4 Qualities of A Star Relay Swimmer

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Diana Pimer, Swimming World Intern

Relays can mean a lot of different things. For some, a relay can be a group of age group swimmers having fun with their best friends. For others, a relay can determine an NCAA championship. Regardless, there are certain people who always seem to pull through in relays, whether the meet is on the line or a relay got put together just for fun.

Relays have the ability to bring out the best in swimmers. Swimmers sometimes go over a full second faster than their best time in a 400 or 800-yard relay race. Swimming scientists will argue that a relay start takes .7 seconds off your time, but the remaining time drop has to come from somewhere. It is not from hitting all your turns or taking one less breath. Swimming fast in a relay stems from much more than this.

Here are four qualities of a standout relay swimmer:

1. Ability to Bounce Back

While we all wish we were perfect, off-swims happen and, unfortunately, so does incorrect timing. False starts in relays happen. But a relay start is a two-person job, and the person in the water could be just as much to blame as the person diving in. Regardless of what happened, good relay swimmers will stay positive and keep the team atmosphere going, whether something was their fault or not.


Photo Courtesy: Alison Bartlett

2. Power to Handle Pressure

There aren’t many things in swimming worse than letting your team down. Relays are high-pressure situations where everything is on the line. Whether they are your fastest swimmers or not, certain people can handle this pressure and others cannot. If you do not get overwhelmed in practice and are able to stay calm before big races, you are probably a great relay swimmer.

3. Always A Good Teammate

If you are the swimmer who is always cheering everybody on and who has an upbeat attitude during the toughest sets, you are probably the perfect relay swimmer. You will always give it your best effort, whether your team is a lap ahead or behind. Being a good teammate on land transfers into being a good teammate in the water. If you are a genuine player who wants to help people achieve their goals alongside your own, you probably put your heart and soul into relays.


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

4. Bursting With Team Pride

It is a great feeling standing behind the blocks knowing that you have done everything in your power and are prepared to swim a great race. An even better feeling is standing there with three of your teammates, whom you have full confidence in. A star relay swimmer is proud of their three relay-mates, along with their entire team.

Making a relay team is an honor. You are among the best on your team, but you are representing much more than yourself. Most likely, there is a team of at least 20 athletes depending on you to get the job done. Perfect relay swimmers have a sense of pride larger than most. They are the swimmers always wearing their team gear, always promoting the team, and doing their best to represent the team well.

There is a special feeling you get when you are standing behind the blocks for a relay and your whole team is up and looking to you to take care of business. Accomplishing this will require you to dig deep, and probably do something you have never done before. For some reason, maybe because of these four qualities or perhaps due to a little magic, it is worth it. The gratification of a happy, proud team outweighs the pain of the race.


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Missy Allington
3 months ago

Relays are the most fun and amazing time a a swimmer. Whether it being in a club team or college team. It was always some of the best times of my swimming career.