BY OLIVIER POIRIER-LEROY//USA Swimming CONTRIBUTOR
Although each swimmer on a team or in a group has a different role, specialty or set of goals, there is one universal responsibility every swimmer has: to be an awesome teammate.
Being a fantastic teammate goes beyond counting laps, or cheering, or being all “rah-rah” in the middle of practice. It’s also about the little things that happen in training, like showing up on time, setting the example, and challenging your teammates in practice.
After all, the wake that is created by one swimmer who aspires to great things can be powerful, but the wave that follows a group of swimmers all pushing each other to excellence is unstoppable.
Here are 5 ways you can be a better teammate this season, and reap the rewards of faster swimming along the way:
1. Work hard.
Working hard at practice day-in and day-out does more than just develop a powerful work ethic. It also does more than slowly mold you into the swimmer you want to be. It also creates an environment where everyone is more likely to be successful.
Your effort, the way you complete the sets, rubs off on your teammates. Showing up to workout and training hard will make you a better swimmer, yes, but it also makes the swimmers around you better, too, by pushing them to be their best as well.
This means you aren’t sandbagging through sets waiting for the last rep to drop a massive effort. Or pulling on the lane ropes and pulling into the walls while doing kick. It means doing the technical parts of the workout with as much focus and energy as the effort requirements.
2. Be competitive in practice.
Although swimming is largely competed as an individual sport, we certainly don’t train that way. Each day we have an opportunity to go toe-to-toe with our teammates.
In these daily battles we have a chance to hone our competitive instincts and foster an environment where we are getting the best from one another.
During the main sets, you should push and strive to get the most out of the swimmers on your team. Racing in practice over and over again makes you tougher in the face of competition, builds resiliency within the group, and prepares you to be able to swim fast come meet time.
3. Work with the youngsters.
Believe it or not, regardless of where you rank in the scheme of ability – from plucky age-grouper to experienced Olympian – there is someone who is looking up to you. True story!
Some of the clearest memories I have of my early age group days were whenever an older kid on the team noticed me working hard in practice and told me, “Good job, keep it up buddy!” Same thing whenever the older kids got up to cheer during one of my races.
You don’t need to win state or go to the Olympics to inspire others with your work ethic and attitude. And you don’t need to be a national champion to be able to notice some of the younger kids on the team.
Taking a few minutes to help out with the younger swimmers on your team will leave a much bigger impression than you realize.
With some athletes it was always like pulling teeth when it came to doing their share of things around the pool. Things like putting in the lane ropes, setting up the backstroke flags, or pulling the equipment bin out.
This season, be the athlete who doesn’t wait to be asked to do these things. Take the initiative to do the right thing more often without having to be asked.
When your teammates see that you are doing your part to help the team, you set a positive example for them to follow. If you prefer do the bare minimum to get by, and not pull your fair share, it builds a culture that fosters mediocrity.
5. Have a positive attitude.
Swimming, being the challenging sport it is, can be profoundly difficult at times. Those long, grueling sets over the holiday break come to mind. So do the doubles, having to repeat a long set, or the test set that lands on a Saturday following a harrowing week of training.
The sport will challenge and ask the best of from us; being an awesome teammate means being willing to face adversity with a positive attitude. You don’t need to pretend to love what you are doing, but you absolutely can choose to face it with a determined resolve.
We have all had that swimmer in our lane who complains all the time, who finds everything unfair, and who doesn’t like the sets, the workouts, the drills, or the temperature of the pool. And it is a real drag being around athletes like this.
Our attitude is contagious, so choose to bring a positive one to the lane and you will find not only that training is a lot more enjoyable, but the lane dynamic is much better as well.
Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer. He is a regular contributor of Splash Magazine and also writes over at YourSwimLog.com, where he shares swim workouts from coaches and swimmers across the country.
He is also the publisher of YourSwimBook, a ten-month log book and mental training skills guide for competitive swimmers.