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Ten Ways for the Swim Parent to Sabotage Their Child's Swimming Career

(written with tongue firmly in cheek)


Updated June 30, 2014
After thirty-three full years of observation, it has occurred to me that some parents must internally delight in the idea of sabotaging their child's swim career. They must for some perverse reason WANT to do this, since they work so incredibly hard at it and are so remarkably successful. Hereafter, my top ten list of means and methods. (And more seriously, some clear examples on positive alternatives.)
  • Start out making sure the child will get a material reward for good performance…. at age 8, a stop at McDonalds for a 100 IM done without disqualification. At age 10, a five-dollar bill for a new "A" time. At age 12, a trip to Disney World for a high point trophy in the JO's. At age 14, a party for child and friends at an amusement park, complete with LIMO ride, for qualifying for state high school champs as a freshman. And, if still around in the sport, a new Mercedes or Jaguar for a state high school championship as a senior.

    If you can't see what's wrong with this, you're the problem. The approach that works best? Let the rewards become internal. Let the sport "belong" to the child, not something that "Mommy wants me to do." Get them to understand the value of working hard to improve themselves EVERY DAY, and allow them opportunities to "prove themselves" through THEIR sport.

  • Demand that the child keep up with Fred's kid, from work, who always wins at least one event in any meet they go to. Fred's kid is 8, stands 5 feet, 5 inches tall and had his first shave last Friday. Face shave, not swimming shave. Demand that your child stays close to, or "Right with" those early developers in your club

    Reality? Children develop at different rates, in terms of size, strength, coordination, emotional and intellectual maturity and just about everything else. Allow your child to compete ONLY against itself, and measure them against only their own best efforts.

  • Coach your child part time, "when you're available". If you're rarely available, show up after practice with a stopwatch and "help" Susie by timing her for 50 meters "to see if she's getting any better". Encourage her with "kick, Susie, Kick!" screams from the side of the pool. This will nicely balance out the fact that all your 10 and under age group coach does is ask them to swim correctly and SLOOOOWLY so they learn their strokes.

    You're just encouraging them to swim Faster, right??? Right? Right? Huh? What should you do? Just about ANYTHING except coach. Parents are for unconditional love and support. Coaches are for critical analysis of performance and developing skills physical, emotional and tactical. STAY AWAY from any coaching. If you doubt your coaches' ability to coach, talk to them about it, at last resort, go somewhere you have enough faith in the coaching to stay out of it. No mistake is worse than trying to be both parent and coach to your child. It's guaranteed long-term relationship disaster.

  • Insist that your child swim the race the way YOU want it swum…."like I saw them do in the Olympics" or "like I did, when I was in college in 1975" when you're at the meet on Saturday, after not having seen your child swim in practice for 6 months. After all, swimming's swimming right? It doesn't change. Does it? Does it? Huh?

    Reality? Techniques and thinking on how to swim races change all the time. Swimming for a ten year old is not what it might be for a 20 year old, or an Olympic Swimmer. Allow your coach to select the race strategy that they deem age appropriate and developmentally proper for your child. If you doubt the coaches ability to do this, talk to them about it, until you are reassured.

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