The role of parents during swim practice

Don't forget that swim practice is about your child.

Don't forget that swim practice is about your child.

In many youth sports it's common for parents to stand at the sidelines shouting instructions or praise. This is looked down upon in swimming not only because it is unsafe, but also because this behavior undermines a coach's authority. 

"If you decide to watch practice the most important thing you can do is allow your child to focus on the coach and on the tasks at hand," USA Swimming states on its website. "[…] In fact, just as you would never interrupt a school classroom to talk [to] your child, you should not interrupt a practice by attempting to communicate directly with your child." 

Here are a few behaviors you'll want to avoid during practice: 

  • Fixing equipment - You're not always going to be around when something goes wrong. Young athletes need to become self-reliant and learn to maintain their own equipment. 
  • Providing encouragement - Sometimes children can misinterpret encouragement and think that you want them to swim faster. This may be the exact opposite of what the coach wants. Also, young athletes should want to learn a skill for their personal satisfaction rather than wanting to please their parents. 
  • Signaling instructions - Children miss the coach's instructions all the time. Part of becoming a better athlete is learning how to listen to instructions and ask questions when they are unsure. When a child relies on you as a backup, they'll never really learn to pay attention. 

There may be a situation in which you need to communicate directly with your child or pull them out of practice early. Before rushing to the pool and yanking your child out of the water, explain the situation to the coaching staff. They will accommodate you. 

Swim practice is a time for your young athlete to learn without distraction. Parents can spend the hour or two getting to know each other and discussing swim team swimsuits