Angela

    • Doug Vohs

      not a hope Maria.

  13. avatar
    Leah C.

    So True!!!!