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How to Be the Best Swim Parent (Coaches’ Corner, July 10)

By Erin Stamp, SR2.

Let’s face it, the dynamic between swimmer and parent can be challenging. As a parent you want the best for your child but watching your child struggle through a best time drought or a DQ can be difficult. How do you be the best SWIM parent out there?

Having been a competitive swimmer as well as a coach, I have seen my fair share of “crazy” swim parents. I have compiled a list of 5 qualities I have observed that make for the best swim parents!

1. Be Supportive

This is the most important thing you can do as a swim parent! No matter the result, you need to support your child. No one is perfect and sometimes swimmers go through what we refer to as “best time droughts”. These periods where swimmers are putting in the work with no result can be extremely difficult and hard on their confidence. As a parent this is your opportunity to encourage and support them – remind them of the FUN reasons why they swim!

2. Encourage Accountability

Swimmers learn more than just the technical aspects of the sport. They learn goal setting, how to deal with failure, the importance of hard work and so much more! As parents you should be encouraging your swimmers to take accountability over their sport and their own actions. Perhaps they are in charge of packing a snack for after workout or setting their own alarm for morning practice. They need to learn to take ownership to be at practice and work hard. This also means they get to take credit for their success!

3. Set the Standard for How They Should React

This is arguably just as important as being supportive. Children (especially young ones) pick up on their environment and often look to their parents for how to react. When your swimmer had a disappointing race, you need to set the standard on how to react to this. Teaching them to brush off a bad practice or swim and prepare for the next one (i.e. move on from failure) is an invaluable skill to possess that will help them in life!

4. Do Not Compare Your Swimmer to Others

Nope. Never… do not do it! Though it can be tempting to compare your swimmers to similar kids their age or ability, I promise it’s not worth it. It can be hard on you as a parent and especially difficult on your child if they feel they are not living up to your comparisons. Remember children grow and learn at different rates! In fact, Canadian Olympian Erika Seltenreich-Hodgson did not make the tryout for her first swim team at age 10 because she was too slow for the group and look at her now!

5. Let the Coach Do the Coaching

I can’t reiterate this one enough! As parents you pay your fees to have the coaches COACH your child. Read that line again. We are here to coach your child to be the best swimmer and person they can be! I promise all the coaches are trained and qualified to ensure quality swimming. Over my time in swimming I have heard countless parents coaching their children on technique from the side and I strongly advise against it! First off, the coaches know what they are doing. Secondly, when the coach provides a swimmer with one thing to work on and the parents give them 4 more things it can be very confusing for the child to know what to follow. Rule of thumb: stick to general “good swim you looked fast” vs “good swim but you need to work on….”

Finally, cheer on ALL Vikings swimmers. Set the model for your children to cheer on their teammates. I can tell you nothing makes me prouder as a coach then watching swimmers genuinely happy for their team mates success!

Good luck on challenge week!

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