5 Things to Know Before Joining a Swim Team

Joining a swim team offers so many benefits and rewards to those who seek them. However, you should consider the following essentials before joining a team.

Doing so saves you from surprises that you might face after you join or might even prepare you for tryouts in general.

And while honest to the point of bluntness, there are things that I wish someone told me before I joined my team. Simple things, such as I would need to be at the pool by five in the morning. And then rinse and repeat at five in the afternoon.

That sure wasn’t on the flyer when I looked to join!

Thankfully, despite my lack of knowledge, I managed to stick with it. Even to this day! However, that’s not to say that my success in the sport is the same for someone else. These five things seem to catch most new swimmers off guard when they first join a team.

I hope they help you prepare for either swim team tryouts or to join a team! It might seem like a lot, but it’s well worth the commitment! 🙂

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Time Commitment

Time.

Swimming is ruled by time. You live life by the clock, both in and out of the pool, and it’s no small feat.

Joining a swim team takes first and foremost, a solid time commitment. Depending on your swim ability determines how much time you have to commit to practice each day. When you start, you’ll have an hour-long practice every day. Or maybe every other day.

As you start to move up in ability though, the commitment that you have to the sport increases. The length of practice to the number of practices.

Related article: 10 Reasons to Start Competitive Swimming

If you want to compete at a high level, you have to put in the time to do so. That means two practices a day for several hours each practice. It also means a long Saturday practice. And for some teams, it might be additional hours in the weight room.

Add that up over a week and you can expect to be at the pool for about 4 hours a day if you have two practices a day. This doesn’t include the time you should arrive early to stretch and prepare for practice.

It also doesn’t include the time spent at swim meets. 

Swim meets can last anywhere from a few hours to an all-day affair. Just as easily, they can take one day or can span several days.

When you look to join a swim team, keep in mind that the sport will require a large time commitment from you. Not considering this before you join can lead to frustration later in your swim career.

Success is determined by you

Time spent at the pool doing quality workouts and having success typically go hand in hand. The more time you dedicate to the sport, the more you increase your chances of success.

Unless you have raw, natural talent, most swimmers need to work at practice to better their times. Even those swimmers who have talent can only go so far with it. Training and practice perfect a swimmer’s skills and builds endurance or speed.

You’ll find that without putting in the time and overall commitment to yourself, you won’t go very far.

Because of this, you should know that you determine your own success. 

Much like in life and school, you’re responsible for yourself. Yes, you can try to ride the coattails of others. In swimming though, you practice and compete individually in most cases. You can’t hide behind others.

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A swim team does not equal swim lessons

I’m a big advocate of everyone learning to swim. Whether that’s through group or private lessons. I think it’s a life-saving benefit that no one should go without.

That being said, I should stress that joining a swim team is not the same as taking swim lessons.

In most cases, you’ll have to try out before joining a team. Or the coach will assess your abilities to determine what group you should join.

If you cannot swim or if you can barely swim, I would highly encourage you to pick up lessons first. The team itself might have lessons internally or they can refer you to an outside swim school.

Related article: How to Join a Swim Team

I say this not to discourage you, but for your safety. 

Most beginner teams have to make it across the pool without stopping. Or at least have the ability to do so. Trying to join a team without having this skill could result in serious results for you, including drowning.

Swim lessons focus on smaller groups or individuals. Whereas a swim team has more swimmers in a group and the coach can’t watch one person all the time. 

If you’re not sure about your skill level or whether you should take lessons first, please consult the coach before you join a team. They’re best suited to assess your skills and determine what will work best for you.

Swimming can be frustrating

One thing every new swimmer needs to know before joining a team is that swimming can be frustrating.

Any sport or hobby can be! 

But I feel that most coaches don’t talk about the frustrating side of the sport when you come to try out. Or when you look to join a team. And most people don’t tend to ask about it either!

As a swimmer though, I know firsthand just how frustrating and disappointing it can be. 

You work hard for months at a time, only to drop a tenth in your race throughout the whole season. Or worse, you don’t drop at all because you’re trudging through a plateau.

And it happens! It happens in every sport where you have bad or off days.

In swimming though, you seem to face it head-on more often than not. You train for hours each day, six days a week only to see little or no gain. It’s disheartening. I’ll be the first to admit that it makes you want to give up at times.

Related article: Overcoming Failure in Swimming

For those unfamiliar with this who just joined a team, it’s even harder. Because you didn’t know before you joined. No one told you that you might not drop time at first. Or that you might disqualify in an event because you’re still learning.

It makes someone who joined with no experience wonder if they picked the wrong sport. Or if they’re just that bad at swimming. 

It’s a huge mental game that you have to overcome. One that no one tells you about at tryouts. No one tells you that you might drop time for several meets in a row and then not drop for months after that.

Except me, I just told you 😉

I think it’s why most newer swimmers end up leaving after their first year or so. It’s a hard sport with even harder margins to overcome. 

But! There is an opposite side.

Swimming can be incredibly rewarding

The rewards that come with swimming keep us going. It’s why we keep swimming despite all the setbacks. The heartbreak and disappointment of going nowhere in our events.

Because when you do drop time after all those months, it makes the victory seem that much better.

And it’s not just dropping time that’s rewarding for a swimmer! It’s overcoming the fear of swimming a certain stroke or race. Or swimming a distance you never thought you could finish. Or getting a new cut.

It’s pushing yourself as far as you think you can go and then going one step more. The thrill of good practices or accomplishing a new milestone. It’s enough to gut through the bad times. Even more so when you have good teammates surrounding you.

Joining a swim team has been the most rewarding and satisfying decision I made for myself all those years ago.

Do I struggle with practices and races? You bet I do! But do I love the exhilaration of a race and the tired, achy feeling in my muscles after a good practice? Heck yes!! 

That alone lifts my spirits and I hold that feeling close through the bad times. Knowing that you take the good with the bad.

Practice and meets aside, you’ll find that swimming offers a rewarding experience outside of the pool, too. It builds up your time management until you’re a rockstar at it. And it’ll probably build up your confidence as well.

The added health benefit and the chance for a scholarship isn’t anything to sneeze at either 😉

While the coach might not stress the rewarding side to you when you look at a team, I still think they’re important. They’re what drive you forward and keep you hungry for more.

In Closing

I hope this quick guide hasn’t scared off anyone! 

In all seriousness though, take my advice with a grain of salt. Everyone faces different experiences and what you want from the sport varies, too. Based on where you want your swimming to take you, you might not need as much time commitment.

And that’s okay!

One secret of swimming is learning to swim for yourself first. Do what makes you happy. If you take away anything from this post, take away that 🙂 

As always, to happy swimming!

Questions about what you should know before joining a swim team? Leave me a message below!

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Bonus Content:

What to Expect at Swim Team Tryouts: Trying to prepare for swim team tryouts can cause some anxiety among swimmers. Here are 7 things you can expect at your next swim team tryout.

10 Tips to Prepare for Swim Team Tryouts: Tryouts for the swim team can be nerve-wracking and stressful. Reduce your anxiety with these tips to help prepare you for your swim team tryouts.


Want to Improve at the Pool?

Join swimmers and swim parents to receive my free newsletter and receive a free Swimming Glossary e-book as a thanks!

Every month you’ll receive tips and coaching to help you find success at the pool.

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