Changing the game in youth sports: John O'Sullivan

USA Swimming's Unofficial Rules of Swim Parenting

I. Do Not Memorize All Your Kid’s Splits In Every Race To The Hundredth 
Doing so risks the verbalization of said splits, which risks the misunderstanding among other Swim Parents that perhaps, maybe, just maybe, you have spent too much time analyzing your children’s swimming. A general theory to follow is that if your own swimmer doesn’t know his or her times to the hundredth, than neither should his or her Swim Parent. 

II. Do Not Give Back-Handed Compliments To Other Swim Parents About Their Kids
Nothing can aggravate more than a compliment with a hidden insult inside. It’s like an odd fortune cookie containing obscure messages of deception and insult.

“I love the way Charlie races. He just tries to hold on, despite his ability!” 
“Sure, Janet is no Janet Evans, but that race was certainly courageous!” 
“Great race for your son. All he needs now is a growth spurt.”

III. In Fact, Do Not Make Any Comments About Anyone Else’s Kids Unless They Are “Good Job!” or “Way To Go!”

IV. Do Not Talk Badly About The Coaches Behind Their Backs
Look: You may have ideas how your kids should be coached better, or how a certain coach made a certain comment. The arena for that discussion should be with that coach, not with other swim parents. Let’s not resort back to Middle School cafeteria days of gossip and hearsay. 

V. Do Not Brag About Your Own Swimmer’s Success
It’s a little twisted: that swim parent who only speaks about his or her swimmer’s success and nothing else, all day, endlessly, to anyone who will listen (and generally, no one tries to). Swim parents who brag to other swim parents are not only risking alienation within the swim team parental tribe, but are also putting too much pressure on their own swimmers. Just like you don’t want to make your swimmer’s failures a pool deck storyline, don’t make your swimmer’s success a storyline, either. 

VI. All You Need To Do? Hug.
After your swimmer races, gets out of the pool, dries off, changes, and approaches you, all you really need to do is smile, say, “I’m proud of you,” and give a hug. That’s it. No race commentary nor critique. No, “You should have finished harder!” or “I can’t believe we drove all this way to Tennessee to watch that.” State your pride in your spawn, then hug or high-five, and go get some food. No, “I’m going to have to talk to your coach about your stroke tempo” or “If only you were .06 seconds faster, then you would have made your Junior Nationals cut.” No, no. A pre-race, “Let’s Go [Fill In Name Here]!” and then a post-race hug. 


VII. 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%.

That’s it, that’s all. 

Let the swimmers swim, let the coaches coach, and let the swim parents offer support. Follow these unofficial rules to being a swim parent, and you, too, will become an Olympic gold-medal worthy Swim Parent.