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Swimming for Parents

Swimming for Parents

The Benefits of Swimming

Save people’s lives

Healthy recreational exercise

Swimming is a sport that requires a long term development program in place and results will not come overnight.

The benefits of having kids swim before and/or after school, keeping them out of trouble and busy, etc.

Life Skills:

Dr John Hogg from the University of Alberta, Canada made the following observations based on a study done on twenty-one Olympic swimmers.  Although the direct reference is to Olympic swimmers, the two phases of learning and the progression from one phase to the next are applicable to the training of novice, junior and age group swimmers.

 “Swimmers have been found in many studies to be high in such attributes as independence, confidence, leadership qualities, sociability, punctuality, self discipline and are usually low in anxiety.  The effect of swim training on school work has lead to most students claiming they are more awake at school and has lead to an increase in grades.”

Winning and Losing:

In an 8 or 10 person swimming race, there will only be one winner.   It is very important for young swimmers to learn that within defeat, there is often victory; an improved time, a personal best, the attainment of a short term goal or the contribution of points towards the team’s point score at a local swim meet.

Time Management:

The time management skills learnt through your involvement in swimming will assist your child and you as a parent for the rest of your life.

Goal Setting:

Goal setting is something that a majority of swimmers are taught within their current swimming program.


The memory that a majority of swimmers will hold when they finish competitive swimming are the friendships they made and the people they met.
Bond at 4:30am sessions


While swimming is primarily an individual sport, the team atmosphere and spirit of cooperation created by the coach in most swimming programs leads to team members working together to reach their goals.
In training, relays, trips away…

The Swimming Parent

Parents play a very important role in support of their child, particularly if their child chooses to swim competitively.  Parents provide transport, clothing, equipment and funding for the athlete.

So, what are the key responsibilities of a parent who has a child who is participating in swimming? To assist you, I have listed a number of these below.

• Ensure that swimmers arrive for their training session on time every time.
• Ensure you arrive and collect your child from training on time every time so that the coach does not have to wait back.
• Ensure swimmers arrive at each session with all their swimming equipment that they have packed!
• Advise your child’s coach of any non-attendance at training or a competition due to injury or illness.
• Communicate with your child’s coach when your child is ill, unfit or injured.
• Provide your full support to the coaching staff at all times.
• Be polite to all venue staff at each pool your child trains in.
• Do not come onto pool deck during a training session to talk with the coach. Speak to the coach either before or after the session, or better still encourage your child to communicate as much as possible with the coach.
• Do not coach your own child at training or at a competition. This is what the coach is appointed to do.
• Limit telephoning coaches as much as possible and never phone the coach after an afternoon / evening session workout. They need some time to themselves to focus on their own life and are often weary after a training session.
• Be proactive in your support of the Club’s committees and their efforts to assist all children in the Club.

Read www.SwimmingForParents.com

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Read www.NutritionForSwimmers.com for food and hydration ideas.


The Parent / Child Relationship

The parent / child relationship is critical in every family and takes a lot of work from both parties.
The key to establishing and maintaining a strong parent / child relationship is to love your child regardless of their performance.  By providing this unconditional love, you will build the foundation for a strong relationship for many years to come.

The importance of the swimmers driving their sport as opposed to the parent driving it.

How regularly sitting down with your child and analysing their swimming performances and discuss goals, etc can often result in too much information to the child and potential conflict with what the coach is telling them and working on.

This does work if it’s done in moderation and supports the coach’s direction.

How kids will learn primarily from the example their parents and adults around them set, as opposed to what they are told.

The Parent / Coach Relationship

A majority of swimming parents are very supportive of their child’s coach.  The parents and coach work together as a team to ensure the best possible environment for the swimmer to improve and be successful.

A parent must allow the coach to do the job that he/she is paid to do.  Training methods, coaching methods and technique has changed over the years so parents are encouraged to let the child learn from today’s teaching.

Make appearances brief, rare and silent at training.  Try imaging how you would feel if the coach rolled up to your work and told you how to do your job.

Parents are encouraged to take part in all club related activities and assist at swim meets.

Progress Concerns

From time to time you may have questions in regards to your child’s progress.

If you do have concerns over the progress of your child, go and speak to the person who can solve your problem.  In 99% of cases this will be your child’s coach.

Often parents will express their concerns to other parents and this leads to negative discussions in many situations.

There are three primary reasons for this behaviour.

  • The first is that some adults are by nature negative people and enjoy speaking negatively about other people
  • The second reason is that these parents do not seek out the person who can solve their problem or explain the situation to them because they know that they are not going to like the answer they are going to get.
  • The third reason is that if the parent goes to the person who can solve their problem, often the child’s coach, they will get the answer and they will no longer be able to complain to other people about their concerns.

Speak to your coach about your own child’s development and any concerns.

At Swim Meets

My personal observations have led to the conclusion that swim meets, regardless of the level of competition, can bring out the best and worst in parents.  It also tests the relationship between parents and their children.

How parents should react to their kids at or after a swim meet regardless of the result.
– Kids will read your body language
– Be supportive of the coach
– If you have to focus on something focus on effort, not outcomes

Swimmers, coaches and parents are often under emotional strain at swim meets.  It is important that if a parent wants to talk to their child’s coach about performance that they follow these steps.

The coach will be busy working with all swimmers and most likely will be willing to listen to their concerns at a later time.

Look to make a time in the week following the competition to meet with the coach.  By doing this, you remove the emotion of competition and give both yourself and the coach time to think about the topic.

Don’t ever become loud or abusive towards a coach, remain calm and speak quietly to them.

How harmful poolside gossip can be…. it’s like a cancer.

Are you too involved as a parent?

I often have parents ask me how involved they should be in their child’s swimming. If you are a parent who does any of the following just watch how personally involved you are getting in your child’s sport.

• Parent who brings a stopwatch to training and competitions
• Parents who openly defy a coaches instructions
• Parents who often question official results
• Parents who question relay team selections
• Parents who publicly reprimand children for poor performance
• Parents who continually question their child’s progress
• Parents who bribe their children to swim well

Parental interest in a child’s swimming is very desirable and provides much needed support.  Too much interest is considered by swimmers to be undesirable and capable of producing excessive pressure.

You are too involved as a parent if:

• You make a judgement on your child’s worth based on swimming performance
• You publicly puts down the child (or the coach)
• You constantly watch workouts / training sessions
• You show disappointment after your child has a poor swim
• You critique good or bad performances – leave this to the coach
• You compare your child to other competitors
The cumulative effect of parents with a combination of these characteristics will eventually decrease the enjoyment the swimmer has in swimming resulting in premature retirement.

Guidelines for Parents of athletes

The late Dr Frank Pyke, former head of the Victorian Institute of Sport listed the following guidelines for parents of high performing athletes.

• Be patient with progress
• Be tolerant of mistakes and poor performance
• Be calm and dignified at sporting events
• Learn to accept wins or losses graciously
• Allow (the swimmers) plenty of breathing space
• Offer praise with success
• Encourage involvement in other pursuits
• Encourage independence and self sufficiency
• Above all, keep sport in perspective
• Be supportive rather than intrusive

As a parent of a swimmer involved with a swimming club, there will be many opportunities for you to volunteer your time to assist with the running of the club.  Parents are crucial in swimming and the conduct of swim meets and social activities rely heavily on volunteer involvement.

2 Responses to Swimming for Parents

  1. Anne Andenaes July 2, 2014 at 11:08 pm #

    What should a parent do if they get misgivings about the coach’s relationship with the swimmer?

    • Gary July 10, 2014 at 8:26 am #

      Hi Anne,
      It depends on what sort of misgivings. If you think that your child is in any sort of danger then you must step in straight away.
      If you are concerned in regards to the coach’s communication style (or lack of it!) and coach-swimmer relationship then you should ask to meet with the coach. A good way to approach it is to let the coach know the communication methods you use with your son or daughter to get the best results and provide them with encouragement. This way you are not telling them what to do, but suggesting ways to get the best results and learnings.
      Hope this helps.

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