Why Should I Try Out Long Course Swimming

Gabriel Wheeler
Mar 14, 2019

  Have you ever watched the World Championships of Swimming? The Olympics? These are the top tier meets where the greatest swimmers in the world compete. Both these meets as well as many others are swum in Long Course Meters- the global standard for swimming competition where the pool is 50 meters instead of 25 yards. The reason long course is so popular is because it is swimming in its purest form. Short course yards has long been dominated by the swimmers with the best underwaters. Long course however is a more level playing field w here there is more swimming on top of the water.  To stand out in long course you MUST master the elements of all 4 strokes.  With less underwater swimming from turns more strokes are taken so the emphasis is perfect stroke technique (Long course = who can take the least amount of strokes in the most effiecient way?)
 
  Ask any person who swam growing up if they liked short course or long course more and the majority will tell you long course. I know I did. My favorite event was the 200 breaststroke long course becau se wit h less pullouts interrupting my race I really could find my groove. Keep asking questions and almost any swimmer  will say the first long course meet ever is kind of intimidating. There are many new elements going on like: Why are two people swimming at once (aka chase starts where swimmer B starts when swimmer A gets to the middle of the pool)? What if I can’t get out of the pool in time? Why am I diving over people? I feel like I’ve taken 1000 strokes where is the dosh garn wall??? It’s lots of new territory but at the end of the day long course swimming is just swimming. The pool may be long, but I did that math and if you train 3000 yards in a normal practice its the same distance as swimming up and down a long course meter pool 55 times (Image 1) That's a lot of laps that you know you can swim! So trust me when I say it's not as scary as it looks, and YOU'LL LOVE IT TOO!
 
(Image 1: Short course versus long course length)
 
With all of this mentioned I have some great news for all of us… Long Course season has finally arrived! With this brings new opportunities to race, practice, and find new meaning and appreciation for the sport that we love. I want to talk about why you should beg your parents to sign you up for a long course meet this summer!
    
  1. We have A TON OF MEETS THIS SUMMER TO SIGN UP FOR!!! This means there is plenty of opportunity for feedback. Even if it is just an event or two go to a meet and race it! Then keep practicing and in a week or two go to another meet and see if you have improved. As coaches it helps us ENORMOUSLY when we see our swimmers race because most of our practices are geared towards perfecting race elements. If we see a common theme that needs improvement we’ll make mental note and create a set for practice the next week.
 
  2. “Might as well!” It’s summer break and not much else is going on! With less school and more time for activities, swimmers can come to practice and meets fully engaged and ready to race! I always loved to work extra hard in the summer because I knew I could always take a nap after swimming and not have to worry about homework. With more time to relax and recover I had less anxiety from training.
 
  3. After swimming a 50 meter long course meet, it is so much fun to return to a shorter 25 yard pool and have the pool feel so small. By conquering a 50 meter pool confidence is built to push yourself in a 25 yard pool because at this point it feels like nothing. Some swimmers will say “I feel like I took 2 strokes and BAM there was the wall.”
 
  4. Facing your fears! Meets can be intimidating but you are never alone at a meet. Your teammates are there to push you. Your coaches are there to help you. Your parents are in the stands cheering. Swimming is a team sport and being a part of a team, doing some cheers, and racing together is always a blast.
 
  5. Swim practice is practice but swim meets are practice too. You don’t get to the Super Bowl by winning your first couple of games, and you don’t get faster without going a couple of slow times every once in a while. Every time you step up to the block at a meet you are learning how to compete. We can try to teach competition at practice but it will never compare to the real deal! Show up to meets and see if you are closer to your time goals. If you aren’t then what needs to be done next to get closer to that goal?
 
  6. One of my best friends growing up swam on another team! And we always swam the same events. Through this a friendly rivalry was formed. We would always talk a little bit of smack to push each other but after every race it was a handshake or a high five and we were back to being friends. You can try and teach sportsmanship at practice, but it won’t truly develop until you learn how to lose (or win) graciously at a meet.
 
  7. Story time: A few years ago I got a 2012 London Olympic swim cap from one of my all time favorite swimmers Brendan Hansen. On it he wrote “NEVER LIMIT YOURSELF”. I love his story because he retired from the sport of swimming after the 2008 olympics earning a dissapointing 4th place finish in the 100 meter breaststroke. 3 years later he woke up one morning, realized he ended things on a sour note and decided to come out of retirement (At the time this was very exciting news in the swimming community). A lot of people don’t realize taking 3 years off of swimming let alone 3 months off of swimming is VERY HARD to come back from. He shocked us winning at olympic trials and qualifying for London. But he wasn't done there. At the 2012 London Olympics Brendan shocked the world with the race of a lifetime. He knocked his rival Kosuke Kitajima off the podium, made his comeback and got the bronze medal! I always get chills thinking about that race because he accomplished something rarely seen. I used this story as my inspiration and several months later I had the race of a my lifetime where I dropped 7 seconds in a single race and achieved my first ever national swim cut in the 200 breast. The point of this story is that if you go to a meet you might surprise yourself with what you are capable of! FInd a story or purpose that inspires you, “never limit yourself”, get to a meet, and race. The more chances you give yourself to race the more chances there are to show yourself and the world what you’re made of!