4 Thoughts For Swim Parents About Team Culture

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

I’ve heard the term “team culture” used frequently around the pool deck. I think it’s critical to think about culture when you’re looking at a swim team for your kids—when they are young or going off to college. They need to find a team that reflects their values, goals and objectives.

For example, one team in your area may be a ton of fun but hasn’t gotten swimmers to the next level, like sectionals, junior nationals or swimming in college. If your child’s dream is to swim in college or make it to Olympic Trials, you’ll want to find a team who has a culture that’s competitive and hard working, as well as fun.

Also, team culture cuts both ways. College coaches will recruit student-athletes who fit in with their team culture. If they’re a highly academic team, the coach will be looking for kids who are focused in the classroom as well as the pool. If they’re a team that has a goal of placing in the top five at NCAAs, they’ll be looking for superstars who are talented, hard working and dedicated.

Here are four areas to observe about team culture when you’re choosing a team:


What’s the club team’s reputation overall?

Does the team have a serious or elite reputation, or is it known to be more recreational? Are the parents and swimmers friendly? Are they welcoming to new families? Does the team have swimmers who are swimming at national level meets and go onto college?


How do the swimmers treat each other?

Are the swimmers supportive of each other and is there a healthy competition between them? Or does jealousy exist between swimmers and families? Are kids consistent about coming to practice, or would they rather be somewhere else? How well do the swimmers work together? Are they encouraging and push each other to the next level?


How does the coach interact with their swimmers?

The culture of the team starts with the coach. While on college recruit trips or visiting a club team, a lot can be learned from watching how the coaches and swimmers interact. Do you see mutual respect? Can coaches tell you specifics about their team’s culture and how they foster that ideal?


Does the team follow their stated goals and objectives?

Most teams have mission statements or the coach may be able to describe what their team culture is like. Sometimes, swimmers and coaches don’t walk the walk. Do they work together as a team to be better as a whole? If there’s a culture of working hard, good sportsmanship and doing their best, swimmers will strive to put in their best effort.

How do you define team culture?

Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.

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4 years ago

Great points. I would add that it is very important to go and visit the teams in person. When my daughter switched teams, she swam a few practices with a couple teams before making her decision. We found that one particular team had a great culture all around, but because of intense jealousy, they were frequently bad mouthed by other teams and coaches. All of the rumors about training and what the swimmers were doing all proved to be false. We almost didn’t have her try out because of these rumors. Come to find out, there is a reason they were consistently the best in the state. They were supportive, team based, positive thinkers, and cared about their swimmers. We… Read more »