The following is an extract from a “Parental Guide” published by Scottish Swimming
Providing that your son/daughter is faced with realistic challenges, swimming should be fun at whatever level they participate. With appropriate parental support, your son/daughter will be able to develop his or her athletic potential in an enjoyable rather than stressful sports environment. You can provide your son/daughter with the opportunity to obtain a sense of achievement, competence and self worth.
Watching your son/daughter can be an emotionally draining experience. However, you may be taking their sport more seriously than they are. Of course most parents are trying to help. It is important that the young swimmer learns to see training and competition not as a threat but as an enjoyable CHALLENGE. It is very important that your son/daughter knows EFFORT as well as success will be acknowledged. An over-emphasis on winning by parents can result in fear of failure – with your love and respect being seen by your son/daughter as being conditional upon winning.
Much of the problem can be that parents are not sure how they can best help their son/daughter. The purpose in the points that follow, is to offer guidance to parents who want to learn to maximise their contribution while at the same time ensuring that their son/daughter enjoys their involvement in swimming.
Some questions to gauge your involvement in your son/daughter’s sport
i) Do you want your son/daughter to win events more than they do?
ii) Do you show your disappointment if they have a poor result?
iii) Do you feel that they can only enjoy swimming if they win?
iv) Do you conduct ‘post-mortems’ after races or training
v) Do you find yourself frequently wanting to interfere during training or competitions thinking that you could do better?
vi) Do you find yourself disliking their opponents?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above then you may be putting unnecessary pressure on your son/daughter, which could adversely affect their enjoyment and involvement.
The Do’s and Don’ts, which follow, will help you maximise your contribution to your child’s sport whilst minimising any adverse effects.
How Can You Help? – Some Do’s
Ø Do get to know your son/daughter’s coach; after all they can play an important role in your son/daughters general development.
Ø Do respect the coach’s opinion; they should be more knowledgeable than you – both about swimming and the development of young swimmers.
Ø Do assess your son/daughter’s progress – don’t be afraid to ask the coach how your son/daughter in doing and what future they can see for them. Rather than first making a complaint, ask the coach ‘why’ so that you can understand.
Ø Do establish clear lines of communication – in case you need to speak to the coach regarding training or competitions, find out when it is convenient to contact them and the best way of doing so. Don’t address a criticism to or of your son/daughter or the coach in front of other parents or swimmers.
Ø Do encourage effort as well as result – don’t assess your son/daughter’s progress solely by how many medals they win. It is important to recognise and reward effort.
Ø be generous with your applause – It is important during an event that you applaud all the swimmers efforts, as this acts as encouragement for all the participants.
How can you help? – Some Don’ts
Ø Don’t respond to a bad result or mistake with punishment or criticism – give your son/daughter time to work out for themselves why things didn’t go as hoped for. If they ask your advice first compliment them for something he or she did right then give advice emphasising the positive results, and maybe suggest that they talk to their coach who will give them guidance, if they have not already.
Ø Don’t turn a blind eye to any bad behaviour, cheating or bad manners by your son/daughter. In such instances reasonably prompt action is required. To do otherwise will infer that you condone such behaviour or at least do not consider personal standards and respect of people and rules important in sport.
Ø Don’t forget that your child is still growing – training which may be appropriate for an adult e.g.( heavy weight training) can have adverse long-term effects on growth and development of a young child.
Ø Don’t ignore persistent aches and pains – children are often reticent to admit to injuries especially if it means missing training or a competition so listen out for persistent grumbles. Talk to the coach and if aches exist more than a few days then seek professional advice. Pain is not an ache; it is usually the sign of an injury, see a GP or a physiotherapist.
Ø Don’t ignore other children in the family – sometimes brothers and sisters may feel left out or bored as the household revolves around the needs of the young swimmer. It is important to try and keep a balance between swimming and the interests of the other members of the family.
Ø Don’t allow the situation to develop where your child is frightened of losing because of the way you respond – a fear of failure can often result in children feigning injury and not entering or withdrawing from competitions.
Ø Don’t force a young child to specialise entirely on swimming – children should be allowed to develop other preferences.
Ø Don’t attend every training session and competition – it is important for your child’s future development in sport that they are trusted to make correct decisions during either training or competition. This is the first stage in the development of self-motivation and self-reliance. Constant parental supervision can result in the swimmer becoming emotionally, and other wise over dependent on your presence and advice.
Ø Don’t say ‘we’ won or ‘we’ lost – It is important that you don’t become over-involved in your child’s swimming. Remember it is your child who is participating – you are there to support and encourage, not compete.