10 Tips to Prepare for Swim Team Tryouts

Whether you’re aiming to make your high school swim team or a local club team, tryouts can be nerve-wracking and stressful. Knowing how to prepare for swim team tryouts can help reduce your anxiety. 

Related article: How to Calm Down Before Swim Tryouts

And while training for tryouts doesn’t guarantee that you’ll make the team, it can help increase your chances. And like many things in life, practice makes you better!

Ready to get started? Here are 10 tips to help you prepare for swim team tryouts.

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What to Expect at a Swim Tryout

What’s expected at swim team tryouts will vary by team. In general, though, you can expect the coach to test your swimming skills at tryouts. Expect the coach to look at:

  • How many of the four strokes can you complete?
  • Can you do a flip turn?
  • Do you know how to do an open hand turn?
  • How does your start look?
  • How much can you swim?
  • Can you swim a certain distance/stroke in a predetermined time?

Remember that for most swim teams, you already need to know how to swim at a minimum. A swim team isn’t a place to learn how to swim. If you don’t know how to swim, you should consider taking lessons first with a qualified instructor or coach.

For more on what to expect at a swim team tryout, check out our other posts: What to Expect at a Swim Team Tryout and What do Do Coaches Expect at Swim Team Tryouts.

Tips to Prepare for Swim Team Tryouts

1. Talk to Someone on the Team

If you can, talk to someone on the team. Whether that’s the coach or a swimmer. Both know how the team operates and what practices are like. 

I know I wish I talked to someone on the team before joining! It definitely would’ve saved some surprises along the way. I had no idea that when I joined, I would have morning practices at 5:30!

Knowing even some basic information about the team can help you understand what you’re getting into. Like those early morning workouts 😉

You should, however, take any advice with some caution. 

What one swimmer might consider ‘easy’ could actually be challenging for you. Ask a current swimmer how long they’ve been swimming and what their times are in their events.

This can help you gauge their skill set to yours.

Related article: Swim Practice Terminology 

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2. Get Tryout Information From the Coach

Make sure you determine when and where tryouts will be held. It doesn’t do you any good if you train for tryouts only to miss them!

Tryouts might take place on one day or stretch over two days, based upon the size of the team. It’s incredibly important that you know where you’re supposed to be. This not only ensures that you make it to tryouts on time but also shows you’re serious about joining the team.

You’ll also want to check if the team has any paperwork or forms that you need to complete before tryouts. School teams typically require that you meet eligibility requirements, such as having a physical completed or having emergency contact information.

If tryout information isn’t available online, talk to the coach directly, and write down the information. 

3. Know What the Swim Team Requires

In addition to knowing when and where you should also know what the swim team requires. Not just at tryouts but also of the team itself.

Will you need to provide your own equipment for practice? If you train away from the school, how do you get to afternoon practice? Or how do you get to school from morning practice?

In relation to swimming team tryouts, see if the team has suggested time standards. These would be the recommended times that each swimmer should be able to swim an event. 

You might also be required to swim more than you’re expecting. It’s good to get as much information about what to expect before you make the commitment to join your local swim team.

4. Start swimming!

Once you know for sure that you want to join a swim team, start swimming! 

Find a pool that you can train at and get to work practicing. If you’re trying out for a high school team, look into any summer league teams over the summer. They’ll help you practice the various strokes and get you accustomed to training with other swimmers.

Don’t believe me? The summer before I went into high school, I joined a local summer league team to help me prepare for swim team tryouts. It’s where I learned how to do a flip turn and the other competition strokes.

Related articles:

Did I come out as a flawless champion? Heck no! I disqualified myself in our last meet. But it gave me the confidence going into tryouts that I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t practice over the summer.

No matter where you decide to swim, just make sure you start swimming. If possible, try to train daily for at least 30 minutes to an hour. 

This will build up your endurance and strength in the water!

5. Practice All Four Strokes

You don’t have to be perfect in them, but you should at least attempt each stroke. 

The four competitive strokes in swimming are:

  1. Butterfly
  2. Backstroke
  3. Breaststroke
  4. Freestyle

Freestyle and backstroke are probably the easiest for newer swimmers. Whereas breaststroke and butterfly are a bit more challenging. Don’t let that stop you though! 

If you can, have someone watch you while you swim. 

Swimming is a unique sport where the majority of the effort happens under the water. Like a duck swimming 😉 They look smooth and calm on the surface, but underneath, they’re swimming like crazy.

Ask another swimmer to watch your strokes and ask for their advice. You can also look at hiring a personal coach for a few weeks to help you get the basics down. 

6. Do Simple Dryland

If you’re new to swimming, dryland probably isn’t a term you’ve heard before. To swimmers, though, dryland is work done outside of the pool. Typically weight lifting, strengthening and conditioning, and cardio.

Related article: What is Dryland?

Yes, we know the name is redundant, but we happen to like it 🙂

Do you need to tackle the bench press and leg machine for tryouts? Not at all! 

If we can be honest? We see many new swimmers focusing on ‘bulking up’ in the weight room when they can barely swim down the pool. As someone just starting out it is 100% better for you to focus on correcting your technique before you even begin to ‘bulk up’.

Swimmers are not football players. We run on lean muscle and ‘bulking up’ might actually make you slower.

Instead, try doing some simple, bodyweight exercises to strengthen your muscles. Things like:

  • Push-ups
  • Crunches
  • Planks
  • Squats
  • Jumping jacks

The best part? You can do all of these at home and without the need for gym equipment. It’s still more important to put in the time at the pool. But every other day, try to run through a simple dryland workout.

7. Don’t Be Late 

On the day of your swimming tryouts, do not be late! I cannot emphasize this enough. Much like you shouldn’t show up to class or a meeting late, you shouldn’t show up to tryouts late, either. 

This shows the coach that you’re not committed to the team and can lead them to believe that you’ll constantly show up late to practice and/or swim meets.

If you know that you’re going to be late due to an event or another circumstance, you should let the coach know. Good communication is key. Both for tryouts and once you’re actually with the team.

Showing up on time displays dedication and commitment.

8. Show Up Early

Not only should you not be late. You should arrive early, too. This gives you enough time to change into your swimsuit and get ready to get into the water. Ideally, you should do some stretching before you start to swim.

When you arrive early, you can do all this and mentally prepare for your swim tryouts. It sounds silly, but much like a test, you run through key elements just before the start. And much like taking a test, you should mentally prepare.

If you arrive late, it not only leaves a bad impression but also leaves you scrambling to play catch up with everyone else. 

Arrive early to have a chance to talk with other swimmers who plan to try out with you. You’ll make some friends along the way!

9. Have the Proper Gear

Before and during tryouts, you should make sure you have the proper gear. This means that you have a swimsuit, cap, and goggles at a minimum. 

Some will argue that you don’t need a cap. My two cents on the subject is that you should wear one. Caps help keep hair out of your eyes when swimming and most importantly, it keeps it out of the water.

Related articles:

Train with your suit, goggles, and cap a few times before wearing them to tryouts. You’ll feel most comfortable in these and they’ll be familiar. 

You don’t need a high-tech racing suit that you might see at swim meets. Just as you don’t need expensive goggles. A simple practice suit and goggles will work just well for training and tryouts. 

At the same time, you shouldn’t attempt to swim in swim trunks, shorts, or a t-shirt. They become heavy once in the water and make it difficult to swim in.  If you have to swim in a shirt, consider a rash guard or an actual swim shirt.

Related article: Answering Your Questions About Rash Guards

Not sure what gear you should buy? I recommend the following as you prepare for swim team tryouts.

Swim Suit

Most of the swimsuits that you find in stores such as Wal-Mart or Target aren’t always the best for actual swimming. They tend to cater to more leisure and fashion styles. It’s great if you plan to have fun at the pool!

But they’re not the best training suits.

I’ve found that the best suits are at dedicated swim shops or sports stores. These are geared towards training instead of leisure. And you’ll find that they’ll last a bit longer.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Swim-Suit.pngFemale Swim Suits
At SwimOutlet
Girl’s Swim Suits
Women’s Swim Suits
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Swim-Briefs.pngMale Swim Suits
At SwimOutlet
Boy’s Swim Suits
Men’s Swim Suits

Personally, I enjoy Speedo swimsuits for practicing. They offer a variety of styles and cuts to fit most body types.

Females should wear a one-piece suit and males should wear jammers or briefs to tryouts. 


Speedo Vanquishers or Arena Tracks are my go-to goggles for swimming. They’re affordable and fit most faces without much adjusting. You can find Vanquishers at most sporting stores during the summer months.

You can also find both sets of goggles online through Amazon or SwimOutlet.

Related articles:

If you wear glasses, SwimOutlet has Prescription goggles, which I used for my high school and college swimming years!


The two best types of caps for swimming are latex and silicone caps. Each has its pros and cons, which we cover in this post Your Swim Cap Guide

We favor the silicone caps over latex, merely because they don’t pull the hair as much. However, we have some teammates who prefer latex because it doesn’t slide off as easily. 

Truthfully, there is no right or wrong choice to a swim cap. It’s based a lot on your preference and you’ll have to try them out to know for sure.

10. Be Aware of Your Nutrition

DISCLAIMER: I’m not a doctor or nutritionist. These suggestions shouldn’t be taken as medical or nutritional advice. They are only my thoughts and opinions. Work with your doctor or a nutritionist to build out the best nutrition plan for you.

Most people seem to know that swimmers eat a lot, haha. And it’s true! When you’re burning hundreds of calories every day at practice, you have to make up the energy deficit. 

But that doesn’t mean swimmers can eat just anything.

Yes, some do and we’re all guilty of cheat days. But if you eat junk during the day, then you’ll have a junky practice. 

And yes, this does apply to prepare for your swimming tryouts. If you don’t eat the right food before practice or tryouts, you might find yourself struggling in the water. You either feel sluggish or that you have no energy.

Basket filled with with fruits, a spoon of peanut butter, and a hard boiled egg
Eating healthy, balanced meals can improve your swimming performance

Stay away from sugar, juices, and sodas. Instead, reach for some water, lean protein such as chicken or fish, and fruits and vegetables. 

A healthy nutrition plan also means that you shouldn’t skip meals. Nothing makes practice drag on and is bad for your body than skipping numerous meals. 

Lastly, make sure you eat something directly after your practice or workout. Ideally, this should be a small, protein-packed snack about 5 minutes or after practice. This helps your muscles recover better.

In Closing

Trying to train for swim team tryouts might seem like an impossible task. And tryouts can be stressful and daunting. 

But with the right preparation and training, you don’t have to worry so much about them. While these tips won’t guarantee that you’ll make the swim team, they can help increase your chances.

Swimming takes hard work, dedication, and commitment. It’s early morning and late evening practices, and long hours at the pool. Know what you’re getting into before you commit to the team. Swimming isn’t for everyone.

If it’s something you truly want to do though, then get out there and start swimming! That’s truly the best step to take.

Best of luck to you and as always, to happy swimming!


Bonus Content:

How to Join a Swim Team: With so many different teams and swim programs out there, how do you know which one to join? And how do you join a swim team?

5 Things to Know Before Joining a Swim Team: Joining a swim team comes with benefits and challenges. Avoid these five things that seem to catch most new swimmers off guard when they first join a swim team.

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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