25 Strategies To Keep Swimmers From Quitting The Sport

Courtesy of Agustín Artiles Grijalba 

A young swimmer wanders aimlessly by the edge of the pool. He’s devastated, his performance wasn’t as expected, and with disappointment in his face he moves away from his team mates, nobody can soothe his anguish. A few meters away, another swimmer, a girl, cries bitterly. She embraces her coach desperately, unable to understand how it is possible that her father has left in a rage because of her mark, leaving her when she needs him the most. Yet another one complains about his bad luck, he’s been disqualified in his favourite race and all the effort and work of the last term has gone down the drain. He can’t stop wondering if all the effort and work was worth it.

It’s the dark side of sports, the failure, and every athlete has suffered it at one time or another. It acts like a virus that infects you and make you vulnerable. Rage, desperation and apathy are some of its symptoms. Controlling and reducing its effects must be a priority in our preparation if we want to avoid giving up prematurely.

The reasons why kids start swimming are diverse: to learn how to swim, to make new friends, to practice sport and to be healthy, just for fun, to search for social status or simply in order to improve their physical abilities, also by medical suggestion. Knowing and understanding the reasons why many swimmers leave the pools, spotting it early and preventing its consequencies will be a priority and so it must be studied hereby.

Here are some of those reasons:

 Boredom
 Too many extracurricular activities
 Some teachers consider it better to quit
 Not enough time to play
 Poor school results
 Economic difficulties
 Injuries and illnesses
 Lack of understanding with the coach or team mates
 Early specialization
 Prioritizing fun
 Loss of motivation
 Ability for other activities that can be more attractive
 Lack of family support
 Family or competitive pressure
 Unreachable goals, unreal expectations
 Fear of failing
 Bad results, stalemates or performance plateaux
 Exhaustion and over-training
 Sport and love interests at odds
 Poor working environment
 Lack of abilities
 Lack of team work
 Timing incompatibility
 Too much or too little competitive activities
 Bad results or low performance
 Difficulties in changing group Fear of competitions
 Not enough or inadequate training materials
 Lack of support from the partner
 Difficulty in combining training and the university studies.

An approximate estimation of the most frequent factors of abandonment, by swimming categories and ages. By Agustín Artiles

Categories by age abandonment factors:

  • Benjamin up to 10-12 years old
  • • Too many extracurricular activities. Conflict of interests.
  • • Scarce time to play. Injuries, ilnesses
  • • Boredom
  • • Problems with the coach
  • • The teachers advise quiting the swimming activities
  • • Interest focused on other activities11 to 18 years old
  • • Fear of failure
  • • Conflict of interests.
  • Low performance.
  • • Unreal expectations
  • • Problems with coach or peers
  • • Stalemates or performance plateaux
  • • Family or competitive preassure
  • • Competitive emphasis

Young Absolute and Masters, 17 years old and older:

  • • Lack of coordination between the sports and academical organizations
    • University studies and training done simultaneously
    • Low performance
    • Competitive preassure
    • Problems with the coach
    • Lesiones Injuries


  1. • Laying reasonable and realistic goals
  2. • Variety in the training sessions
  3. • Short and enjoyable training sessions, specially with young swimmers
  4. • Screening of motivational films
  5. • Rewarding effort and good results
  6. • Close relationship between swimmer and coach
  7. • Explaining the reasons behind the training practices
  8. • Personalizing the training sessions in accordance to the characteristics of the swimmer
  9. • Encouragement
  10. • Relaxation techniques
  11. • Correction of technical mistakes as soon as they are spotted
  12. • Being patient and avoiding burning stages up too soon
  13. • Goals planned in consensus
  14. • Showing interest in the athlete
  15. • Educating the athletes and their families to be responsible
  16. • Teaching values
  17. • Establishing realistic, logical and reachable goals
  18. • Strengthening of secondary aspects of the swimmer
  19. • Being positive
  20. • Instilling enthusiasm
  21. • Showing interest in the school results
  22. • Showing respect
  23. • Family support
  24. • Helping to handle studies and sport practice simultaneously. They should go together
  25. • Treating the athlete as an adult

Training swimmers isn’t easy. Times have changed and swimmers expect a coach to teach them, direct them and pay them the attention they require. Many of them are young athletes, in the middle of their learning process, that need to the know the reasons behind the training practice, for whom the peers’ opinions weighs a lot, and who require the support of their families.

Knowing that they are not miniature adults, controlling their progress through adequate and efficient planning that covers their elemental needs and guarantees a logical learning process, respecting and taking advantage of those phases that are more convenient for the different working intensities, will be of a vital importance to prevent giving up prematurely.

Agustín Artiles GrijalbaAgustín Artiles Grijalba has more than 35 years of experience as the head coach of some of the most important Spanish swimming teams. He has been the coach of the Spanish Swimming Team from 2008 to 2012, and has trained the 50 breastroke Spanish National Record Holder, Hector Monteagudo Espinosa, from 2002 to 2013. Agustín has also trained several international swimmers from the Spanish National Team and europe, as well as paralympic athletes with world records in all different categories. In 2006 he was honored as the “Best Competition Swimming Coach” in Spain. You can read his blog here.

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Ally seals
7 years ago

I am have a love-hate relationship with the pool. I have been swimming since I was eight, and I really did enjoy it back then. Unfortunately, my motivation to swim has decreased by a lot. I really want to quit, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. I really love my team and my coaches, especially the assistant ones who, even though I am 5 years younger than them, have become friends and even family. I really enjoy swimming, but there are some certain things that make me want to throw in the towel (no pun intended). One is my friend. She is very clingy and begged me to join the team years ago. When I told her… Read more »

8 years ago

I HATE SWIMMING. I used to love it but then I became a competing an my new coach is not doing her job. I began getting bored and not feeling motivated. I also have many extracurricular activities so I can get in to an ivy league college. I do three sports other that swimming, I have classes for 3 instrument, I have to take 4 different laguages, I have to study for my AP classes, and have a social life, which there barely isn’t any more time left to have. I cant quit swimming because my parents think that its important to do swimming. I have a pretty stressful life AND I have to do a sport I hate

Linda white
8 years ago

I come from a different angle as I am looking back over quite a few years. I am a 55 yr old female who swam from the time I was 5 yrs. old until I was nearly 17. I found this site because I am still trying to understand the feelings i have towards my competitive swimming days. Hard to believe (nearly 30 some years ago?)? I absolutely loved to swim. I loved to compete. I loved the feel of the water. I still do. My parents too said, “You can quit at the end of the season, if you want. I was very good from the get go. As time went on and the swimming organization evolved, things changed… Read more »

8 years ago

I really don’t like to swim competitively. I’m 11 years old. I am a club swimmer and I swam for 2 club teams, and in the summer I have another swim team (ISL). I have been swimming for 5 years, this is my 6th year and I just don’t enjoy it. In sixth grade, we get a lot of homework, and its been a lot harder to do a little bit my homework and then go to swim practice for 2 hours, shower, eat dinner, and by that time its already about 9:00. My coach isn’t the greatest and I just joined a new team and no ones that friendly. I swim 2-3 times a week max but I’m not… Read more »

Swim to inspire
8 years ago

Hi all, only ran into this post recently. I found the comments very interesting as we have a young swimmer that does pretty well. A wide range of comments with the majority leaning towards the idea that you should let your kid quit when they want to. Just some interesting facts that I found doing research about “when should my child commit to swimming” as we have an early swimmer.

There is the Ten-year-rule which identified that it takes, at least, ten years or 10,000 hours for talented athletes to achieve sporting excellence. An interesting fact from the Beijing Games was that the Gold Medallists in Swimming had an average age of 22.2 years – 23.9 (Men); 20.4 (Women). If… Read more »

Thora Hamilton Fantozzi
8 years ago

Extremely interesting reading!!!! My 10-yr old newly ranked “Federado” swimmer in Venezuela going through “I’m gonna quit…” crisis, brought me to your site and very useful advice to reflect on…. !!! Thankyou all….!!

8 years ago

We swim with a Y team when we are “off” in summer because we take off for an entire summer by choice. That is the sacred time we put aside to stay in touch and replenish ourselves from a year of hard work and to reconvene as a family for an extended period of time. What is good for our family comes first. At all times, that comes first. Swimming serves or does not serve us. We do not serve swimming or any other false god. Everyone makes choices as to what is ultimately more important for their lives…you can’t have everything. “Something lost and something gained….in living every day”. -JM

Jim johnson
8 years ago

Make it fun again! Let kids play other sports without guilt that missing one practice will doom their whole career, stay out of family matters by allowing parents to decide what meets and practices kids go to and when they take vacation! If the athlete is good then they will be good! Coaches mix it up, make it hard but keep it fun! Swimming is not life! Life happens anyway! The worst thing we ever did was do it all year round and make 8 year olds choose against being kids so that big clubs can economicslly survive hiring all these full time coaches who are former swimmers that have no other life interests and limited or no training in… Read more »