6 Games To Make Swim Practice Fun

Swim Practice

6 Games To Make Swim Practice Fun

By Tara Draper, Swimming World Intern

Before I start this article, I want to preface this by saying that I know sports and swim practice, especially at a competitive level, aren’t meant to be fun and games all the time. We work hard every day, striving to improve all areas of our performance. However, sometimes taking the time to spend practice playing ‘games’ can improve team morale and community. 

Now, I am not a coach, but I have been swimming for about 12 years, and I have taught swimming for all ages. I’ve compiled a list of activities that coaches could infrequently implement within a season to lift a team’s spirits, but still help build and improve upon skills. I also want these to apply to any team, no matter how little equipment you have available, so feel free to adapt them as you wish. 

Game: Underwater Rugby

Skills: Improve lung capacity

How to Play: Using something that sinks, divide your team up into two groups. Start with your ‘ball’ in the middle of the pool. The game aims to get the ‘ball’ to one of the ‘end zones’, the area between the flags and wall. Players cannot surface while holding the ‘ball’ if they are not in the ‘end zone’. This kind of game can get dangerous if they stay underwater for too long. Make sure to encourage athletes to be safe and always watch the water. 

Game: Water polo sprints

Skill: Kicking and high elbow position

How to Play: There are so many ways to adapt this game, so the opportunities are endless. The core idea is to give each athlete a ball, preferably one designed for water, and have them race one another up and down the pool. They must keep their head up and the ball in front of them. If they swim head-up freestyle, the waves produced by their body will keep the ball in front of their face, and they should be able to swim straight. The type of stroke that occurs when an athlete swims with their head up forces them to have higher elbows than they would with their head down. Since their body is also in a new position, their weak kick will show, and as a result, they will need to kick harder to support themselves. 

Game: Tag

Skill: Endurance

How to Play: This is a game I played a lot as a kid with my team. Each lane has four swimmers in it, one at each end and two in the middle. They must continuously circle swim, trying to catch the person in front of them. Once they tap the person in front of them, that athlete is out. They keep going until one person is left, and that person is the winner. You could even make this game into a bracket system to an ultimate champion. 

Game: Sharks and Minnows

Skill: Speed and endurance

How to Play: This is a classic game I am sure almost everyone has played. You have a select number of sharks (usually two but it’s up to you) and the remainder of the team are minnows. The game aims for the minnows to swim from one side to the other without being caught by sharks. Once captured, the minnows become sharks and help to catch the other minnows. This game gets progressively more challenging as it goes on, which means athletes need to be fast to avoid capture. 

Game: Wrestling

Skill: Kicking

How to Play: Pair up your athletes and have them hold a kickboard between them. They have to kick as hard as they can to push their partner past a designated point, this could be the flags at their respective end, or you can put out cones, have them start in the middle and once the kickboard reaches one of the cones the player wins. This both helps with endurance, as the athletes have to kick hard for a long time and help build the leg strength required to have a powerful kick. This is another game you could set up with a bracket system to have an ultimate winner. 

Game: Amazing Race

Skills: Whatever you want

How to Play: The way the game works is simple: swimmers line up diving in at one end of the pool, swimming to the far end and getting out. Once out, they do some form of workout, for example, ten pushups. They swim back in the next lane over and do another exercise. This cycle repeats until they reach the end of the pool. This game was one of my favourite things to do at practice. There was always the self-imposed challenge of passing the person in front of you. This game has so many applications; you can use it to build so many different parts of the body. You can make your athletes sprint the laps, or work on a particular drill. The possibilities are endless. 

There are so many other games out there for swim practice that both build technique and foster community within swim teams. Feel free to share the swim practice games you play with your team in the comments!

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