5 Reasons Why Your Kids Should Compete In High School Swim

Written and courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

I helped out at a high school swim meet last week and it reminded me of how exciting the high school season can be. Hopefully, your club team and high school coaches will work together and communicate. Ive witnessed some instances where a high school coach wouldnt allow swimmers to compete or attend practice with their club. The kids had to make the tough choice of whether or not to swim club or high school, and not get the experience of both.

When a swimmer, a club coach, and a high school coach are all on the same page, high school swimming is a great experience,” said Jeff Conwell, CEO and Head Coach of Piranha Swim Team and Palm Springs High School Varsity Coach. “It should come down to what does the athlete want first and foremost. If an athletes number one goal in swimming is to qualify for Olympic Trials or qualify for Junior Nationals in the mile, I can see why high school swimming could get in the way. As a high school coach, I would respect that and make concessions to allow for that athlete to pursue those goals as a priority and compete on my team as well,” Conwell added.  

As a club coach, my goal is to produce kids prepared for college swimming but in a way that makes them want to swim in college, not burned out before they get there. And that’s a fine line. Not everyone is made for that. High school swimming can be a positive part of that. Its great in teaching the kids to race when tired, swim for place and points more than time, and to step up on relays on a regular basis.”  

Here are a few other reasons why its a good idea for swimmers to compete on their high school teams:


Team Spirit.

Competing for high school is more about the team, kind of like college swimming, rather than focusing on the individual swimmer. Although its important to swim fast, winning the race becomes the focus rather than a best time. Its scoring points for the team that matter. How exciting is it to watch a close relay and have two high school teams at the end of the lane cheering and screaming?



Finally, after years and years of training and hearing friends ask over and over, Practice, again?the world knows why. All those hours staring at the black line at the bottom of the pool pay off. Its a moment for club swimmers to shine and get a little glory in a sport that doesnt get much attention from their high school peers.



One of my kids said his favorite thing about high school swimming was riding the bus to and from meets. Hanging out with a group of kids and traveling to meets is fun. High school swimming can be less pressure and bring an element of excitement and keep our kids passionate and enjoying the experience.


New Swimmers.

Our kids get to help out brand new swimmers. For some families, the only exposure they have to the sport of swimming is through high school. Its an opportunity for club parents and swimmers to reach out to newbie families and hopefully get them hooked on swimming and into your club team. We can be ambassadors and let these families know how great swimming has been for our kids.



High school offers lots of opportunities to race. Instead of a meet once a month, your kids will race at dual meets weekly. They’ll be racing in events wherever the team needs them–and they’ll often race tired.

Why do you think its important to swim for high school?

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: http://bleuwater.me/.

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4 years ago

This article makes some good points. Unfortunately, not every high school has a team with qualified coaches and an organized program. High school only works in those districts that have competitive teams who work with the club coaches. As well, high school swimming is geared for the sprint swimmers, with a few of distance events. True distance swimmers are at a disadvantage and often have to compromise their training for high school events. Just a different perspective.

4 years ago

Title says 5 but stort lists 4.

Reply to  rachel
4 years ago

Read again.

Elizabeth Wickham
Reply to  rachel
4 years ago

Thank you. It’s been corrected.

4 years ago

I like the paragraph below because …Unfortunately, our district makes those kids make an extremely tough choice. Swim with your high school X amount of times per week or forget competing with your HS. X is high enough to interfere with their goals.

When a swimmer, a club coach, and a high school coach are all on the same page, high school swimming is a great experience,” said Jeff Conwell, CEO and Head Coach of Piranha Swim Team and Palm Springs High School Varsity Coach. “It should come down to what does the athlete want first and foremost. If an athlete’s number one goal in swimming is to qualify for Olympic Trials or qualify for Junior Nationals in the mile,… Read more »

4 years ago

My son had a great 4 years of swimming in HS. He practices with his club and we are fortunate to have a flexible HS coach that allows that. He had the best 4 years swimming and finished his senior year with a few record for the school. He became an inspiration to young swimmers because of his hard work and dedication to the sport. he never swam for college but the experienced that he gained from swimming the whole 4 years is something he will always cherish.

Gator Girl
4 years ago

My daughter’s high school does not have a true swim coach, but the teacher who has the title of “coach” cares about the kids and tries his best. He allows my daughter and another swimmer to leave their hs practice early to attend their “real” practice with their swim club. At districts, regionals and states, the school coach was on deck as their coach — but their true swim coach was there with another team and it as him they spoke to before and after their races. The high school coach did not interfere in any way. I’ve come to realize that if the hs coach acknowledges that he or she doesn’t possess the skills to coach the year-round swimmers,… Read more »

Sane Swim Parent
Reply to  Gator Girl
4 years ago

That sounds like a rare arrangement, which requires real sensitivity on the part of her club coach and confidence on the part of her high school coach. Good for them!

4 years ago

My high school coach was my club coach, which greatly simplified things in that regard. While my state prohibits training with a club during high school season, since the coaches were the same I didn’t miss a beat.

In fact most of my peers considered high school meets to be bigger and more important than club meets, and would peak for high school season and especially Sectionals and State.

I really think there are two great things about high school swimming, and HS sports in general. The first is that it’s often the same championship organization for all of them. A state champ in swimming is a state champ in wrestling, is a state champ in track etc.… Read more »

cynthia curran
Reply to  mcgillrocks
4 years ago

Maybe, some more USpt training for high school kids since most events are 100 yards and 200 yards plus 50’s in the relays. This will make it possible for natural talent kids that don’t want to swim year around make CIF or state.

Reply to  mcgillrocks
4 years ago

It is a very interesting article, and our state does not allow swimmers to miss any high school practice or competition for anything club related. Experiencing high school swimming for the first time this year, I’m glad our child chose to compete for her high school, but it was a grind to deal with classes, high school practice, and then on to club practice before hours of homework. For a 14 year old, it’s a lot to ask. I can see why a lot of swimmers choose not to participate. Most high school coaches in our state are a figurehead with no real knowledge.
Hearing the differences between so many states, I can understand why swimmers would enjoy the… Read more »

Reply to  NotEasy
4 years ago

NOTEASY – are you in Texas by any chance? Texas has a district by district rule about HS practice versus club practice. It just depends how much of a rule follower your coach is but the rule itself is not enforceable. The rules aren’t actually published anywhere on the district site. The kids who try to do both because they have high goals but want to experience HS swim (for aforementioned reasons) get burned/worn out or sick (mono) from practicing too much … or worse – they get injured. It is ridiculous. The district thinks they are doing the right thing but they are hurting the kids.

Reply to  Concernedswimdad
4 years ago

We are not in Texas, but rather Massachusetts where it’s a state-wide rule that is strictly enforced. The club kids hold each other accountable to the practices because many high school swimmers are spread among different clubs, and kids who swim on the same club are usually competing against each other in high school. Some of the high schools get around it by having only 2-3 practices per week in the morning where it won’t interfere with their club practices and blame it on “pool availability”.

4 years ago

As a father and a spectator, I can say that High School swimming is a lot more fun, for the kids and for the parents. Fun builds interest and motivation, which are good ingredients for those who want to take it to the next level.

4 years ago

Interesting. I guess times have changed in the decades (many!) since I swam. Our HS coach actually preferred those of us in club swimming to stay with our clubs in season. He just wanted us for meets – and to be at our best for meets. No controversy, no rules, no issues. Nice guy too – just not much of a swim coach (he was a PE teacher and a summer-league swim coach). Odd there is all this hullabaloo now. Are swimmers actually forced to make a decision between swimming for their club and swimming for their HS team?

Reply to  JudgeNot
4 years ago

Yes – in many cases they are forced to make a decision just because of the schedule

Reply to  Concernedswimdad
4 years ago

Sometimes they don’t even get to choose. My Trials qualifier and NHS student was forbidden from competing by her HS coach.