May 23, 2014

Published: May 22, 2014

Here are 8 swim parents that you have probably encountered at your local swim meet.

Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer based out of Victoria, BC. In feeding his passion for swimming, he has developed 
YourSwimBook, a powerful log book and goal setting guide made specifically for swimmers. Sign up for the YourSwimBook newsletter (free) and get weekly motivational tips by clicking here.

There’s at least one at every swim meet.


The one you purposely avoid, the one you rue having to make small talk with. This parent comes in many forms and shapes, and not only is a parent for someone on another team, but is also often a parent from your club. Sometimes this parent is you.

While some of the following swim parent stereotypes may infuriate and annoy us, they also provide some amusement and entertainment when our own kids aren’t in the pool.

Here are 8 different swim parents that grace the decks at our local swim meets–

1. Cpt. Obvious
. Exuberant, loud and shrill, this parent’s version of cheering runs the gamut of things that are all too apparent—

“Pull harder!”

“Kick harder!”

“Swim harder! Swim faster!”

On behalf of swimmers (and nearby spectators) everywhere: Uh, yeah, thanks. Note that when stating the obvious volume is key and necessary to earn this ironic title. Sometimes a simple “
Go!” is more effective than “Pull harder than your contemporaries in the lane next to you who also appear to be swimming at a rapid pace in the hopes of gaining same objective as you!”

2. The Chin Hair Puller
. Quiet, thoughtful and analytical, this parent is quietly judging, counting, noting, judging, always judging, but keeping their thoughts to themselves. They know their kids’ competition splits and stroke rates by heart and are quietly plotting the rest of their kid’s season while the rest of us are just wondering when that snack tray is going to make the rounds again. Look for a copy of Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” nearby.

3. Ari Gold.
 This parent is part authority figure, part business manager. They know for a fact that their kid is going to the Olympics. Which one? All of them. They have one eye on their smartphone seeking out prospective endorsement deals and the other on potential areas where the brand (a.k.a. the product, the money, the swimmer) can vertically integrate. The parent-agent is frequently locked in a daydream of the potential millions their 7 year old is bound to make.

4. Mr. Positivity.
 Even though their kid just had the worst swim of their life, this parent is so aghast at the thought of his or her kid losing self-confidence that they will sugar coat it until the very end. “It’s okay Timmy, no one saw your suit come off! Or your DQ! And I am sure that no one would ever to think about posting the video on social media! You’re still my sugary honey bunny to me! Love you!” Positivity is good and great, but sometimes levity instead of faux optimism can be just what is needed to defuse a crappy swim.

5. The Shrieker.
 Otherwise calm and composed, this swim parent seems to lose all sense of dignity and shame the moment their child hits the water. This shrieking is usually on full and slightly embarrassing display when the athlete re-watches their race later on a friend’s iPhone, insuring the well being and use of mute buttons everywhere.

6. The Tomato.
 It’s understandable—it’s difficult not to get wrapped up in the awesome intensity that is a kid swimming laps back and forth. But for the tomato, this face-exploding experience borders on evidence for mandatory anger management. The rage materializes in a vein-popping redness that causes sunburns at a distance of ten feet, severe burns within 3 feet. Approach with caution if child has swum below expectations. Is a known cause of jeez-it’s-only-a-sport-man-itis with passerby.

7. The Nail-Chewer. It’s amazing this parent still has thumbs. Or hands, really. Quiet and reserved, they extoll their anxiety via chewing what is left of their thumbs. (Advanced nail-chewers typically graduate to the pinky and index fingers when the thumb nail is “not in the game.”)

8. The Stopwatch. A coach’s nightmare. Will generally walk away after their kids’ swim mumbling about how they coulda, woulda, shoulda coached their kid to a better time. Seems to know better than coach, often gives contradictory advice, and is frequently caught peering over coach’s shoulder at stroke rate, splits and so on for not only his or her swimmer, but also the competition.



February 25, 2014
Arena Grand Prixview Kids
Courtesy of: ArenaUSA
Published:February 24, 2014

Guest commentary by Ernie and Mary Anne Ortiz

Swimmers don't have birthdays; they "age up." That's what happened to
our little swimmer when she had her 11th August birthday. It was a bittersweet moment for her, and for
us in a number of ways. 

Her perspective was that just as she was finally fast enough in her events to be truly competitive, her birthday put her into an age group where the times appeared to resemble the speed of light. As parents we were a little bit sad to leave the relative safety of her coach's care; where as long as we were having fun and enjoying the process, that was really enough. There is time enough to be competitive later on, right? 

Well, just like Paul Simon sang, "Time, Time, Time see what's become of me." We are You, maybe a little older. It seems like a good time to think a bit about what we've learned in the process of becoming swim parents and pass on a bit of this hard-won wisdom, keeping in mind, of course, that hindsight is 20/20. Here's our list of what we wish we had known from the beginning. 

1. It's stroke technique, stroke technique, stroke technique. 
Swimming is an elegant sport, and as coach Barbara told us repeatedly, it is one where the swimmer cannot muscle his or her way into first place very often. And this is true in our swimmer's experience. Until she refined her freestyle, she did not begin winning events or even placing consistently. This brings us to point number... 

2. Let your swimmer know that in practice, unless the coach is telling the swimmer to race, it is not a race. 
It's time to make certain that the stroke technique is correct. In practice, the swimmers will get the opportunity to pick up speed according to the coach's timetable for doing so...I'm not even going to touch the hot topic of which child should be first in any given lane, but there must be a better way than the law of the jungle, which seems to be how it's decided now...remember that it's the competitive spirit, even with teammates, that will inspire these swimmers to excel....onto point number... 

3. Yes, there really is a plan at practice. 
The swimmers don't just do what the coach feels like working on that day. Not unlike teachers with lesson plans, the age-group coaches, under the direction of the head coach, have the entire season planned...building skill upon skill, day after day and week after week. This doesn't always look obvious to the parent who has never swam competitively...which brings us to point number... 

4. This is what we call, "El Lippo, Zippo" in practice. 
It's very hard...when you see your little swimmer, or not so little swimmer, giving less than what you consider his or her best effort. It's crucial that your swimmer develop a working relationship, and a relationship of trust with the coach. If mom or dad are yelling at their kids, correcting them or otherwise communicating with them while they are in the pool, you are interfering with the development of that relationship. If your swimmer leaves the pool for any reason other than genuine illness, send them back immediately! Talk to the coaches after practice...even if you have to follow them around and insist! We think that there should be a mechanism similar to parent/teacher conferences if needed, but we've had pretty good luck getting feedback by approaching the coach between practices. Speaking of coaching...point number... 

5. Teach your swimmer how to accept coaching. 
While the coach is talking, the swimmer is not talking. Eyes should be on the coach's face while instruction is being given. This way the coach knows that she is being heard, and the swimmer is actually learning to pay attention. This will pay dividends in school as well. Teachers have told us that swimmers are the best students because they pay attention to instruction, have the ability to focus and are goal oriented. As far as turning that instruction into a finished product in practice or a meet...point number.... 

6. There's a process of development that I'm sure a neurologist or good pediatrician could explain to us. 
It occurs between the ages of six or seven, when most kids start to swim, and ten or eleven, when they really start getting fast and you know that you could no longer keep up with them, even in a 25 yard race. The younger kids can hear an instruction regarding stroke technique, but don't have enough mastery over their bodies to implement it consistently. 

This is a crucial point for parents of the younger swimmers to understand. It's not a matter of not trying or not understanding. It's a matter of developmental maturity, and WE are not in charge of that timetable. Our swimmer used to drag one arm in her butterfly. It was such a relief when her coach told us it was developmental and that it would change with time. She was right! Even at ten years, it requires a lot of over and over, which is why they drill, drill, drill. I know, it's boring, boring, boring...when do we get to race!!! It's crucial that parents implement point number 4 (see above) at this time. 

This is the time to look at the big picture of the entire season. Even though it doesn't look like it on a day-to-day basis, if you compare your swimmer's level of expertise in February to their expertise the previous October, you're going to see a big difference. On to the next point... 

7. Play dumb...not so hard for us non-swimmers! 
This is the technique we used to reinforce what the coach had taught in a practice session. We would ask our swimmer to explain to us the purpose of a particular drill, or what was meant by swimming an interval at a certain time or even what is an interval...the list could go on and on. We approached these conversations as the uninitiated requesting information from someone who was certainly more in the know than us about this particular subject. This served two purposes. As previously stated, it reinforced the coach's instructions by having the swimmer think about the purpose of the instruction. It also gave our swimmer a chance to be our coach, giving us the benefit of her knowledge about the sport. 

8. Private Lessons. This is a point that causes some controversy, so we can only offer testimony to what has been true in the case of our swimmer. 
Swimming is an individual sport, but the training takes place in a large group situation. Our swimmer let us know, with her enthusiasm and hard work at practice as well as verbally, that she had big plans for herself in the future as a swimmer. Okay, we'll admit to the lane four, swimming for The United States of America...and now we return to reality. In order to help her reach her goals, we elected to have a series of private lessons to refine her strokes. 

The direct, and we do mean direct, result of this was three Texas Age Group Swimming times as a ten and under. She went out of that age group with a thrill that was beyond words, not only for her, but for the parents and sister who love her. In addition, this served the purpose of enhancing the working relationship between swimmer and coach. We plan to continue this successful strategy on a periodic basis as an investment in our swimmer's future. An addendum to this is that none of the coaches ever solicited students for private lessons, but were available when we inquired. 

9. Enjoy the practices and use them as a time to bond with other parents. 
The aspect of swimming that our family enjoys the most, other than watching our swimmer swim fast, is that it's a sport for the whole family....even those of us that rarely venture into the deep end of a pool. The team is a family of like-minded individuals that want the sport of swimming to add to their child's joy and provide a venue for achievement. Some of our best friends are other swim parents!!! 

10. Last but not least, lighten up!! 
Ten and under is a time for developing stroke technique to be sure, but almost as important, this is the time where a love of the sport is developed. If it becomes a time for argument or judgment, they may get fast and win races as a young swimmer, but they will surely leave the sport as soon as they're old enough to figure out that they can. That, however, is a column that a 13-14 parent needs to write! 

Ernie and Mary Anne Ortiz are veteran swim parents, with both of their children having gone on to swim for the University of Houston Cougars. Maryanne finished her career with the Cougars, and has since moved on to coaching and is currently coaching at Cypress Fairbanks. Leah is currently a freshman at Houstoon.


October 22, 2013

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, October 17. IN the second of three parts of a special Q&A session, Anthony Ervin talks about a myriad of topics, including the period of time when he made the decision to sell the gold medal he won in the 50 freestyle at the 2000 Olympics.

Ervin's life was in flux in 2005, and he was not happy with having the gold medal around him as it was "a symbol of my strife and my struggle, but it was also a symbol of my victory." With his desire to completely distance himself from swimming, and with a need to give to victims of the 2004 tsunami in southeast Asia, the idea of selling his medal became a no-brainer.

"I wanted to be in that moment (of giving to the world), and I figured the one thing I had that could possibly making a difference was my medal, so I put it out there," he said.



May 25, 2013


It’s not uncommon to see teams of young swimmers filing into the local Italian restaurant to load up on pasta the night before a big meet. Or hear of parents planning to cook up a big meal with pasta, rice or potatoes at home. The common conception is that loading up on a high carbohydrate meal will prepare the muscles with a ready source of glycogen (stored carbohydrate in the muscle) the following day, usually a race day. As a result, the swimmer will avoid early muscle fatigue, low energy, and the big bonus: swim fast.


The problem with the idea of carbohydrate loading in young athletes is that it is an approach based on what we know about the adult metabolism of carbohydrate. The reality is there is little scientific evidence supporting the benefit of this practice in children.

Kids are not like adults when it comes to breaking down, utilizing, and storing carbohydrate. Young swimmers (and all child athletes) use fat more readily as an energy source, which is not the case for adults. Young swimmers have a limited ability to store large amounts of carbohydrate in their muscles. And females have less overall muscle mass compared to males, and therefore, less capacity for glycogen storage.

Also, swimming on race day generally occurs in short, fast bursts. This limits the need for accessing glycogen and breaking it down, a need associated with prolonged exercise. And the truth is, we don’t have a lot of evidence that high carbohydrate intake during prolonged training is beneficial in young athletes, either.

While this may go against what you have long believed about carbohydrate loading and general carbohydrate consumption for swimmers, rest assured, researchers still advise a daily high carbohydrate diet for young athletes.

They just don’t support the idea that there is a benefit to carbohydrate loading for swimmers who are still growing. We do know that as children age, their ability to metabolize (process) carbohydrate becomes more adult-like.

The healthiest and best approach to getting the carbohydrate needed for optimal swimming performance is to follow a training diet that is loaded with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy products. Just as important is getting the timing of eating regulated. Eat every 3 to 4 hours, so there is a steady supply of carbohydrate and nutrients to the muscles and brain. Nailing these two nutrition strategies will keep the young swimmer ready for competition without a need to “load” with carbohydrate-rich foods the night before a meet, or go above and beyond your normal healthy meal.

Jill Castle, MS, RDN is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and child nutrition expert. She is the co-author of Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School, and creator of Just The Right Byte, a child and family nutrition blog. She lives with her husband and four children (two swimmers!) in New Canaan, CT. Find more about her at Questions? Contact Jill at



April 30, 2013