Tips from the Deck

By Jennifer Tyson (Guest Contributor).

Being a swim mom was one of the highlights of my parenting life.  My son had tried t-ball, flag football, karate, guitar, karate again (in case it had gotten more interesting), and even a short stint in fencing.  Then we found a sport he loved.  We quickly found ourselves at the pool 5 nights a week, and most weekends were spent poolside as well.  If I do the math, I calculate that roughly 930 hours a year X 4 years adds up to a grand total of nearly 4,000 hours as a swim mom.  My son moved onto other adventures, but I like to think that those 4,000 hours made me a bit of an expert for a mom drowning (see what I did there?) in swim life.

Here are my tips.

Have a big car.  Or at least a car with a big trunk.  The best-selling SUV/Crossover of 2016 was the Toyota RAV4 and boasts a whopping 38.4 cubic feet of behind the seat (read “equipment”) space.  A nice option if you are in the market.  Really though, the amount of equipment used in a sport that appears, to the casual observer, to have no equipment is quite remarkable.  You’ll need room for fins of varying sizes, buoys, kickboards, buckets for dragging, speedos, snorkels, nose clips (so many nose clips – keep reading), towels, dry clothes, and often you’ll multiply all this by how many swimmers you’re hauling around – us swim parents stick together.  You get pretty close with the parents you spend every evening of your life with. And this brings me to my next tip – camp chairs.

Those parents that you get close with?  Your relationship will start like this…  You’ll show up the first week of practice and sit on the wet concrete pool deck for several uncomfortable hours.  You’ll notice the other parents sitting in nice camp chairs – the ones with drink holders and high backs.  You’ll think, “Why in the world am I sitting on the wet concrete pool deck for several uncomfortable hours?” and you’ll head over to ask them where those cozy looking chairs come from.  They’ll tell you, and your life will be changed.  Moving forward, you will have camp chairs in your car at all times.  More than one most likely.  My personal favorite is the Ozark Trail Ultra High Back Folding Quad Camp Chair (available at for a reasonable $24.97).  You’ll enjoy the shoulder strap as you carry them from car to pool (inevitably a long walk with your hands full of everything your swimmer forgot), the cup holder, and the big pocket to carry books, notepads, and sharpies.  Sharpies.  My next tip.

Sharpies, because everything else washes off in the chlorine.  When it comes time to start writing events on your swimmer’s arm, no one at the pool will have a sharpie.  Well, the head coach will have a sharpie but no one is asking him.  Lest his opinion of your swimmer (and heaven forbid you as the swim parent) be tainted by your irresponsibility – maybe even the possibility of your complete and utter disrespect for him and the religion of swimming as a whole (ok, I’m being dramatic but, c’mon swim parents – you know you aren’t asking him either).  On a side note, if you ever want to see your sharpie again after it’s been passed around the pool deck, consider personalizing it with your own words, ideas, and colors at

3 more tips to go.

1 – When buying nose clips, save yourself time.  Go to and order 5,000 pairs.   Do they melt? DO they walk away? Do they form small nose clip civilizations in the musty, damp equipment bags of swimmers everywhere?  I don’t know. But they will be gone – always.  When you’ve just had them, they’ll be gone.  When you think to have them, gone.  When you actually do have them, nope – they’ll be gone.  It remains one of the great mysteries of the sport in my mind.  I anticipate finding a great stash of them someday when my son moves off to college. 14,212 nose clips stashed away in an old equipment bag, secretly plotting the takeover of a small seaside village.

2 – Always leave your car windows cracked.  Gear bags stay damp, speedos get left behind, towels are forgotten.  You’ve smelled a stinky car before I am sure.  But I don’t know if you can truly comprehend the smell of a sweat and chlorine soaked speedo that has warmed in your car for 3 days.  This smell hurts and offends.  It leaves you crying and traumatized.  It has been two years since my swimmer swum his last lap, and I still crack my windows when I park, you know – just in case.

Finally, my last tip and it’s an important one.  Use the burst option on your camera when taking pictures of your swimmer.  While it does pass the time poolside to try and catch your swimmer’s head as it breaks the surface, the chances of you coming home with countless pictures of a seemingly empty pool are much greater.  You can frame these pool pictures, then tell your family and friends that your child is about to make a turn, or has just dived in but it isn’t the same and they look at you weird.  Just hold that button down and increase the chances for facebookable, timehoppable moments in your camera roll.  You’ll have plenty of time while your swimmer is practicing to delete all those pictures you don’t want.

So whether your swimmer is just getting started,  is a seasoned pro, or has moved on to other sports like mine has, my hope is that these tips give you a laugh and help you to “just keep swimming.” (You knew that was coming.)

6 thoughts on “Tips from the Deck

  • Mar 1, 2017 at 10:08 pm

    I had two children that were club and school swimmers. Believe it or not, I kinda missed the smell of chlorine when my last one graduated! Great article!

  • Mar 5, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    We are in year 8 of year round swimming for our three girls. Two will be off to college in 5 years and the third in 7. I already am preparing myself for when I will miss all these experiences.

  • Mar 7, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    Great article! I wish I had known about the “burst” option on my camera and personalizing my Sharpie – good tips. Some of my best friends are fellow swim parents I met at practice and meets over the years. After 11 years of club swimming, my son is now a freshman swimming in college and I actually miss spending my weekends at meets. After all of my experience as a swim mom, I created College Swimming Guide to help simplify the recruiting process for parents whose kids want to swim in college. I wanted to help others and I was not ready to completely leave the sport yet!

  • Mar 8, 2017 at 6:07 pm

    As a swim coach I can solve many of your swim parent problems. If your kid is old enough to be using buckets then they are old enough to get themselves to practice on a bike (if it is less than 4 miles of the pool), walking (if it is less than 3 miles to the pool, or public transportation. And your kid should also be able to carry all of their own equipment to and from the pool. And this way you don’t have to waste your time on the pool deck. If you kid isn’t able to get themselves to practice under these guidelines and there aren’t other extenuating circumstances like a disability of some kind then they almost certainly shouldn’t be using a bucket.

    Unless your kid is a highly competitive backstroker your nose clip purchases are a huge waste of money.

    Don’t worry about the smelly swim bag by making your swimmer hang their towel and suit up after each practice to dry.

    But please do show up to meets and speak positively about your child’s efforts.


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