The Faces of Swim Parents

The Faces of Swim Parents

My oldest daughter has swum for 9 years. I have spent a LOT of those 9 long years near a pool. There are articles written about how to be a good swim parent, how to encourage and not coach, what to do and what not to do … etc. I want to just take a few minutes and talk about the swim parents I have watched over the years. There is absolutely NO malicious nature to this. It is just observation and hey, if we can’t laugh at ourselves, life would be so hard! If you’ve spent any time near a swim team you can probably add to this list!

 The Helicopter Swim Parent:  This parent carries the backpack for the swimmer. They pick up their fins, goggles, paddles, water bottle, snorkel, etc. and put it into the soggy mesh bag at the end of practice. They hold the towel for their swimmer when they get out of the pool because, you know, they might get cold in 90 degree weather in South Florida. They hover over them at swim meets making sure they have everything they need and more. They pour Gatorade down their throats or hand them a chocolate milk after practice and hover while they ensure it is finished. They get up from their chair when their swimmer approaches and then stand there asking if they’ve eaten or if they need anything.

The Coaching Swim Parent: This parent knows a LOT about swimming … clearly. They berate their swimmers if they are not doing things just right. They are often “helping” the coach. They have a half-dozen corrections after every race for their swimmer. When the coach is working on something they just KNOW they are wrong and they endeavor to set the swimmer straight on it. I have literally seen a parent sit in a chair at the end of a lane during practice to “help”. Often their swimmers are disengaged from the dynamics of the team. During swim meets they are kept separate from their teammates. This parent will take their swimmer to the pool for an “extra” workout to make some needed corrections.

The Cheerleading Swim Parent: This parent is POSITIVE! I mean they are positive about EVERYTHING!! They just love swimming and not just their swimmer … ALL the swimmers! They want to be the team parent. They think up ice breakers to do while indulging the swimmers with popsicles during the hot summer of two-fers. They get to swim meets early and serve in every role needed. They stay to the bitter end. The are INVESTED! A swim meet isn’t a swim meet if they don’t lose their voices. They weep with those who struggle and scream for those who strive.

The Missing Swim Parent: The polar opposite swim parent. This is the person who drives up, drops off and says to call them when they are ready to come home … and that’s not just for practice. This is the parent who has sat through so many swim meets and practices they have nothing left. They are biding their time until it’s finally over. Their swimmers are left to rely on their teammates and coaches for support and connection. It’s not necessarily that they don’t care … they are just … well … DONE. They will pay cash or buy a couple cases of water and deliver them to the pool rather than help with the nuts and bolts of a swim meet. If they never hold another stop watch in their hand, they will be thrilled.

The Whistling Swim Parent: If you are reading this … and you’ve ever been to a decent sized swim meet … YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN! This person has mastered the art of the whistle! They employ it LOUDLY and in rhythm with the swimmer they are rooting for. They irritate the snot out of everyone around them, but they could care less. They won’t be losing their voice at that swim meet … they have the power of the almighty whistle.

The Screaming Swim Parent: While every parent cheers for their swimmer, there is always one whose voice can be heard no matter what. They have mastered vocal projection and they feel their voice helps their swimmer in some way achieve greater times. They just can’t help themselves. They just know if they scream “kick, kick, kick” often enough, their swimmer will put up a best time! Has to help. IT HAS TO HELP! (I’m kind of a screamer … ok maybe a lot of a screamer. I was a voice major. I can project!)

The Filmer/Mutterer/Quivering Swim Parent: Being a screaming swim parent, I don’t necessarily get this parent. This is the parent holding the iPad Pro on the sidelines frantically filming their kid’s race while muttering, “come on … come on … (gulp) … oh … you can do it … come on.” The movie is jerky because every fiber of their being is tense while their 7-year-old gasps on their back trying to finish a 25 yard freestyle.

The Racing Along Swim Parent: This category literally is in response to a parent I witnessed at a state competition in Texas. I loved this guy. He was INVESTED and fabulous! Check out the completely amateur video I captured.

This is the parent who is all in. They can’t help themselves.

Swimming isn’t a seasonal sport. It is a marathon that lasts for years and years.

In all of us swim parents lives a little of most of these. Swimming isn’t a seasonal sport. It is a marathon that lasts for years and years. My daughter is excited to turn 15 next year because she will have been swimming for two thirds of her life. That’s a lot of swim practices and swim meets. Trust me … we all have the capability of having chunks of each of these swim parents in us! Next swim meet do some people watching. I bet you’ll be able to add to this list.


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