Ohhhhh, the swimming parent. Without the swimming parent, the swimmer would not be in the pool. But, this does not mean that the swimming parent need to get overly involved to the point of distraction. Swimming parents, like all parents of young competitive athletes, walk a very fine line. All too often, that line is crossed. To avoid becoming a nuisance and a distraction during training, parents should heed some advice:
- Let Kids Develop Independence. Eventually, children will become adults who need to take care of themselves. Therefore, it is important that young swimmers learn to take care of themselves in age appropriate ways. This does not mean that young swimmers should illegally drive themselves to practice or get jobs to support their swim training. What it does mean is that young swimmers can learn to pack their bags, prepare their snacks, and get their water. Parents who do this help their children become independent and who doesn’t want that?
- Let the Coaches Coach. Swimming parents hire coaches for a reason: to coach. It is important to let the coach do the work that he or she was hired to do. Parents should not overstep the boundaries of the coach, especially when it comes to technical aspects of swimming. Unless the coach asks parents to help out, it is better than parents stay on the sides and watch their children, not coach their children.
- Keep Conversations Positive. A gossiping parent can be the death of a swimming program. If parents have issues with anything happening in and around the pool, they should speak directly with the coach, not nitpick over it with the parents.
- Talk to Kids About More than Swimming. When kids are involved in a competitive sport like swimming, parents think it is best to completely submerse their children in the sport. So, they talk about all swimming. All the time. This is a big no-no. Children need to be exposed to life and everything it has to offer. They should go to movies. They should read books. They should go on hikes. They should spend with friends. When parents overdo swimming, kids can get burned out and they can fight back by not wanting to swim. Teenage retirement occurs when kids do not get to do anything else and they get sick of their sport. Parents need to let their children live and enjoy life with them.
- Recognize Ups and Downs Will Occur. Young swimmers will win races and they will not win races. Every race does not have to be completed in a world record setting time. Parents who do not accept the fact that wins and losses will occur will have a miserable time being swimming parents. Young swimmers are growing mentally and physically, which can show up in the pool. Parents should relax and trust the coaching process.
- Understand Athletic Develop and Age Appropriateness. One of the most important factors that parents need to consider is age appropriateness. Young athletes have bodies that are constantly changing, so their strokes and times will change, too. When children are trained at a level that is not developmentally appropriate, that training could actually backfire. When parents get too involved in pushing their children to swim at a level that is beyond their age and body development, they are not setting up their children for success. They are not helping the coach either.
- Love Their Children Unconditionally. Watching your child win or lose a race should never dictate the way you feel about your child. They should get the same hugs in both situations. Parents should never withhold privileges if their children lose and they should not give more privileges when they win. Sure, it can be fun to get an ice cream cone or enjoy dinner at a favorite restaurant to celebrate a big win, but that should not be the only time that children get a special treat.
Parents are incredibly important to young swimmers, but parents should not overwhelm their children to the point that their children want to quit. Support is important and it needs to be given unconditionally, but within reason.