Courtesy of Aaron Schwartz, SwimSwam intern.
The Love and Hate Relationship
Don’t get this confused. I don’t mean love at times and hate at times. I mean swimmers literally love and hate the sport at the same time. While one can hear many swimmers complaining about how they don’t want to be at practice or even meets, they all undeniably love the sport. The relationship swimmers have with the sport is a unique one that I haven’t seen in any other sport. I may be extremely happy if practice is cancelled, but I always find that I don’t know what to do with myself during the time practice would be at and miss my teammates. Swimmers even do the rain dance so that the team may have a chance at getting out if there’s thunder or lightning.
Most of my best friendships I have formed have been with people I’ve swam with. This is, in part, because of the next reason on my list. Swimmers spend an unbelievable amount of time with each other, so it’s no wonder swimmers become extremely close. One reason that contributes to these friendships is the way swim meets are run. Swimmers often sit in tents or on bleachers with each other for hours upon hours while waiting for their event, leaving an inordinate amount of time for bonding. Practice also fosters the friendships, as talking on walls between sets is one of many swimmers’ favorite activities.
The Work Ethic
There’s no arguing that a swimmer’s work ethic is one of the best in all of sports. On the elite level, swimmers are in the water over 25 hours a week, but athletes in other sports on the same level also spend that much time dedicated to their craft. The unique part about swimming is found on the basic club level, where kids as young as 11 and 12 are practicing almost 20 hours a week. This amount of time dedicated to a sport at such a young and non-advanced level is unprecedented and not seen in many other sports. Even swimmers who are not even close to the national stage still many times practice more often than their counterpart in another sport. Bottom line is that swimming takes a lot of time and dedication, which is why many revere swimmers.
Unlike other sports, swimmers can lose the feel for the water if not practicing for more than a couple days. This unique occurrence leads to the inevitable every day practice schedule, and since just practicing everyday isn’t enough, swimming has popularly adopted the morning practice. If you are a swimmer or know any, you have undoubtedly heard of morning practices. Mornings may not be completely unique to swimming, but no other sport has so widely adopted the extra practice. Until you wake up before 5 in the morning to jump into a freezing pool, you have not experienced one of the worst parts of swimming. Yet mornings are very important to the development of any serious swimmer’s training.
The Tan Lines
This one is for all the outdoor swimmers out there. First came the jammer, then the drag suit and speedo combo, and eventually comes only the speedo. At all stages in my transition, my unexposed skin was whiter than a sheet of paper. Most male swimmers go through this progression, but all swimmers are familiar in dealing with odd tan lines. Even when we don’t have bathing suits on, we have the tan lines to prove we are in the pool every day, often without the protection of sunscreen. And somehow even indoor swimmers have tan lines. It’s just another predicament swimmers have to deal with. So the next time someone asks me why I have a sunglasses tan, instead of my usual swimmer explanation I’m just going to respond I just love sunglasses.
In the end, what makes swimming unique to me is that it’s far beyond just a sport or a hobby. It is a lifestyle that teaches you valuable lessons you will use throughout your entire life. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be the person I am today without swimming. No matter how far I try to stray from the sport, I always come back, because in the end it’s a part of me.