Whether your child likes swimming for the fun of it or wants to be a fast swimmer, a swim team can be a great activity to pursue. We asked Rachel Bootsma what she got out of her early swim-team experience.
1. It’s a great year-round activity
I think I joined my first swim team when I was 8 years old – yes, 8! Junior swim teams like the one at Foss Swim School are designed to be fun for kids and are a great low-pressure way to try out swimming as a sport. I joined because my parents wanted me to be in an after-school activity. It was winter, so soccer and other outdoor sports were out of the question. They also knew how much I loved swimming at FOSS and thought it would be an easy fit. At first, I wasn’t a fan of being on a team. I didn’t know many of the kids and I was by far the youngest. But I was switched to a team with kids my own age. It quickly turned from my parents making me go to practice to me wanting to go to practice to see my friends!
2. The friendships
And that’s the biggest benefit, you get to make lifelong friends! You spend every afternoon, and sometimes mornings, with your teammates and you get to be very close with them. Sometimes you even travel with them, making your friendship that much stronger!
3. You learn life lessons
Being a part of a team teaches you so many valuable life lessons:
- Patience: Learning to wait your turn when your coach is working/talking with another swimmer.
- Teamwork: Learning to put the team’s success and others before yourself.
- Empathy: When you are close with a teammate, you can see how hard they are working towards a goal. When they don’t achieve it, it’s almost more heartbreaking than when you don’t achieve your own goals. On the flip side, when they have success, the success is just as sweet for you as it is for them.
- Respect: You don’t have to like everyone on your team, but because you are part of something bigger than yourself you learn to respect each person.
- Time management: When you get older, you have to learn how to balance swimming and school. My parents’ rule was I wasn’t allowed to go to practice if my homework wasn’t done, so I would work really hard to make sure I stayed on top of my school work and still had time to go to practice.
- Dedication: You work countless hours to get one fraction of a second closer to your goal, but if you really want it, you have to work for it.
4. You learn to overcome challenges
There were a few challenges that came with being part of a team, but they certainly are minor compared to the benefits!
- Swimming in traffic: The lanes are more crowded than when you are in swim school. Instead of having 2-3 people per lane, you are typically swimming with 5-6 people, which can sometimes make it really wavy. On the days that it was wavy, it made me really think about my technique, and I thought if I can have good technique while I’m in a wavy pool just imagine what I can do in my own lane during a race.
- Not being chosen: Another thing that can be hard about being on a team is not being picked for the A-relay because you don’t have one of the fastest 4 times. The good thing about being on a team is that most often there are multiple relays (A, B, C and so on) so you always have a chance – and a chance to prove you belong on A if you beat the time of an A-relay swimmer!
Words of encouragement
I think that everyone should join a swim team, but I am biased! Swimming gave me a place where I could burn off energy, make great friends and spend time with them, and taught me how to work hard. But the only reason that being a part of a swim team worked for me is because I wanted to be there and I wanted to swim!
If you aren’t sure, give it a try. A real try – working hard, trying to make friends, and giving it a chance. And if after a season it’s not a good fit, you will still have gained that experience.
But I think that if a kid gives it a chance, even if he or she isn’t the best swimmer, they will learn to love it because of the friends made along the way. There are also countless teams to join! It doesn’t hurt to switch teams if you think that another team might be a better fit. Make sure you are comfortable with the coach and willing to do what they say, because a coach typically knows what’s best for their swimmers!