3 Types of Swim Parents You See on Deck

Photo Courtesy: Annie Grevers

By Julia Cunningham, Swimming World College Intern

In my experience, swim parents are one of the most influential parts of their swimmer’s career. We could sing the praises of their sacrifices: the early morning carpools, the late-night dinners, the hours spent in the sweltering heat on deck, the list goes on. But sometimes, there are some drawbacks when it comes to your parents being your biggest fan.

Parents’ competitive spirits really tend to come out in the summer – whether it’s the lax, summer league full of full-time USA swimmers or the grueling long course season – those parents always seem to think they know what’s best for their swimmer.

Below are the three types of swim parents on deck and the ways that I believe they influence their swimmers.

1. The Enthusiastic Parent


Photo Courtesy: imgarcade

The Enthusiastic Parent is at every meet, whether it’s an inter-squad meed or the season-ending championship meet. There are two types of enthusiastic parents in my opinion: the aggressive parent and the excited parent. The aggressively enthusiastic parent is the type with the potential to get kicked out of the stands. As soon as their swimmer is behind the blocks, they are on their feet. Once they dive in, this parent is swimming with them every stroke of the race. Every swim leaves this parent hoarse, but still ready to attack the next one. This parent has to be careful that they don’t turn their swimmer off from the sport. It may come across that they care more about how their swimmer does than the swimmer his/herself.

Meanwhile, the excited parent may not fully understand the sport of swimming quite yet, but they are there to support their swimmer no matter what happens. Be it a good or bad race, this parent is all smiles the entire meet. Even if they end up cheering for the wrong swimmer or the wrong team, they always show up dressed to the teeth in their swimmer’s team colors; pompoms and all. My mom is this type of parent, and it’s always fun to talk to her after races because I spend the whole time explaining what I just raced and listening to her tell me how much fun I looked like I was having.

2. The Invisible Parent

Photo Courtesy: Hayley Good

Photo Courtesy: Hayley Good

Unlike the enthusiastic parent, this parent will maybe show up to their swimmer’s career-ending meet, or maybe not. Sometimes the swimmer will call them to explain results, but more often than not, the parent just doesn’t know enough about swimming to make an appearance. That, or this parent leads too busy a life or lives too far to attend meets. This parent was a huge help early in their swimmer’s career: offering rides and post-practice snacks. Now, the parent is more of a silent motivator, cheering from afar.

3. The Know-it-All

Photo Courtesy: Hayley Good

Disclaimer: We’re not accusing people in this photo of being know-it-all parents! Photo Courtesy: Hayley Good

This is the type of parent who wants to discuss every race in detail once they’re back in the car with their swimmer, whether or not they even know what the terms “splits” or “IM” mean. They also may be referred to as the “helicopter parent” who is constantly trying to give the coach advice on how to best coach their swimmer.

This parent has the potential to instill the importance of the love of the sport and the ability to handle feedback in their swimmer, but they also have the potential to cause their swimmer resentment towards the sport. For this parent, there is a delicate balance between enthusiasm and over-involvement. These parents just have to remember that the swimmer is the one putting in the work, and parents shouldn’t be allowed to have too much influence on the outcome of their swimmer’s career.

1 comment

  1. avatar

    I don’t think all parents fit into these three categories. We were the supportive, knowledgable, helpful and as available as needed. We weren’t “in your face” parents. Most successful swimmers sing the praise of their families, siblings too. Sometimes, most important are the siblings, whether they are swimmers or not