3 Ways A Team Can Define en·cour·age·ment

By Courtney Bartholomew, Swimming World College Intern

As swimmers, we put countless hours in a pool, following a black line endlessly. We wake up at absurd times, go to class, get homework done, and yet still find the energy to have a social life.

This routine is not done alone though. Our teammates go through the same routine everyday. These people are not only your teammates, but through shared experiences they become your support network and friends. Without them, this sport would not be fun or worthwhile.

However, what happens when life doesn’t follow a routine, detracts from the norm, throws a wrench in the plans? What happens when the weight of swimming pressures, life pressures, or school impact training and emotional wellbeing?

Teammates are always there to step in and provide encouragement when the going gets tough. They truly understand how the pressures of the world can affect life in and out of the pool.

So how is a teammate supposed to help another teammate during a time of need? Through encouragement.

Encouragement is defined as “the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope.” While encouragement in the pool is important to create a positive team atmosphere, supporting your teammates is equally as important outside of the pool. Small words and actions of encouragement can make a positive impact on a teammate that extends beyond what that person thought possible. When people feel encouraged in and out of the pool, they are more likely to be able to contribute positively toward team goals and an uplifting team atmosphere.

Here are a few ways that you can make a positive impact on your teammate today!

1. Be There

Mar 21, 2015; Greensboro, NC, USA; Kelsi Worrell hugs teammate Tanja Kylliainen after winning the 200 butterfly during NCAA Division I Swimming and Diving-Championships at Greensboro Aquatic Center. Mandatory Credit: Evan Pike-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Courtesy: Evan Pike – USA TODAY Sports Images

When a teammate is struggling during a difficult set or having a rough day outside of the pool, let them know that you are there for them. It could be a word of praise that inspires them to make it through the rest of the workout or even a fist bump in study hall, letting them know they are doing a great job at dealing with the stress of school work.

National teamer Kelsi Worrell stated that the Louisville Cards “put a huge priority on encouraging each other and cheering on each other during practice. It not only pushes your teammates to be better, but it distracts you from your own pain, making practice more fun!” By distracting yourself and your teammates from the discomfort of a set through encouragement, a positive atmosphere, which breeds success, is born.

2. Trust in the Process

wheaton-swimming-training-trip-team (4)

Photo Courtesy: Kelley Baylis

Convey to your teammate that pain is only temporary, but success is forever. Everything done in the pool and done in life is part of the process to achieving an end result. Without going through the process, you cannot achieve a goal. Help them to realize that the workout, the school work, or a certain moment in their day is all part of the journey to achieving their goals.

3. Let them know that they can make a difference.

National teamer Leah Smith said that during her first year of college, “the upperclassmen on the team continuously encouraged me even though I was a freshman, and they let me know I could still make a huge difference and that they would be proud of me for just giving my best.”

By letting your teammates know that they contribute to the team dynamic and that just by trying, they can make a difference, allows them to recognize their potential. Encouragement can help others acknowledge their potential and allow them to reach new heights and achieve goals they never thought possible.

These ways of encouraging teammates can all enable a friend to build up confidence. Confidence leads to only one thing– SUCCESS. When you believe in yourself, you can do anything you put your mind to! As one of my teammates, Cece Williams, said “In a sense, encouragement is wanting your teammates to succeed just as much as you want yourself to succeed.” Just remember that your teammates are your “family” and by encouraging them, you are not only giving them tools to succeed, but also building up yourself and the team.

So, when you get in that pool today, consider encouraging a teammate in someway. You never know, that fist bump might encourage them to work a little bit harder to achieve their goals or that smile on your way out of the locker room might lift them up when it feels as though they can’t keep their head above water (literally or figuratively).