Shouts From the Stands: 5 Ways Swimming Prepares You For Life

SwimSwam welcomes reader submissions about all topics aquatic, and if it’s well-written and well-thought, we might just post it under our “Shouts from the Stands” series. We don’t necessarily endorse the content of the Shouts from the Stands posts, and the opinions remain those of their authors. If you have thoughts to share, please send [email protected]

This “Shouts from the Stands” submission comes from Sam Hartle, a swimmer at the Florida Institute of Technology.  

I am a rising junior swimmer at Florida Institute of Technology. Being only two years away from transitioning to the swammer life, I have been thinking about all the things I have learned from this great sport and how it can help me down the road. How do I see swimming influencing my life in 20 years? Could it lead me to my future wife? My parents met through Masters swimming at their local YMCA. Swimming has taught and will continue to teach me many life lessons. I am forever grateful for the determination, grit, and skills that this wonderful sport teaches all of us. No matter your skill level, swimming can always teach you something. You just have to be willing to learn.

Here are my top 5 ways that swimming prepares you for life:

5. Social skills
Swimming is by no means an individual sport. We are constantly around teammates in practice and school. We encourage each other through hard practices and hold each other accountable for staying disciplined to the details, such as doing a certain number of underwater kicks off every wall. Without realizing it, we are developing social skills with our teammates that will serve us in our personal and professional relationships throughout our lives.

Working in teams is essential to company success. People achieve more together than when alone. You do not see successful companies (Google, Amazon, ESPN, etc.) with a small number of employees operating independently of one another. Swimmers immediately stand out to employers because of our experience with being part of a team.

4. How to communicate
Take a minute to think about how you communicate with your coaches and teammates. When it comes to communicating, more is typically better. When coaches and teammates have all the information you can communicate to them, they will be more equipped to help keep you on track with your goals. The way we communicate with our coaches and teammates throughout our swimming career has some similarities with how we should communicate with our employers and coworkers in our professional life.

For example, the process of taper is actually similar to meeting a deadline a client has given a company to have a product completed by. As taper begins and the big meet nears, effective and frequent communication with your coach and teammates is more important than ever. Similarly, as the deadline for the product approaches, communicating your progress with your boss and letting your coworkers know what parts you are finishing becomes essential for making sure the deadline is met.

3. Time management
We all know the schedule. Practice, school, practice, homework, sleep, and repeat. Eating also has to be fit in there somewhere. Swimming can make it difficult to find enough time in the day to still complete homework, get enough sleep, and fit in other important extracurriculars.

With enough experience and determination, swimmers can develop time management skills that will position us light-years ahead of our eventual professional competition. By quickly completing tasks in a quality manner at a job, your employer will soon take notice.

2. Goal setting
We all are familiar with our coach asking us to write down our goals for the upcoming season and meet with him/her to discuss them. The idea is to be able to openly discuss with your coach how they can work with you to help you reach your goals (see #4).

By laying out a plan on how to achieve the swim goals you set for yourself, you are furthering skills that easily transfer to a professional environment. Businesses, just like the members of a swim team, have goals. Each employee is a small but important part in helping a business reach its goals. By realizing your role in the overall goal of the business and setting mini-goals for yourself to fulfill that role, you will be an extremely valuable member to your company.

1. Not everything goes as planned
This is definitely the most important of the five. When you have a bad race or a bad practice, having the ability to learn from it and move on to the next one is crucial. As someone who has struggled with this, I know this can be a difficult thing mentally for many swimmers. As my club coach would say: “It’s all about those 5 inches between your ears.”

Life will throw you curveballs. You can try to prepare and plan for these as much as you want. I have found that the true test of character is how you react to these curveballs, learn from them, and find ways to make the best of the situation. It’s often more helpful to experience failure than success.

About Sam Hartle

My name is Sam Hartle and I am a 20-year-old rising junior at Florida Institute of Technology majoring in Computer Science. I live in Melbourne, Florida and have been a member of their DII men’s swim team for two years specializing in distance freestyle. Originally from Clermont, Florida, I started swimming for the NTC Aquatics club team when I was 10 years old after having done nearly every other land sport imaginable. Swimming definitely took the top prize though. I am a huge swim stats nerd and am passionate about trying to integrate technology with swimming to enhance the sport. My favorite quote is an oldie but goodie: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

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1 year ago

As a swammer of many decades, now at the tail end of my career, may I respectfully disagree with points 5 and 4, and enthusiastically agree with 1, 2, and 3. Face down in the water for hours a day teaches you no social skills. Do you communicate by blowing bubbles? These skills are learned elsewhere. But yes, time management, goal setting, and learning to deal with inevitable setbacks are key. To get back to 5 points, I would add, 2. Learning to work harder, longer, more diligently, and more effectively than anyone else, and 1.There is an objective standard of truth. In the pool, it’s the clock. In other areas, it’s something else. But in all areas, there’s truth,… Read more »