How to Swim Faster By Being a Rock Star Teammate

Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer based out of Victoria, BC. In feeding his passion for swimming, he has developed YourSwimBook, a powerful log book and goal setting guide made specifically for swimmers. Sign up for the YourSwimBook newsletter (free) and get weekly motivational tips by clicking here.

We have all had that one teammate. The one who shows up late, does half the warm-up, disappears for half-hour bathroom breaks, and then manages to find enough breath to waste it complaining during a hellish set.

Yeah. That one.

Over the course of my swimming career I experienced a few swimmers like this. And while the disinterest in the sport—it was abunduntly clear they didn’t really want to be there—was one thing, the disrupting and toxic influence they had on the group was another.

It was impossible not to feel a little less enthusiastic about the workout at hand when this swimmer was spending every second between repeats griping or talking smack about the workout, the set, and how it’s all just so not fair.

How to Not Be That Swimmer

Being a rad teammate goes beyond just helping others train and perform better. When you make the decision to make a positive impact on the training group you create an environment where everyone succeeds, and like a rising tide, everyone’s fortunes—yours included—improve.

Here are a few ways that you can help foster that training environment where not only your teammates are more likely to excel, but you are as well:

Remember the mission.

What are the goals for the team for the season? For the next meet? Or on a more day-to-day basis, what are the attendance targets for the squad?

Individual goals are important, but when the team is united behind a common cause there is an undeniable sense of cohesion and forward movement. The wake of one swimmer chasing excellence is strong, the wake of a pack of swimmers chasing a common goal is unstoppable.

“Our power as individuals is multiplied when we gather together as families, teams and communities with common goals.” Susan Scott

Lead by example.

By far the strongest leaders in a group are the ones who lead by example, who dive head-long into those tough sets, who volunteer to take down the flags after practice, who wait in the water after a long set and cheer on every teammate until they are done.

Saying you do it better and that you expect others to hold themselves to high standards is one thing, but when you take it upon yourself to set the standard than words become unnecessary and very often superfluous in comparison.

“The world is changed by examples, not by opinions.” Paolo Coelho

Remember that your positivity is infectious.

We like to think of ourselves as impervious to the influence of others. That someone else’s bad day won’t rub on us. That the swimmer in our lane complaining won’t bring us down (although for some people—myself included—hearing teammates complain and struggle during a tough set usually motivated me to push harder). Or that the social circle we carry outside the pool doesn’t influence us.

In reality, emotional states—both good and bad can be passed on to us via something that is called “emotional contagion.” While many of us know this from anecdotal experiences within our group of friends, research has shown that emotional states can even be transferred across social media. When Facebook users were shown only positive stories, their own posts were more frequently positive. The opposite was true when users were shown mostly negative stories.

While you won’t always be able to crowd out Connie Complainer, you can help to make a more positive training environment by seeking and accentuating the positive in challenging practice situations.

“Your enthusiasm will be infectious, stimulating and attractive to others. They will love you for it. They will go for you and with you.” Norman Vincent Peale

Mark the triumphs—even the small ones.

To maintain a lasting sense of motivation and belief in the cause requires a series of consistent reminders that progress is being made and that it is positive progress. In other words, recognizing and celebrating the little wins.

Observing the little victories—and not merely brushing them aside because they aren’t ground-shaking or record-breaking—provides a continuous drip of enthusiasm towards the task at hand.

The group had 95% attendance for the week? No morning workouts were missed? Little Johnny dropped a best time for a 100 yard freestyle kick? These are things worth recognizing.

“5 small wins a day leads to 1,850 wins in 12 months. Consistency breeds mastery.” Robin Sharma

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5 years ago

I think you are right in all different ways I have one Question is picking up team mates swim clothing if they forget it and give it to them the next day?

5 years ago

Leaders should also reach out to the new kid on the team…and include the shy kids.

And stay humble.

4 years ago

When team members see and hear the coach abuse a team mate, verbally or emotionally, all team members should report it to the powers that be instead of just looking the other way. A team can put a halt to the practice of abusive coaches and it will be healthier for the entire team and all team members will perform at their peak levels. Team members should never treat a swimmer badly just because the coach does, don’t follow a very bad coaching example.

Reply to  Coaches
4 years ago

Also, speak up when a coach only recognizes the top athletes. The article is right on about Johnny. HIs accomplishment may be as important for him as the Top swimmers’ 5th Jr Nat cut.

Congratulate – consistently – those swimmers completing challenge events like 200 Fly, 400 IM, 500 Free, 1650 Free, etc. Or for a swimmer getting their first A time, or a relay exceeding expectations.

Reply to  Coaches
3 years ago

It’s interesting to observe how delicately some coaches treat their stars. There really is a Star System in swimming.

Or maybe it could be compared to horse racing, where the star swimmers are like the pampered thoroughbreds.

Elite swimmers seem more open to dumping a trainer/coach that isn’t working for them.

About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 he was thrown in the water at the local pool for swim lessons and since then has never wanted to get out. A nationally top ranked age grouper as both a …

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