The 10 Guaranteed Ways to Spot a Swim Parent

Swim Fam
Photo Courtesy: Bailey Duran

The 10 Guaranteed Ways to Spot a Swim Parent

Many people have no problem spotting swimmers from a mile away with these telltale features: a bulky bag, messy bun filled with dead hair (for the girls), dry skin, tired eyes, goggle and cap tan lines, and the wide-eyed fear whenever the word “butterfly” is used, no matter the context.

Swim parents, however, can be more difficult to spot. They wear a camouflage much like any other parent, but a few distinct characteristics sets swim parents apart.

1. The Swim Parent T-shirt

Dad Swim Shirts

Photo Courtesy: Bailey Duran

They can be found anywhere. They are sold at every swim meet and can be found at almost every online swim shop. You know what they look like; the ones stamped with phrases like “I used to have a life, now I have a swimmer” or “Some people wait their entire lives to meet their favorite swimmer – I raised mine.”

Cliché, yes, but what would swim meets be without them? They come in all colors and styles, but they all have something in common: a swimming phrase, joke, or picture that only swim parents can understand. These t-shirts are the first clue that you have successfully spotted a swim parent!

2. The Tight Knuckled Grip on the Heat Sheet


Photo Courtesy: Taylor Brien

The swim parent holds tightly to the beloved and all-knowing heat sheet. It goes everywhere with them and has multiple uses. It can be used as a fan in the hot weather, a coloring book to keep away nerves, and can be rolled up to hit the other swim parent on the arm in excitement. But most of all, it is used to keep track of their swim kiddos!

3. Snacks, Snacks, and More Snacks!


Photo Courtesy: Rain, flickr

The swim parent is always loaded with at least two bags of snacks for their ravenous swimmers. Of course, they always have the swimming staples: chocolate milk and honey sticks. They’re constantly keeping their swimmer hydrated and re-fueling them with cutie oranges. They make daily trips during meets to the local store to buy more food and to keep their swimmers swimming at their best, and they’re always experimenting with food to try to discover the next best super-swimmer food!

4. Their Arms are ALWAYS Full


Photo Courtesy: Flickr

The swim parent enters swim meets loaded down with carrying things. They don’t want their swimmer to waste their energy, so they insist on carrying everything. They have at least two bags on each arm, a cooler and camping chairs. Not to mention all the sharpies and highlighters they carry around!

5. Swimmer Bumper Stickers

Zone Bound

Photo Courtesy: Bailey Duran

Their car is decorated with team pride and stickers that announce the vehicle is a “Swim Taxi,” or that there are swimmers on board. More often than not, they have window chalk paint covering the windows on their way to a championship meet boasting that their little caravan is “Zone bound” with their kids’ names and events.

6. Their Houses and Cars are Filled With Suits and Towels (and that Inevitable Chlorine Smell)


Photo Courtesy: Bailey Duran

It is so easy to spot swim parents based on their house or their car. The car most likely smells like chlorine and is filled with empty chocolate milk bottles. During long swim meets, towels and suits are draped across the back seats so they can dry before the next day. Towels, swim suits and Speedo bags litter the floor of their house, and the towels are hanging everywhere.

7. Everything is Planned Around Swim Meets (and Practice)

Practice Calendar2

Photo Courtesy: Kristen Kinzer

Swimmers are known for the famous line: “I can’t, I have practice.” Swim parents also make use of that line. Weekend “mom’s nights out” are no longer a thing for the swim mom, especially during the busy season (pretty much all year). Better wait until that two weeks off in August, Karen!

8. They Know The Name of Most Olympic Swimmers

Mar 21, 2015; Greensboro, NC, USA; Dick and DA Franklin react after daughter Missy Franklin won the 200 backstroke finals during NCAA Division I Swimming and Diving-Championships at Greensboro Aquatic Center. Mandatory Credit: Evan Pike-USA TODAY Sports

Missy Franklin’s parents.  Photo Courtesy: Evan Pike – USA TODAY Sports Images

Ever have a conversation where Michael Phelps’ name is casually mentioned? Swim parents jump right in, discussing his best races and whether or not he’ll stay retired. They’ll also begin talking about swimmers that no one else knows about. They forget that not everyone knows about Olympic swimmers like they and their swimmers do!

9. They Can Tell You All About Stroke Technique

Photo Courtesy: Kalina DiMarco

Swim parents usually know a lot about stroke technique (probably from all the time spent behind a camera filming us). Even though they may not have been swimmers themselves, they’ve been around swimming long enough and have listened to their swimmer chat long enough to know how each stroke should be swum. Oh, and don’t say “front crawl” when referring to freestyle – it’ll make them cringe!

10. Meet Mobile

Mobile Meet screenshot

Photo Courtesy: Active Network

The last but maybe most effective way to identify a swim parent is to look at their most used apps. More often than not, it’ll be Meet Mobile – one of the best friends of a swim parent. It is probably the best invention since fog resistant goggles, am I right?



Photo Courtesy: Annie Grevers

Behind every successful swimmer is a swim parent who loves them enough to help make their dreams come true. Swim parents are the greatest types of parents in existence. They sacrifice so much so their swimmers can chase their dreams and deserve more gratitude than we could ever give them.

Thank you, swim parents, for equipping us to chase our dreams!!

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


  1. Jill Pfankuch

    Corri McKinley Alamein Kim Waldo-LandisKim Lydon Hanson Lisa Orwig Hagedorn

    • avatar

      That’s no lie …

  2. Lisa Eaton Burton

    Vicki Deslauriers Roy Cathy Robb Bevier Jen Thibert they forgot the flip flops in the middle of winter!

  3. Simone Dearle

    Leanne maybe points 7 to 10 apply other than that I may fail as being a swim parent ?

  4. Thomas O

    Anyone competing in more than six meets per year needs a new coach. Get off the conga line. Make meets special and get results!

  5. avatar

    Hahahaha very accurate!

  6. Sonia Connery

    Yvonne Turner we haven’t quite graduated yet as fully pledged swim parents – we need to lift our game ?

    • Yvonne Turner

      Sonia Connery ?the bit about the carrying of all the things in?. No mention of the time keeping expertise requirement or hat tan lines ?.

  7. Pia Porkola Smideberg

    LOL ? – So true! Even though We do not decorate our cars in Sweden, all of the rest is pretty much the same. Swimming is so fun, international and great community builder! I myself started swimming at the age of 47 -inspirerad by all the years poolside.. such a great hobby and really never too late to learn a new skill (however ? Will never look great by me ??)

  8. Amanda Napierski

    We can all work a stop watch like it’s our job and most of our apparel is team-related. ?

  9. Amanda Napierski

    Oh and we all know what the phrase “if your feet aren’t wet then you are doing it wrong” means.

  10. Allison Stewart

    Deb Taylor Sherri Wallace-Chapman Yvette Blanchard Tammy O’Keefe
    You need to read this. It is so true.

  11. avatar

    loved every minute of the swim meets … all the way into college be it DIII for one son until their program was abruptly cut in 2020 amidst Covid and then supporting my second son swimming DII – see where Covid takes that and the navigating my high school junior daughter into her college academics/swimming experience…so yes through the years behind every successful swimmer at whatever level is the cheerleader parent …. it has been a great journey!

    • Rachel Hannah Davies

      Rebecca Francis-Davies I have a swansea aquatics officials t-shirt for when I officiate at meets hahaha ??‍♀️

    • Rose Aldan

      Kathy Palmer so so true and I really really miss those times. They were the best

  12. avatar

    Don’t forget about the swim parents/grandparents who put on the white shirts and stand on deck so the swimmers can have a meet! Or those who gladly time the meets!

  13. Lynne Preacher

    Laehann Johnson, Inga Geddes how many of these ring true ??

  14. Jim Venn

    I know a number of swim parents that will be easy to spot at their kid’s last meet unless MSU figures this out. Come on MSU, don’t let these kids down. They completed their end of YOUR expectations and now it’s time for YOU to step up and live up to your end of the deal

  15. avatar
    Diane Miller

    Easy way to avoid most of the drama of swim meets is to become a certified meet official. Your child always knows where to find you if he needs you and you can contribute positively to a successful meet. Meet officials are always needed! Your swimmer will be just fine and will become self-sufficient. Win, win!

  16. avatar
    Mike J

    6 of 10 and still going …

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