Elementary school and high school are some of the few times in life where you have the opportunity to be a part of a sports team—unless you go to compete professionally later in life. While there are so many different extracurricular sports options at many elementary schools and high schools, one that sometimes gets overlooked is the swim team.
Swim team is a sport where athletes compete against one another to swim a fixed distance in the fastest time possible. These competitions are referred to as meets and are comprised of multiple races called events. These events vary by race length, swimming stroke, and the number of swimmers.
Now that you understand a lot about the basic logistics of the swim team, we will go over the fine details of what it takes to get in and be on the team. Keep reading to learn more about this up-and-coming sport!
What to Know About Joining the Swim Team
Before jumping into everything that happens on a swim team, knowing how to get on the team and what to expect from tryouts is essential. Some club organizations and smaller schools allow anyone who tried out to be on the team, regardless of how well they performed. Conversely, competitive club organizations and larger high schools usually implement cuts, so not everyone can get in.
For this reason, it’s important to be prepared. To increase your likelihood of success, here are some ways to prepare for tryouts:
Start Practicing Techniques
Before you even get to the tryouts, you need to be practicing on your own beforehand. Get in the water and get comfortable with it! By doing this, you won’t have to waste time relearning techniques or getting used to being in the water. You will be better able to show your skills if you have a basic grasp of what to do.
Once you’re used to being in the water, hone in on your form for each of these four strokes:
It does not matter if you only want to swim one stroke or another—you need to practice all of them. At tryouts, the coach will be looking for skills in many different areas. You do not have to be the best at all four strokes, but try to have a pretty good grasp on each of them.
While knowing the strokes and being comfortable with them is crucial for tryout preparations, you should also perfect other techniques, such as flip turns, open hand turns, starts, and endurance. If you do not know how to do these techniques, you should learn them as best you can and practice them. Out of all of them, endurance is the most important one to master, and the coaches will probably be paying close attention to who has good endurance.
By being well-versed in many different swim areas, you will be much better prepared than the other first-time team swimmers who did not train.
Do Some Conditioning
While training to learn techniques and build comfort in the water is crucial to being prepared for tryouts, you can further increase your eligibility to be on the team by improving your overall athleticism. Training in the water certainly builds athleticism and strength, but you can bolster this even more by integrating some dryland training and conditioning.
Swimming is great cardio and strength training, so you need to do things that reflect these aspects when training on land. Running is a great way to do this. It will help increase endurance while toning your legs.
Furthermore, conditioning your core will help you in the pool tremendously. This is because you use your core to keep yourself swimming in a straight line and maintain posture. Work out your core to improve on your strokes and general strength.
Finally, try doing some yoga or stretching to increase mobility. This will keep your muscles loose and prevent them from cramping so you can have greater mobility in the pool.
Show Up Early
A great way to show your dedication to the sport is to show up early to tryouts and use that time to stretch and prepare. Like any job interview, audition, or tryout for other sports, showing up on time/early is a great indicator of the kind of addition to the team you will be. If you have another engagement and need to be a little late, communicate clearly with the coach beforehand. This way, they know that you are usually punctual and have the maturity to be accountable for your actions.
By showing up early, you prove to the coach that you will take the sport seriously and not be late to practices or meets. Coaches would much rather put someone on the team who will be there when expected than someone who might show up or might not. So be early, alert, and ready to show what you can do!
If you do all of these things to prepare, then you will know that you tried your best, even if you didn’t make the swim team on your first try.
What to Know About Swim Team Meets
Once you have proved yourself in tryouts and made it on the team, you will participate in events at meets. It is crucial to understand what the standard swim events are to train to compete in them. These events are typically in this order, with a girl’s heat first followed by a boy’s heat:
- 200 Medley Relay
- 200 Freestyle
- 200 Individual Medley
- 50 Freestyle
- 1 Meter Diving
- 100 Butterfly
- 100 Freestyle
- 500 Freestyle
- 200 Freestyle Relay
- 100 Backstroke
- 100 Breaststroke
- 400 Freestyle Relay
You will notice there is a diving event in the middle. In truth, not all swim team organizations feature diving. So unless you know you want to be on the dive team and your organization offers diving to swim team members, do not worry about practicing that.
There seem to be many different events to know, but it is easy to remember what they are once you break them down. Each event will feature at least one of the four strokes. Medleys include all of the strokes in the order of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle.
Relays are just what you might expect. Four separate swimmers tag the next one once they have completed their section of the race. In a single stroke relay, each swimmer will swim the required distance in the allotted stroke. Each swimmer swims the same distance in a medley relay, usually to the end and back once, with a different stroke in the medley order. These events really show how your team works together as one unit.
Individual races are usually categorized by stroke and distance. Some strokes, like freestyle, have a lot of different distance events and different increments. The other strokes usually only have one or two different distance events. The exception to this is the individual medley. This is like the relay medley, but only one swimmer is swimming all four strokes.
What to Know About Swim Team Practices
Practices are the most important and most frequent part of being on the swim team. You will most likely have morning practice, afternoon practice, or both when on your swim team. They will never be during classes, but you will have them frequently and for long hours. It takes a lot of practice for a swim team to develop, so expect a huge time commitment to the sport.
Typically, practices begin with a warm-up where everyone stretches and swims a few slow, steady laps in the pool. After this, your coach and team captain will talk to the team about what needs to be improved on as a whole and what each person can improve on individually. After this briefing, the team will disperse and practice the specific things talked about. Some people will immediately get in the water, and some will wait until their turn to practice.
Coaches and team captains will be giving pointers and helping swimmers realize what they can work on to be better. High school practices last at least 2 hours, but they can go on for a lot longer under some circumstances. The length and frequency of youth practices vary based on the competitiveness of the organization.
If you have both morning and afternoon practice, they will probably be a bit shorter. You can ask your coach how much time the team will spend practicing before try-outs to know what kind of time commitment to anticipate.
Do not expect swim to be an easy sport. At first glance, it might seem relatively easy compared to sports on land, but many people try out for the swim team. Those who came unprepared yet still made the cuts are usually surprised by how much time and effort the swim team demands. Swimming is a challenging sport that uses all of your muscles, including your brain, to do well.
How Swim Team Affects Other Life Aspects
With any school-sanctioned sport, your grades are a vital part of your ability to participate on the team. For this reason, you should not overlook academics. It may be difficult, but you need to keep up on your homework and be present for swim practices. This will require some time management skills on your part to balance the different aspects of your life.
Before the season officially starts, I advise that you take some time to get a calendar out and write in the dates of all of your swim meets and practice times. This will allow you to better schedule the time you need to do homework and study around all of the swimming. In short, if you organize how to get everything done in advance, you will be much better equipped to keep your grades up to stay active on the team.
You will also have to balance aspects of your life within the team. Not all teams require you to eat a specific diet, but balancing your eating habits will help you become a better swimmer. Try to avoid eating junk and refined carbs. Instead, replace these foods with fresh fruits, vegetables, and unrefined carbohydrates to boost your performance. A diet like this will give you more energy and endurance so you can swim your best.
How Swim Team Can Benefit You
Many people say that while they love the athletic aspect of swim team, the social aspect is the most memorable part of being on the team. Therefore, remember to cherish the opportunity to work with your teammates on relays with your skills. You will be around them a great deal of time, so make a habit of talking to your teammates during breaks at practice or in between events.
When you first get on the team, talk to people if you do not already know someone! Even if you have a friend there already, it’s still a smart idea to talk to other people, especially those who already have some experience on the swim team. You can ask them all sorts of questions. Generally, most people are happy to answer and talk about the sport they’re so passionate about. Simply put, the swim team is an excellent environment for you to build an inner circle of friends!
When you get close to your teammates, you will find attending the meets and practices more enjoyable. While meets and practices can still be fun by yourself, you will find a whole new satisfaction in cheering on your teammates and receiving their support as well. You will goof off and make memories that will last you a long time after you are done on the team.
Being close with your teammates builds morale, and you will find that the team will get better at helping each other improve when you are closer as friends. Eventually, your successes become your team’s successes, and you learn to work as a unit despite swimming being a solo performance sport. The greatest advice from those who have been on swim teams is to be friends with your teammates.