10 Commandments For Swim Parents
by Rose Snyder, Managing Director Coaching Division, USOC
Former Director of Club Services, USA Swimming
(adapted from Ed Clendaniel's 10 Commandments for Little League Parents)
I. Thou shalt not impose thy ambitions on thy child.
Remember that swimming is your child's activity. Improvements and progress
occur at different rates for each individual. Don't judge your child's progress
based on the performance of other athletes and don't push him based on what
you think he should be doing. The nice thing about swimming is every person
can strive to do his personal best and benefit from the process of competitive
II. Thou shalt be supportive no matter what.
There is only one question to ask your child after a practice or a competition -
"Did you have fun?" If meets and practices are not fun, your child should not be
forced to participate.
III. Thou shalt not coach thy child.
You are involved in one of the few youth sports programs that offers
professional coaching. Do not undermine the professional coach by trying to
coach your child on the side. Your job is to provide love and support. The
coach is responsible for the technical part of the job. You should not offer
advice on technique or race strategy. Never pay your child for a performance.
This will only serve to confuse your child concerning the reasons to strive for
excellence and weaken the swimmer/coach bond.
IV. Thou shalt only have positive things to say at a swimming meet.
You should be encouraging and never criticize your child or the coach. Both of
them know when mistakes have been made. Remember “yelling at” is not the
same as “cheering for”.
V. Thou shalt acknowledge thy child's fears.
New experiences can be stressful situations. It is totally appropriate for your
child to be scared. Don't yell or belittle, just assure your child that the coach
would not have suggested the event or meet if your child was not ready.
Remember your job is to love and support your child through all of the
VI. Thou shalt not criticize the officials.
Please don't criticize those who are doing the best they can in purely voluntary
VII. Honor thy child's coach.
The bond between coach and swimmer is special. It contributes to your child's
success as well as fun. Do not criticize the coach in the presence of your child.
VIII. Thou shalt be loyal and supportive of thy team
It is not wise for parents to take swimmers and to jump from team to team. The
water isn't necessarily bluer in another team's pool. Every team has its own
internal problems, even teams that build champions. Children who switch from
team to team find that it can be a difficult emotional experience. Often swimmers
who do switch teams don't do better than they did before they sought the bluer
IX. Thy child shalt have goals besides winning.
Most successful swimmers have learned to focus on the process and not the
outcome. Giving an honest effort regardless of what the outcome is, is much
more important than winning. One Olympian said, "My goal was to set a world
record. Well, I did that, but someone else did it too, just a little faster than I did. I
achieved my goal and I lost. Does this make me a failure? No, in fact I am very
proud of that swim." What a tremendous outlook to carry on through life.
X. Thou shalt not expect thy child to become an Olympian.
There are 250,000 athletes in USA Swimming. There are only 52 spots
available for the Olympic Team every four years. Your child's odds of becoming
an Olympian are about .0002%.
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