Embracing the Mindset of a Summer League Swimmer

You’re 7 years old, and your alarm sounds at 8:30AM on a sunny summer day. You eagerly hop out of bed, eat a hearty breakfast, grab your swim gear and ride your bike to your local outdoor pool. Practice begins at 9 and ends at 10, and that hour of fun keeps you overly-excited for the days that lie ahead. Your entire summer revolves around summer swim team, and you wouldn’t want it any other way.

For many swimmers, their journey began in such fashion. Swimming was fun and exciting; the team spirit, cheers, and camaraderie made it easy to look forward to the next season. Those feelings may have helped you decide to swim year-round, or even beyond in high school and college.

Over the years of swimming, those feelings often fade. That early-morning alarm becomes dreadful, breakfast before practice is difficult to enjoy, the car ride seems endless and eventually going through the motions becomes a monotonous habit, or even a job.

As swimmers grow up and become more involved in higher-level swimming, the idea of summer league swimming may seem laughable. The reality is that there is a lot to learn from summer league swimmers, their mentality, and the experience as a whole. It shows what swimming should truly be about, regardless of age, skill, and level of commitment.

What can higher-level swimmers take from summer league swimming to enhance their own experience?

Always being eager to learn

From summer league swimmers to Michael Phelps, every swimmer can constantly find ways to improve. The sport is evolving, and new ways of improving are being discovered every day. Approaching each day as if you have infinite opportunity to learn makes it easier to find purpose and excitement in every aspect of your training.

Taking it day-by-day

Busy training schedules become overwhelming and exhausting. It is easy to constantly be thinking about “what’s next” rather than embracing each moment. By focusing on one day or workout at a time, maintaining a positive and enthusiastic attitude helps you find purpose in what you are doing.

Developing friendships that go beyond swimming

If you’ve ever questioned why you swim, often the first answer to come to mind is relationships. Whether friendships go beyond the pool or not, the people you swim with often make or break the experience. By developing friendships that transcend swimming itself, the team experience becomes more enjoyable and easier to look forward to because you get to be with people that you enjoy being around.

Find your inner child

There is something admirable about watching young kids swim in summer league. They are peppy, excited, and look forward to everything that involves swimming. Though easier said than done, finding your “inner child” can bring back that pep, excitement and enthusiasm for the sport. Whatever helps you find that – friends, coaches, hard work or something else – use it to find a renewed sense of youth as you work towards your goals. Beginner or Olympic gold medalist, that inner child is somewhere in all swimmers.

Keeping it light

Swimming doesn’t make you who you are. What you take from swimming helps shape you, but in the end, swimming is just something that you do. Understanding this helps alleviate pressure that makes it hard to enjoy swimming. By removing unnecessary pressure, it becomes easier to learn, make friends, find your inner child, and, ultimately, improve – all while having a good time.

This summer, make it a goal to embrace the mindset of a summer-league swimmer. Be eager to learn, take training one workout at a time, and spend time with your teammates. Cheer, be loud, be proud and find your inner child. Get rid of the pressure that makes swimming a chore. After all, what is the point of swimming if you can’t find a way to enjoy it?

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Your article brings a smile to my face remembering those great times! Thank you.


Yeah, they use to have lots of novice teams back in the 1960’s. I was on a novice summer league team and some winter ones two for my first two years of swimming.


Having the great opportunity to coach a Summer League team and also having my 2 grand kids on it is special! I want to pass on my love of swimming but also make sure it is Fun and help create memories for my swimmers and their parents!

I always do a weekly email update and here is a line from my season ending email to our parents.

“The friendships, teamwork, laughter, competition, making new friends, seeing old friends, and caring and sharing is what Summer League is all about!”

About Joey Puglessi

Joey Puglessi

A Grand Rapids, MI native, Joey began swimming for the Rapids Area YMCA (RAYS) at 8 years old and eventually swam for Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School. He is passionate about leadership and using his experiences to help build the swimming community. All three of his younger siblings swim …

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