A great role for parents is to be there for their kids, no matter what. This includes logistical tasks such as getting them to practice, nourishing them, making sure they are entered in meets, making sure they have all the right equipment, etc. Supporting the swimmer is a fun thing to do! You get to be the one constant that is always there, especially when they are hurting. Unconditional love, especially when they are upset, is key.
Provide encouragement. Be steady when they fail. Avoid gossip about other swimmers, other parents, the coach, or the program. Leave the coaching to the coach – the coach wants your child to succeed, too! Negative talk never gives energy, it only takes energy. A positive mindset is possible, no matter what the circumstance. Be an energy giver!
Trust the Process
Athletes develop at their own pace. Comparing swimmers to other swimmers is never exactly right contextually; although on the same team, everyone has their own path affected by innumerable variables such as rate of growth, body type, illness, injury, home life, and so much more. Be a team player. If the team gets better, YOUR swimmer gets better! If a swimmer tries hard every day, they will surely succeed at some level. Trust the process!
Help your swimmer understand the “why” behind their swimming. Why do they swim and what do they love about it? Why did they start swimming in the first place? Know that swimming is hard. If it were easy everyone would be doing it. There must be something more than simply being fast; love of fitness, camaraderie, learning leadership skills, working through adversity, being a good sportsman . . . there are so many great reasons to be doing this!
Get your kiddos to practice and if you are not able to then find a carpool. Know what’s happening, read the information sent by the team (such as emails or social media) and communicate with your coach early and often. If you have a question, ask your coach. Have your swimmers participate in meets. The fun outweighs the nervousness. Get involved with the other parents by volunteering, this is essential to the success of the team. Parents can time, officiate, work the computers, etc. Participate in team events (outside of meets) and attend parent meetings.
Guide your Swimmer through Failure
Swimming is a safe space to learn both successes and failures. Be honest and realistic as a fan. Listen to your swimmers. Let them talk about their excitement and frustrations. Remember to stay calm and enjoy being a part of a great sport and community. Resist the temptation to insulate them away from failure or disappointment. Resist the urge to blame others for their failure. Instead, be right there for them!
Have fun! Swimming is tough! What we ask these kids to do is so very difficult. Enjoy watching them grow! Be present for every moment that you can be, in a way that makes your swimmer feel valued no matter what. In the end, this is just youth sports. It exists to enrich, and enrichment can be found through not just the “ups”, but through the “downs” as well. You are your child’s biggest fan. Enjoy watching them swim and race!