Being a swim parent comes with plenty of ups and downs. There’s the excitement of your kid embracing a healthy and challenging activity, the stress of all the commitments involved, the victories, the losses… and maybe, just maybe, hearing that your high schooler wants to quit the swim team.
It happens. More often than you might think.
While your gut reaction may be to push back, it’s important to understand why your son or daughter wants to stop.
Sometimes, they’re just feeling down about themselves or have otherwise hit a point they need some help pushing past. But sometimes, there are too many sources of stress, or other valid reasons your kid is overwhelmed, overburdened, and heading for a burnout. Sometimes, the best decision is to let something go, and a highly demanding, time-consuming activity like competitive swim might be a good candidate.
Take a look at these typical reasons high schoolers quit competitive swimming. Think about which may apply, but don’t make assumptions. Have an earnest conversation with your kid and get to the bottom of what’s going on. If problems can be addressed that allow him or her to stay on the swim team, that’s terrific! But listen closely to your child and be supportive either way, even if that means stopping competitive swim.
Why Teens Quit Competitive Swimming
- Their social life is suffering. Swim practice and competitions take up lot of time outside school hours. For some teen swimmers, the team is the heart of their social life. But others may feel completely disconnected from their friends and left out. While some swim parents might think this frivolous, socializing is an important part of development during the high school years.
- Their school work is suffering. Some swim parents have to constantly remind their kid about the importance of academics. But some high schoolers never lose sight of it, and they may struggle to find the time and energy to keep up their learning and their grades with all the demands of being on the swim team.
- They’re being pushed too hard. Too much pressure eventually takes a toll on physical, mental, and emotional health. If your teen is feeling it too much from a parent, a coach, or teammates, it can create the desire to quit. While every athlete benefits from being pushed, it’s important not to overdo it to the point where performance is all that matters.
- They’re not being pushed hard enough. Applying pressure is a balancing act. If a high school swimmer isn’t feeling any pressure to improve, it may start feeling pointless. Competitive swimming requires commitment, discipline, motivation, inspiration, and hard work to be a rewarding activity.
- They’re not improving. This may have to do with how hard they’re being pushed. Or maybe the coach isn’t effective. When an athlete doesn’t see improvement, it’s very demotivating. Figuring out the reason is the only hope for fixing this problem. Everyone should be able to improve with practice, a better handle on technique, and building up physique and stamina.
- They don’t feel supported. Sure, the parent-teen relationship is often complicated and sometimes contentious. But all high schoolers want to know their family is behind them, cheering them on. If you don’t ever talk to your kid about swim or attend competitions, it can be devastating to them—even if they’re unlikely to admit it to you.
- They’re being criticized too much. This is similar to number three above. Parents who harp on the mistakes their swimmers make and dwell on the negative sap the joy out of the activity. Let the coach offer the constructive criticism and instruction. However, this can come from coaches too; a good coach offers positive feedback and optimism, not just piles of criticism.
- There’s too much competitiveness. And this goes along with the above. Competition is key to competitive swim, but it’s not everything. If parents get angered by mistakes, less-than-perfect performance, or losses, it just makes swim a source of stress. If you complain or yell about the coach or your kid’s performance, you can make quitting seem appealing.
- They have problems with the coach or teammates. This is a wide-ranging possibility, as there are a lot of reasons a high schooler may not like a coach or other team members. And this can be one of the hardest things to get an honest answer about from a teenager.
- They have issues with the effects of being in the pool so often. High school kids can be quite invested in their appearance and how attractive they perceive themselves to be. Being in the water and chlorine all the time can leave kids smelling, with dry skin, with straw-like hair, more prone to acne breakouts, and so on. They may even be teased about their look and smell.
Incidentally, we make products that help with this last entry. Pick up some Swim Wipes for your teen swimmer. They’re a convenient way to freshen up quickly, even at school. Also, Soap + bar soap, One Step combination shampoo and conditioner, and Swimmers Own shower gel are specially formulated hygiene products that neutralize chlorine and protect swimmers’ skin and hair against the damaging effects of pool water and chemicals.