SwimSwam’s Official Swim Camp Survival Guide: 7 Steps to a Sweet Summer

Gavin Cooley is a 14-year old swimmer with the Carmel Swim Club in Indiana, and below he brings us an insider’s perspective on his experience at summer swim camp.

Many swim camps or clinics are conducted throughout the year. From elite level camps hosted by USA Swimming to the Fitter and Faster tour, there is a camp for every skill level of swimmer. I recently attended a week long college-hosted program, and besides being a great opportunity to form better relationships with my teammates, it is a huge chance to learn more about our sport. Four teams participated in the camp, SwimMAC Carolina, Dynamo, Asphalt Green, and Carmel. All attendees were between the ages of eleven and fourteen. Needless to say, I was surrounded by some of the fastest swimmers my age in the country. We were graciously allowed to use the school’s aquatic center, and had at least an hour and a half technique session with each of the program’s NCAA, top-10 caliber coaches. Yes, we learned many new ideas, ranging from how to push off the wall to how to step on the blocks, and hopefully many of us brought the new ideas back to our home clubs. So, without further ado, I present the Swim Camp Survival Guide.

1) Make sure you have everything packed.

Yes, I know this seems obvious, but it is something you can’t check to many times. Don’t want gnarly teeth? Better remember that toothbrush and toothpaste! Coach says the pool is outdoors? Six bottles of sunscreen should be enough.

2) Find a buddy!

It could be your roommate, best friend, or even someone on a different team. As long as you look out for each other, you should find that your trip is much less difficult. Make sure your buddy is awake for breakfast on time, and they help you remember the important team meeting that slipped your mind. Also, this makes attendance for coaches and parent chaperons much easier, so you can get where you are going faster!

3) Have a plan for what you are going to eat.

Typically, you will be getting meals in some sort of cafeteria. If you can get your hands on a menu for the week, it can help you immensely. One of the problem I found my teammates would have is they wouldn’t know what they were going to eat until they were in line for food, so they ate everything! Which sounds great, but it didn’t feel great when they had to swim after their pancake eating contest. Plan out your meals, and balance your indulgences with healthy foods.

4) Don’t get involved in shenanigans.

This also seems obvious, but trust me, it happens more than you might expect. Anything that seems like it is a little shady, or could even possibly lead to you getting in trouble for being near it, you should steer clear of. If worse comes to worst, tell your coach, and make it clear that you were NOT involved. It’s not “snitching”, it’s keeping yourself and other innocent teammates from getting blamed, and possibly keeping the guilty from getting hurt.

5) Take every opportunity you get to learn something new.

This includes the opportunity to have fun. If your group takes a quick trip to a water park, mini golf course, or laser tag site, participate! The more that take part in the fun, the better the memories will be, and the less time you will be able to spend thinking or complaining about how much you hurt from practice that day. When a coach is talking to you, especially coaches from other teams, listen. Soak up all the knowledge you can. You might just learn the new technique that with practice, moves your swimming to a new level.

6) Go to bed earlier than you think you should.

Yes, I am aware you probably aren’t going to try to fall asleep at 8:00 every night, but do yourself a favor and don’t stay up until 1:00 the next morning. This way, you will have enough energy to participate in the day’s activities without feeling awful.

7) Relax.

Changes to the schedule will be made, not everything is going to go your way. That’s just part of life, so embrace the changes, you never know what might happen. In the end, you are at the camp to have fun and maybe learn something new, but that is going to be hard to do if you are stressed out. So relax, go with the flow, and have a great time.

Good Luck!


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5 years ago

As a 13 year old at Dynamo, I also had the wonderful opportunity to participate in this swim camp. I completely agree with everything that has been said, but I would like to add one more thing. Even though you are at at a camp with all of your best friends, don’t be hesitant to make new friends with kids on other teams. Once you do, you will realize that all the other kids are really nice and fun to hang out with.

Reply to  Allie
5 years ago

Allie – very, very good thought. This national network of friends developed at your age is part of what makes American swimming so strong.

5 years ago

As another swimmer with Dynamo I for one agree with everything! I will say one thing though when you are doing drylands, it’s better to bring one shirt and where that for drylands, so all your shirts don’t get sweating and gross.

5 years ago

I’m a shady person who gets in shenanigans

Reply to  Dhaka
5 years ago

Dhaka that is a bad decision their boyo

About Gavin Cooley

Gavin Cooley

Gavin is a student at Noblesville High School where he swims for the high school swim team. Gavin has been swimming since he was eight years old. His first coach was his father at Noblesville Swim Club, but when his dad retired from coaching swimming in 2010, Gavin switched to …

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