Courtesy of Ryan Turner, a swimmer at Columbia and Lancaster Aquatic Club.
When joining a new swim club for the first time, a swimmer undoubtedly has numerous questions running through his or her head: How will I fit in with the rest of the team? Will I be able to connect well with the coach? Am I going to be the slowest swimmer on deck?
I have personally lived through this scenario, many times. During my years in swimming, I’ve been a member of six different clubs and know the stresses and benefits of making those big changes. Joining a new club can be a daunting process, but it does not have to be an unpleasant experience. In fact, a new team can offer an entirely different perspective on the sport. Be it a new approach to your training, faster teammates, a better location or maybe just a different atmosphere altogether, a new club can revitalize your perception of the world of swimming.
This four-step process can help you adjust to your new environment:
1. Do your research
Perhaps you don’t have much choice in switching teams, but if you do, it’s best to know what you’re getting into. There’s nothing wrong with searching the web for information about your potential coach and club. After all, if you’re spending day after day training with a group of people, shouldn’t you at least enjoy it? USA Swimming’s “Club Portal Search” is a great place to start, as it allows swimmers to search for their clubs by location as well as Club Excellence Level. The results are then shown on a map, relative to your own location.
During my time in high school, I was lucky enough to be able to “shop around” for teams, which I did by attending a couple of practices with a few clubs around the state. Each one was welcoming and a blast to train with, but I ultimately decided to stay with the team that best suited my needs for distance training. If you have the opportunity to visit clubs and practice as a guest — while on vacation or before a family move — do it. It can only broaden your horizon in the way you think about training.
2. Have an open mind
Though a lot easier said than done, embracing change is still remarkably less troublesome than fighting it. When stepping onto a new pool deck for the first time, try to not to compare the new team to your old one, at least not at first. Remember that each club has its own unique way of training that includes different drills, techniques and intensities which can be beneficial to learn, especially if you are unfamiliar with them.
So far in my swimming career, I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of six different swim clubs. Each was radically different than the last, and though it was hard to say goodbye to many of my teammates, I knew that experiencing a new coaching style would ultimately help me become a better, more knowledgeable swimmer.
It is imperative to establish good communication with both your new coach and teammates when joining a new club. By communicating with your coach and discussing your goals together, you show that you care about your training and are willing to work hard to achieve success in the water. By talking to your teammates, you make your transition to the team easier. Even if you’re shy or don’t like to talk a lot during practice, congratulating a teammate at the end of a tough set can really go a long way.
During my sophomore year of high school, my family relocated to a different state, which meant switching schools as well as swim clubs. I didn’t know a single person in the area, but in the end, my teammates ended up becoming my closest friends, both in the pool and at school. I also established a good rapport with my coach early on, and in turn was able to achieve many of my long-term goals with his help.
4. Have fun
What is often forgotten in many competitive sports, especially swimming, is remembering to have fun with it. Joining a new team can be nerve-wracking, but it can also be a lot of fun. You get the opportunity to meet new people, experience a new location and facility and train under a new coach, all of which make the sport exciting to be a part of. Even if you’re unsure of what to expect, relaxing and enjoying the smaller aspects of the sport can make for a smoother transition to new team.