top of page

Parent Tip #1: JUST SMILE

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

Written By: Pam Swander

When parents ask me “what more can I do to support my swimmer?”, you may be surprised by this tip. No doubt many of you have read these sports parent tips that are readily available these days - be a role model of the behaviors you expect, focus on the process and not the outcome, discuss with your child what you want them to learn from competition, encourage athlete’s independence, respect the coaching staff, leave the technical coaching to the experts. But have you ever heard just smile?

One tip that is rarely discussed is for parents to be aware of your body language in the stands. Are you calm, cool and collected? Are you radiating confidence, joy and excitement or fear, trepidation, maybe even disappointment? How you communicate with your swimmer nonverbally is critical.

According to Dr. Monika Schloder, a sports consultant trained in sports pedagogy, says “nearly 93% of how you communicate with your young athlete is based on body language.”

Often after finishing a swim regardless of the performance, swimmers will look directly at their parents face and what they see will either boost their confidence or tear it down. When an athlete is distracted by thinking their parent is disappointed with their performance, they may become anxious and not coachable. Certainly not the experience we want for our young athletes. Therefore, I’m suggesting the best thing you can do from the stands, regardless of the outcome of their race, is smile and wave, and if you really want to have some fun, blow them a kiss! When you do this it allows their coach to have an appropriate conversation about their performance, help them process the race and move them on to what comes next. Win-Win-Win for all!

If you are interested in reading more sport parent tips an outstanding resource is the TrueSport website.

Did you know that USA Swimming’s official mobile application, Deck Pass, has teamed up with TrueSport in an effort to educate youth swimmers on how to win the right way. This partnership is designed to help Deck Pass users succeed both in and out of the water.

Pam Swander is a veteran coach who has coached at every level of the sport from summer league to college. NCAA Division I coaching roles include Clemson University, Indiana University and University of South Carolina. Coach Swander has helped her teams and athletes achieve at the highest levels of the sport - Olympic Trials finalists, World and American world record holders, NCAA, SEC and Big10 Individual Champs and Big10 Championship team titles. Over her college coaching career, she has garnered international experience by accompanying many of her athletes to international meets and championships, including the 2008 Short Course World Championships in Manchester, England where Kate Zubkova won a silver medal while representing Ukraine and IU. At the club level while serving as South Carolina Swim Club’s Head Coach (2016-2018) the club achieved Bronze Medal recognition in the USA Swimming Club Excellence Program and won 2016 LCM and 2017 SCY State Championships. For six years as North Regional Manager and Senior 1 coach at SwimMAC Carolina she oversaw eight Junior National Championship team titles. She achieved club management recognition while serving on SwimMAC’s leadership team helping MAC earn Gold Medal top honors in the USA Swimming Club Excellence Program. She collaborated with MAC coaches to develop and implement SwimMAC’s high-performance initiative. The program produced Olympian Kathleen Baker, and eighteen, 18-Under Olympic Trials qualifiers who went on to have outstanding college careers. As a result, CEO & Head Coach of SwimMAC Carolina, David Marsh received 2012 Developmental Coach of the Year award from USA Swimming for having the most 18-Under Olympic Trials qualifiers in the Nation. In addition to her elite-level coaching experience, Swander has developed community swim lesson curricula, coached High School, served as both the Director of USA Swimming’s Select camp, and the Vice Chair of Hospitality on the U.S. Olympic Trials Committee, and represented Indiana Swimming as a Delegate at the USA Swimming National Convention. Pam is married to Jeff Swander and their two children, Laura and Kevin, became top swimmers at Auburn University and Indiana University, respectively.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page