Mike's Mailbag: How to Manage Parents' Training Expectations

Mike's Mailbag: How to Manage Parents' Training Expectations

By Mike Gustafson//Contributor  | Monday, April 23, 2018

Every Monday, I answer questions from swimmers around the country. If you have a question, please email me at swimmingstories@gmail.com, and I’ll do my best to answer.


Dear Mike,

I think my swimming world is falling apart. Ever since my terrible championship meet in March, my parents think I should spend less time on swimming and more time on other things. My parents have since made me take off one day every week. However, they tell me that even if I swim less than other swimmers, I should still get the same results, if not better. They say that the key is “quality practices.” The new season has just started, and I really am trying to double my attention on technique and speed. But my parents’ expectations are to sprint (or at least try really hard on everything) everything besides drill. So when someone beats me in warm-up they think that I’m not trying hard enough. But warm-up is warm-up, and are you really supposed to try hard on it or work on technique? Also, whenever I try to work on my technique, they also think I’m going slow and I’m supposed to try harder. On the main set, I work my butt off, but they still don’t think it’s enough. They threaten to take away more days of swimming if I don’t fix this, or even worse, make me quit. I genuinely love this sport, and I truly think I’m trying harder. My coach also says I’ve been having good practices, but my parents don’t think so.

So what exactly are “quality practices”? Does that mean I do what my parents say and sprint everything including warmup? And how exactly do you work on technique during practice?






Hey, Help NEEDED,

Let me start first by saying: If you sprint warm-up, you’re setting yourself up for injury. Don’t sprint warm-up. Like you said, warm-up is warm-up. Warm-up is an opportunity to warm-up your body, prepare for the practice, and gradually build the tension and stress on your body so you can help prevent injuries.

Don’t sprint warm-up.

Parents want the best for their kids, but sometimes, they don’t really understand best practices. Coaches coach, swimmers swim, and parents should parent — which, for the latter, to me means “support.”

Like most things in life, communication is key. Set up a meeting with your parents and your coaches to discuss your training. Get your parents to talk to the coach and ask your coach about sprinting philosophies. Tell your coach that your parents have specific thoughts about training and would love to discuss them. A really good conversation could come out of this.

In the bigger picture, though, there are two important lesson to be learned here:

First, people who love you may not always understand you. Throughout your life, people who love you will want the best for you, and they will give you advice — solicited or not — because they believe their advice will make you happier. Keep this in mind: They just want you to be happy and successful.

Second, trust yourself. You’re the one stepping on those blocks. You’re the one diving into that pool. This is your life. This is your experience. Parents and loved ones and friends and coaches all want the best for you. Sometimes they know best; sometimes they don’t. You must learn how to know when to listen to others, and when to listen to yourself.

I would set up a conversation with your coaches and parents. Your coaches may be wondering why you aren’t coming to every practice, or why you’re sprinting warm-ups. Or maybe your coaches will be in complete agreement with your parents. Either way, set up that conversation just to talk.

Then, just remember that your parents only want the best for you, and they are trying to be the best parents they can be. Even if sometimes they stress you out, they are trying to raise you, and trying their best. I think if you just sat down and communicated with them honestly, a lot of these issues would smooth out.

I hope this helps.



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