Ultimate Guide For New Swim Parents

Your child just started swimming and suddenly, you realize swimming isn’t an easy sport! 

I don’t know how many times my parents asked questions or wandered around lost during my first year of swimming. 

If this feels like you, know that you’re not alone! New swim parents face this problem all the time.

Swimming is complicated and filled with unwritten rules that you seemingly learn through observation. Much like your swimmer, you have to learn as you go. 

That’s why we created the Ultimate Guide for New Swim Parents to help you along the way! Filled with terminology, exposing those unwritten rules, and offering some helpful suggestions along the way, you’ll find yourself a pro in no time 🙂

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What do Swim Parents Do? 

Swim parents are the unsung heroes of swimming. 

We often recognize the coaches for all that they do at the pool. From coaching to motivation, it’s easy to see their efforts. Just as we recognize the officials for running the technical side and the behind-the-scenes at swim meets. 

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But swim parents shoulder a hefty weight for their swimmers, too. Both behind the scenes and on stage. They’re often overlooked in the swimming world despite all that they do.

Being a swim parent is more than just cheering. At the surface they:

  • Provide financial backing
  • Transportation
  • Support and encouragement 
  • Personal cheering section
  • Volunteer

This is by no means an exhaustive list but it helps paint the broad picture. And can help you get an understanding of what you’re walking into!

For a better breakdown of what it’s like to be a swim parent, read our Interview with a Swim Parent: What it Means to be a Swim Parent.

How Can I be a Good Swim Parent? 

Maybe one of the number one questions that get asked around pools by parents. How can I be a good swim parent?

The answer might surprise you!

The measure of a good swim parent isn’t how well put together you might look. Instead, it requires how well you listen to your swimmer.  

And how you support them. 

Because support varies by swimmer and comes in different ways. Some swimmers want quiet support as they pursue goals in the sport. Others want their family to be fully immersed in it. 

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Not sure what kind of support your child wants? Ask them! 

And don’t be afraid to ask throughout their swim journey. We encourage you to check in with them to ensure they feel supported enough.

Another way to be a good swim parent is to develop healthy habits as they pertain to swimming.

This means learning when it’s time to step back because you’ve become too involved. And making efforts to respect other parents and swimmers, and the coaches. 

What to Know Before Your Child Joins a Swim Team 

What’s one thing you should know before your child starts swimming? How much swimming costs.

We won’t beat around the bush with this one. Because finances are something that affects everyone. And you should know that swimming costs money. From suits and equipment to monthly dues.

Related article: How Can My Child Start Competitive Swimming? 

How much you’ll pay differs by the type of team your child joins and where you live. If you’re concerned about the cost of swimming, head over to our other article: Swimming on a Budget, for cost-saving tips.

And while your child can join a swim team at any age, we should point out one thing. Joining a swim team is not the same thing as taking swim lessons

And while the team may offer swim lessons, your child should know the basics of swimming before trying out for the team.

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Because of the increased numbers, it’s for your child’s safety that they can swim before joining a team.

Swim lessons are run in smaller groups. Usually with no more than swimmers at a time. Compared to swim teams which can have 4-6 swimmers in a lane. 

If you’re not sure about your child’s skill level or if you should have them take lessons first, please consult the coach. They’re best suited to assess their skills and determine what will work best for them.

Swim Parents and Practice

Most of your swimmer’s time (and perhaps yours) will be spent at practice.

With practice comes a whole new set of terms that swim parents learn. Along with, well, some boredom that comes with sitting through a whole practice. 

Related article: How to Make Your Swimmer’s Practice a Success

What should parents know about swim practice?

Practice Terminology

As a parent, you don’t need to know all the various swim terms in your swimmer’s vocabulary. However, knowing some basic terms or expressions can help make conversation a bit easier.

For this section, we’ll cover just a few of the more common terms. If you’d like to learn more, be sure to read our other article 30 Words to Get You By at Swim Practice and 9 Words Swim Parents Should Know

  • Dryland: Time during practice when swimmers workout in the weight room, complete cardio, or combination. Also known as weights
  • Set: A group of intervals and distances make up a set. An example could be 8x100s, alternating between freestyle and your best stroke at 1:30
  • Doubles: It might sound like a tennis word, but the word ‘doubles’ means two practices in a day. They can also be called ‘two-a-days’. Typically, one practice will be early in the morning and the second will be in the afternoon.  Whether that’s early or late afternoon varies by team

What to Expect at Your Child’s First Swim Practice

Regardless of the type of team your child joined, you can always expect some confusion and questions on their first day. From where you drop off your child to what the heck is going on at the pool.

And that’s okay!

If you’re new to the sport, ask questions. The other swim parents are more than happy to help. It’ll also help pass the time. Because swim practice can be boring for parents. 

It’s one of the reasons why we recommend that you don’t stay at your child’s practice. It’s okay to stay for the first few practices to ensure they’re okay but you don’t have to stay for every practice. 

If you do want to stay, make sure to bring something to do. The first practice or so might be exciting to watch. But in time, you might want to do something else.

Related article: 8 Things to Do During Your Child’s Swim Practice

Lastly, be sure to check the weather if your child is swimming outside. And pack accordingly for it. It’s not just your child that should wear sunscreen and stay hydrated. You should, too!

Practice Etiquette for Swim Parents 

When you’re at your child’s swim practice, it’s important to follow some basic swim parent etiquette

Related article: Rudest Things Parents Can do at Practice

These guidelines help make the pool and practice a healthier environment for all. While most of it is based in common courtesy, they’re often overlooked. And when they’re not followed, it can drive swimmers, coaches, and other parents a bit crazy 🙂

Some good forms of practice etiquette for parents to follow are:

  • Be civil to other parents, coaches, and swimmers 
  • Don’t talk to your child during practice
  • Let the coach do their job, you’re not the coach
  • Don’t record other swimmers

These may seem like unnecessary rules, but they do help make practices run a bit smoother. And if you’re not sure about something, be sure to ask!

Swim Meets and a Parents Role

Swim meets are a chance for swimmers to drop time and chase goals/cuts. They also offer personal development and life skills.

Meets are…complicated and confusing. And for parents, it’s more than just showing up to cheer.

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You need to understand various pieces of meets to ensure you don’t miss your child’s race. Such as knowing how to read a heat sheet. And what rules you’re expected to follow.

What should new swim parents know about swim meets?

What to Expect at Your Child’s First Swim Meet

Headed to your child’s first swim meet? We say this with all the love in our hearts for swim meets, but they can be overwhelming for new swim parents. And swimmers!

Swim meets often start early in the morning and can run for several hours. And they can be crowded with swimmers and parents alike. 

It’s enough to make anyone confused and a bit nervous. 

Especially when you add new words and expressions into the mix. Such as ‘false start, DQ, cuts, heat, and event.’ Keep yourself in the know with our article on Swim Meet Terminology!

Despite all our complaints about swim meets, they’re also exciting. For you and your child. Watching your swimmer compete for the first time (or any time, really) is always thrilling.

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Take the time to enjoy swim meets. Because even with all the bad, there are also good things about them. From winning their first heat or event to getting their first cut.

And you’ll find yourself missing them once your child is no longer swimming.

Swim Meet Essentials for Swim Parents

To help ease some of the frustration and boredom that comes with a swim meet, it’s important that you pack some essentials. This is by no means a complete list, but it can help get you started 🙂

Another way to survive a swim meet is to practice self-care.

It’s easy to get caught up in a swim meet and not eat or drink anything. Staying hydrated and eating enough can help stave off fatigue. Make sure you have a bottle of water that you’re drinking throughout the meet. 

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You should also take breaks to step away from the noise and chlorine smell. Go outside if you can for some fresh air. Doing this can help prevent headaches. And some irritability 😉 

Get up and walk around some to stretch out your legs, too!

Swim Meet Etiquette for Swim Parents 

Much like swim practice has etiquette to follow, there are also guidelines and rules at swim meets to follow.

Two of the biggest rules that you absolutely must follow are 

  1. Being quiet before the start and when swimmers are on the blocks
  2. No flash photography before/at the start

These two are extremely important to follow because they can impact a swimmer’s race. And they can also get you kicked out of a meet if you break them. 

Related article: Rudest Things Parents Can do at a Swim Meet

You should also model good sportsmanship. Sportsmanship isn’t just for swimmers but also parents and coaches too!

Congratulate swimmers for their races and be cordial with other swim parents. Try to avoid talking negatively and trash talk. 

And if you can, you should always thank the coaches, officials, times, and volunteers. Without them, the meet and your swimmer wouldn’t be where they were at. A simple thank you can go a long way 🙂

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Chevron is a current competitive swimmer with almost 20 years of experience in the pool. And although she fell into the sport by accident in her high school years, she still trains daily and competes throughout the year. She’s committed to providing guidance to all levels of swimmers and believes that everyone should know how to swim.