10 Things Non-Swimmers Say to Swimmers

by SwimSwam 74

February 10th, 2017 International, Lifestyle, Masters, Opinion

Courtesy of Claire Forrest

It’s hard being a swimmer sometimes, especially since, as all swimmers know, no one outside the sport understands swimming. When it comes to a sport that is only appreciated every four years at the Olympic level, the only sport less understood than swimming is curling. Maybe I’m being dramatic, but the things that non-swimmers say to swimmers make me think otherwise.

1)   “Don’t you get bored?”

Swimming isn’t a sport of constant play like volleyball or basketball, so it’s easy to understand why people who don’t swim think it might be boring. How do you count all those laps, they wonder? Factor in that we’re staring at a black line for two hours straight, and we’ve lost them. Just know this: a swim workout is never just plain old laps, and the time I spend staring at a black line are some of the most peaceful hours of my day. It’s anything but boring.

2)   “I could join a swim team! I was really good at front crawl in lessons.”

Swimmers shouldn’t mock anyone who genuinely wants to get involved in the sport, because we all started somewhere. But what most non-swimmers fail to understand is that the best swimmers make it look like they aren’t working that hard. Their stroke looks gracefully effortless, but swimmers know there is more than meets the eye. Beyond every beautiful stroke is years of fine-tuning and intense physical training. They are working hard. Plus, non-swimmers swim “front call.” Swimmers swim “freestyle.”

3)   “Don’t you get tired of being wet all the time?”

Jumping into a cold pool at six o’clock in the morning is something I wouldn’t even wish upon my enemies. But like all sports, swimming requires sacrifice. You have to love swimming more than you hate any of its other components. So yes, you’ll go through a family-sized bottle of shampoo in a week and you’ll jump into a pool for afternoon practice before your hair is even dry from morning practice. But it’s all worth it to a swimmer.

4)   “You’re still swimming? When is your off-season?”

This is a valid question, since many sports can only occur in a specific season of the year. But swimmers do not know of this ‘off-season’ of which you speak. Consider that swimming is not limited by weather, since you can swim indoors and out. School swim teams have longer seasons for this reason. Then comes club swimming: short course season throughout the winter and spring, and then long course season in the summer. And in the fall, high school and college swimming begins again. Swimming never ends.

5)   “Do you know Michael Phelps?”

Michael Phelps typically doesn’t enter to swim in the average swimmer’s club meet. Swimmers are grateful for the visibility Phelps has brought to the sport, but the average athlete probably doesn’t know the most famous figure in their sport.

6)   “Swimming isn’t a team sport!”

To the untrained eye, swimming looks like an individual sport. But anyone who’s spent hours a day swimming with their lane mates, riding buses to meets together, cheering at the end of each other’s lanes, or shared an earbud with a teammate for a pump-up song knows the truth. Swimming is the most team-oriented sport there is.

7)   “Did you win your meet?”

There are numerous ways to “win” at a swim meet. You can get your personal best time. You can win your heat, and possibly, one swim team can score over the other at a championship meet. To save yourself from a swimmer’s eye roll, the better question is, “How did you do at the meet?”

8)   “Swimming must be such a great sport…because you never sweat!”

Actually, you sweat a ton during swim practice. You just never notice it because you’re already submerged in water. And when you do sweat outside of the pool, you smell like chlorine. So, this is definitely not a plus.

9)   “How can you stand Speedos?”

Honestly, swimmers are so used to seeing their teammates in Speedos that it seems weird to see them fully clothed. It’s our uniform, simple as that.

10)    “Can you hang out?”

And the swimmer’s response is always, “Sorry, I can’t! I have to go to swim practice.”

Thanks to all the non-swimmers who cheer us on at meets. Even if you don’t understand it, we couldn’t do what we do without your support.

Claire ForrestClaire Forrest is a recent graduate of Grinnell College with a degree in English. She is currently based in Minneapolis, Minnesota as a freelance writer. The only competitive swimmer in her family, Claire went to her first swim meet at the age of eleven on a whim without even knowing what a swim cap was. She fell in love with the sport and never looked back. A S6 classified disabled swimmer for US Paralympics, Claire specialized in mid-distance freestyle and backstroke and made national and world rankings throughout her career. She was a 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Trials participant. Claire is passionate about integrating disability swimming into the larger swim community, having swam for able-bodied club teams and her college’s DIII team. She enjoyed both Paralympic and prominent integrated able-bodied meets equally for the many commonalities they share. Over 13 years after her first meet, she’s happy to report she now owns more swim caps than she can count.

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6 years ago

Two I hear most commonly
“Swimmings not a real sport”

“Michael phelps only won 8 golds because there’s so many events in swimming it’s ridiculous. (Cue the next part, if usain bolt could run backwards he would win a gold)”

People don’t understand… *sigh*

Reply to  Triguy
6 years ago

To which you reply, football, baseball and basketball are just games.

Reply to  coacherik
6 years ago

Conclusion: It’s always been Hockey.

Reply to  (Canadian)
3 years ago


Coach D
Reply to  Triguy
6 years ago

Has everyone forgotten Carl Lewis?
Didn’t he prove that argument to be flawed.

Is there really much difference between running fast for 100m, and running fast and jumping into a sand pit? Or skipping fast and jumping in to a sandpit?

Or running 100m and running 110m while jumping over obstacles?

And what’s to stop Usain Bolt running 10m and launching a pointy stick in to the sky?

Reply to  Triguy
5 years ago

Only people that are messing with you say that! Heck, people say that about soccer and cricket and any sport they aren’t passionate about. But CLEARLY swimming is one of the most watched events in the Olympics, so people get it. You look at a swimmer’s body and people totally get how fit they are. Plus most people have tried to sprint across the pool for fun and almost died, so they know it’s hard too. 🙂

Reply to  Triguy
4 years ago

Mike phelps just won the 200 IM
All 4 strokes in 4 straight Olympics . Mike phelps swims mutiple events every night while others focus on him
And their only event . And he wins every race . He has dominated his sport like no other …….

Reply to  Rocko
3 years ago

He got Silver for butterfly in both London and Rio. He tied silver with Chad Le Clos (SA) 100m butterfly in Rio and lost to Le Clos in the 200m butterfly in London – so you need to decide on distances before you make such a sweeping statement.

6 years ago

Nonswimmer: How do you do that one with both arms…

Swimmer: [interrupting] butterfly.

Nonswimmer: yes! That one is so hard!

Swimmer: [pause] yes, yes it is.

Reply to  coacherik
6 years ago

You literally summed up any conversation I’ve ever had.

6 years ago

Great posts. I swim USMS, have Top Ten Times, and quite often get comments like (after swimming a race , ow or pool): ” I could swim that race but probably not as fast as you did.”….this individual is usually extremely overweight, goes to the local pool and swims a 500 by 50’s, has to swim old school breaststroke…..you’ve got the picture. I guess I just don’t like being put into the same category as they think they are compared to me. I get up at 4:30 am to train….they get up at 7’ish, blah blah.
REAL swimmers are very special, organized, focused, and self disciplined! My children were/are swimmers and it shows!

Reply to  Froggy
5 years ago

Woops * you’re obviously supreme with your REAL swimming abilities

Reply to  Froggy
2 years ago