Parents … Build Up the Team

Parents … Build Up the Team

We have had a bit of an odd journey in swimming. While typically swimmers start in a team and maybe switch teams once or twice throughout their entire swimming journey to college, we are the exception. We didn’t do this. We have been swimming competitively for 9 years and been with 6 teams in 4 states. That’s 12 coaches later … not a normal course for swimmers. Most of our moves have been relocation moves, so the teams we moved to were completely foreign to us.

Swim teams are little microcosms of societal development.

The experiences we’ve had swimming on a number of teams have shown me some ways we can be better swim parents. When you are the new family, you see things from a bit of a different perspective. Swim teams are little microcosms of societal development. They are much like a family. Some teams are incredibly cohesive while some … well … are not. Almost universally, the swim team has many of the same nuances a family has. They will have your back when the chips are down. There is dysfunction and support all wrapped up in one.


One of the take aways I have from having multiple, diverse team experiences is that parents should be about building up the swim family. It’s not our job to coach, but we can help set a positive culture for the team. We have a LOT to do with the team’s culture. Here are a few observations:

Roll up your sleeves and find something to do

We have been with teams that do not host meets and teams that do. Either way there is work to do. Get involved. It builds relationships and it sets a tone for the entire team. Our kids are watching. Show them what being a team player is. Pick up the extra bunch of water or Gatorade and schlep it … and do it with a can-do, wanting to help, attitude.

Encourage each other

There will be times when swimmers struggle. Support their parents and be an encouragement for them. Share your experiences if applicable, or best yet … just listen and encourage them to hang tough. Sometimes there are no magic words, but the time of support can make a huge difference.

Talk up the team and fellow parents

Gossip can literally shred a team. I was with a team once and we had just started into a new group with a new coach. One parent came and sat down by me. I was excited to engage and start building relationships. This parent literally went through the group’s parents like a phone book and spewed the dirt on each one. It was so uncomfortable. I put up with it for a few minutes and then, realizing where it was going, I said, “I appreciate your insight, but I like to draw my own conclusions. Let me get connected and figure out the lay of the land myself.” To her credit she accepted what I said. By the way … she was dead on about most of the parents … but that’s really not the point.

When you see a problem, address it

If there is a problem don’t discuss it with everyone you come in contact with. Determine where the problem lies and become part of a solution with the appropriate person who can address it. It’s just that basic idea of building up the team rather than tearing it down. Even when there are really big issues (oh we’ve had those, too) it is important to maintain credibility and the best way to do that is to handle things with integrity.


“I drive my kid to the pool every single day.” “We live at the pool.” “My swimmer’s bag is complete.” “I just paid $450 for a new tech suit.” It may seem odd to say “invest” to swim parents, but I know from personal experience that it is easy to stay hidden or remote. It is very possible to be fringe and not truly join the family. If you choose this route you will be disappointed and it will not help building up your swimmer with the team. Get involved. Invest time. Learn the other swimmer’s names. Ask other parents to tell you their story to get to know them better. Listening goes a long way to building connections.

We spend hours every week supporting our competitive swimmers. The older they get, the bigger the time commitment. It can seem daunting, but I think the investment in the team and in our swimmers is critical for true success. I had a parent with one younger swimmer and 3 swimmers in college on full swim scholarships tell me, “It is a lot at this stage (age 12-13), but once they earn their way to college … it is all worth it in so many ways, not just monetarily.”

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