Being a Swim Mom or Dad is stressful
I normally write about triathlon. Truthfully – my kids don’t really tri. They have in the past but they don’t anymore. There aren’t many youth races here in Florida and full disclosure perhaps I scared them off when they were too young.
For real, the worst example of sport parenting that I ever saw in person was at a kids triathlon. You can find bad sportsmanship in many sports this just happened to be where we saw this.
We did the final race in a series and the director who is old, kind and generally clueless had said that he would give series medals at the end of this final event. The results were (of course) wrong at first and two dads were fighting about it. They had started fighting near the bike course – then taken a break and now it was back again. We were standing on a pool deck waiting (because my son had won in his age group). These two dads were getting more and more heated in their argument. Accusing the kids of cheating and just yelling and screaming. The kids were all watching because there was nothing else to do. We were all watching. My husband never gets involved in stuff like this – ever. But these guys had begun to shove each other when my husband piped up and said, hey guys, “your kids are watching you.” Then a bunch of other dads pulled them apart and we went on to hang around in the heat while they recalculated the results and everybody got their prizes. So, don’t be like those guys … obviously.
My daughter still swims. She had a meet this weekend. I was watching the parents and reflecting on how you can seriously annoy your kid at a swim meet (or at any even or really just in life).
- Fall in the pool. Okay I’ve never seen this happen but honestly it would be awesome and everybody would be embarrassed.
How to embarrass yourself and your kids at a swim meet
Most swim parents are awesome. They are calm and just out there to survive two days where if you’re lucky your kid swims less than 10 minutes total. Think about it you are hoping for less swim time because that means they went faster. Lol.
But for real here are things I saw on Saturday that I thought was unfortunate.
- Fight with your spouse in front of all the other kids and parents.
- Yell at your kid about how they are performing.
- Yell at your kids coach in front of the other kids and parents.
- Threaten your children that if they don’t swim faster you won’t buy them things or bring them to events.
Watching your kids race is hard. It can be amazingly stressful as a parent. My husband was once so stressed out when my son was swimming his first 200 Free that he reached in and pulled him out of the pool in the middle of the race. In his defense, he was pretty sure my son was drowning. He wasn’t but he had gone out much too fast and he was miserable – I can see how my husband thought that was the case. Now that was embarrassing.
I’m not an expert on this. I’m just a mom. And I’m not perfect. When my husband pulled my son out of the water we did have a quick “parental discussion” in the parking lot. Summary … please, don’t do that again.
There are some times when all swim parents will probably lose their cool with their young swimmers.
- Your kids will miss an event. It happens. It sucks and you move on. They learn quickly.
- Your kids will lose their goggles and swim caps and ask you to buy new ones immediately. My son did this so many times that he stopped telling me he would just borrow from other kids because he knew I would not be thrilled. He also once forgot his swim suit for a meet. That was fun.
I think it’s important to remember that the children are racing – not you. If you would like to race you can join masters swimming and sign up for a masters meet where your kids can cheer for you. Otherwise, my advice is to take a deep breath and chill. Seriously, chill. Keep in mind that of the 200 kids on a youth swim team maybe just a few of those will even go on to swim in college and the odds are astronomical that your children will not be olympic swimmers. So the emphasis as a parent should be on progression, skills, enjoyment, hard work, self-worth, pride. Things like that.
Parents are supposed to be a little embarrassing. It’s what we do. Here’s what I do that I think is okay to support and embarrass my daughter when she’s swimming.
- I wave at my daughter from across the pool when she’s about to start. If she doesn’t acknowledge me I wave bigger and jump around until she lets me know she’s seen me. She’s learned and she gives me a little wave pretty much right away.
- I smile and give her a thumbs up.
- I show up when she’s with her friends and harass her to eat between events.
- I post photos and videos of her swimming on social media where her friends can see how proud I am.
- I track her results and no matter how she does I always validate that I know she is working hard and giving it her best. The drive to compete must come from within.
- Because my kids both forget to kick I will occasionally yell “kick” when I think their ear is above water after they come off the wall. I actually do know that she can’t hear me but I have trouble restraining myself. Which brings me to my next point.
My husband and I now take turns at swim meets. He’s different. He doesn’t video and he sometimes is so tuned into meet mobile that he misses entire live events. But he’s there and my daughter does know that he’s very proud of what she accomplishes.
How to annoy other parents
How to annoy other swim parents when you are at a swim meet.
- Yell non stop or whistle annoyingly while your kid is swimming. All parents yell some which is fine…great event.. but the non-stop is too much. They can’t hear you. Ask them – they’ll tell you that they cannot hear you. We all know that your kid is the most important person in your life. Please stop whistling and yelling in my flippin ear.
I think youth sports are incredibly important in the formation of good young adults and full size adults. Through sports you can learn how to face something hard, break it down into pieces and achieve big goals. You learn that things don’t always go your way but you survive. You learn that it’s okay to fail in a very safe space. You learn that people will cheat which is actually a good life lesson. I really do think sport is important. Almost never is anything that happens in a youth sporting event so critical that it is okay to behave like a total ass. Yes there is a huge investment of family resources and time when a child does a sport. It can be a huge bummer when you spend the whole weekend sitting around and your kid adds time in every single event. But you know what – in the end – it’s just a swim meet.