11 Defining Milestones In the Career of a Swimmer

Haley Anderson celebrates 500 free win with teammates.

11 Defining Milestones In the Career of a Swimmer

By Josie Wise, Swimming World Intern

There are thousands of swimmers around the globe, and even though everyone’s swimming journey looks a little different, there are certain milestones that many swimmers share. The first swim practice you attend and the first meet you race in are the starting blocks, and from there, it’s mile by mile. 

1. Doing Flip Turns In a Race For the First Time

It’s not easy for a young swimmer to ditch the trusty touch-and-go turn in favor of a scary somersault into a wall. However, the first time that you can muster up the courage to do a flip turn is definitely a marker of a young swimmer taking it to the next level.

2. Moving Up In Training Groups

Especially for those with older siblings in the sport, it can be a huge goal to move up to the faster training group on your team. Getting to take that step can be frightening, but also exciting. It shows that your coach has seen all the hard work you’ve put in, and you’ll have opportunities to go even faster.

3. Getting Disqualified

Getting DQ’d for the first time is typically not a happy memory for swimmers, but an important one nonetheless. Being disqualified is a humbling experience, and will likely teach you something you need to work on. It might get you down in the moment, but there’s no doubt that you’ll look back on it in the future and laugh with your friends.

4. Breaking 30 or a Minute For the First Time

This particular milestone looks different throughout the different phases of swimming. It could be going under 40 for the first time in the 50 free, or for some, it could end up being breaking 20 seconds. It seems, however, that getting under 30 seconds and seeing that 3 turn to a 2 for the first time, or watching the time change from one minute to mere seconds are two huge and unforgettable moments for most swimmers.

5. Each Time You Go a New Distance

Every time that a swimmer inevitably grows up and enters the next age group, they are subjected to longer and longer distances. Switching from only 25s to swimming 100 yards probably seemed incredibly daunting at one point. Unfortunately, it only gets worse from there. One day you’ll find yourself doing the 400 IM, 200 fly, or mile for the first time, and you’ll be longing for those 100 events.

6. Wearing a Knee Skin or Tech Suit

When seeing all the people wearing their tech suits at meets, you just cannot wait until the day you get to put one on and zoom through the water. Getting your first tech suit is a big step for most swimmers and means they’re entering that next level of competition.

7. Getting Your First Qualifying Time For a Big Meet (and Going to the Meet)

Every older swimmer probably remembers the race when they got their very first big cut. Across all the leagues and levels of the sport, the specific meet qualified for looks different for everyone. The feeling of finally getting to go to the meet you’ve been working toward, however, is shared by all swimmers.

8. Making Finals

Finals are a special experience for swimmers, and you don’t really know what it’s like until you’re there swimming at them. Your first finals race at a big meet sheds a whole new light on how fun swimming can truly be.

9. Your Last Race With a Team

Whatever the reason is for leaving, the last race with a team you’ve been on for a while is typically a bittersweet moment for swimmers. Knowing that you’ll never wear that cap in a race again, or swim with the people you’ve known for so long is a monumental moment and feeling.

10. Committing to a New Team

For the athletes that choose to continue swimming in college, committing to a new team is a huge milestone. Declaring that you’re going to continue your swimming journey with a new family is something to be celebrated and remembered. You’re truly starting a new phase at this point.

11. Getting Out Of the Competition Pool For the Last Time

Whenever a swimmer gets out of the pool after their last race, it is likely a moment that they will look back on for a long time afterward. As Tony Stark once said, “Part of the journey is the end.”

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.