6 Life Lessons Swimming Teaches Us

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6 Life Lessons Swimming Teaches Us

By Suzie Ryan, Swimming World Intern

Swimming is not the easiest of sports. It takes courage, dedication and a lot of hard work to become a swimmer. Countless hours spent swimming up and down the black line, dryland practices, and early mornings.

But swimming isn’t all about the medals you win, the times you post, bad tan lines and teams you make.

Swimming provides the groundwork for some of the most fundamental frameworks in our lives. It teaches us life lessons that you carry with you for the rest of your life, long after you’ve hung your togs up. These life lessons won’t just disappear when you finish but will help you throughout your life.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Swimming is as much an individual sport as it is a team sport.  While most of the time, you swim to achieve your own success and goals, you couldn’t do that without the help of your teammates right next to you.

There are no closer teammates than those you’ll find in swimming. You spend countless hours in the pool together, following the black line up and down, pushing each other that little bit further in tough sessions. You cheer each other on from the sidelines at Nationals and pick each other up when you’ve had a bad swim.

Your teammate’s success is your success. Enduring the same brutal sessions and heartbreaks throughout your swimming career builds bonds that never break and will stay with you for life. Likewise, learning to work as a team is essential for success in your professional life where you are accountable for your own success but also your teams to make sure the company succeeds.



Photo Courtesy: Annie Grevers

Swimming is a great mood booster, no matter what level of ability you are. There is something about the solitude of just you and the feeling of the water rushing over your body that gets the endorphins pumping.

It helps build not only your mental strength but also your physical strength. Building muscle, improving flexibility and fitness all boost your confidence and leave you feeling on top of the world.

Swimming with friends who support your achievements, encourage you throughout training and congratulate you on your efforts after a race builds your self-confidence. This is essential to have throughout your life. If you have confidence, you can achieve anything you want in life, get that dream job, or travel the world.

How You Lose is as Important as How You Win

Losing sucks. Let’s be honest, nobody likes to lose. You don’t go into a race and hope to lose. You go in wanting to win and come out on top. But how you lose is just as important as how you win. How you handle both outcomes matters more than where you finish in the race.

Throughout your swimming career, you will have many triumphs, but you will also lose many times. What matters is that when you lose, you turn to the person next to you and congratulate the winner, shake their hand or say great job. Never snub them. This shows your character and sportsmanship, and it shows you are bigger than the outcome and are humbled by not only your wins but your defeats, too.

Most of all, it sets a good example for the younger swimmers, who idolize you, whether you know it or not. Learning to be humble in defeat will get you far in your professional life. You might lose that dream job to the person next to you, but you can smile, say congratulations and try again.

Make the Most Out of Life

Life should be enjoyed. We all get told, “life is short; make the most of it,” and that saying is so true. Swimming teaches you to enjoy life in many ways. The practices, team get-togethers, early mornings, late nights and many carnivals we attend throughout our time as a swimmer.

Even on the hardest of days, when our limbs are aching and our eyes are tired from previous practices, somehow, us swimmers find the light and enjoyment in everything. We hop out of the pool smiling and continue with our day, doing everything that brings us enjoyment.

Swimming has taught me that everything I do in and out of the pool, I should enjoy, and if I don’t enjoy it, then don’t do it because life is about enjoying yourself and making the most of it.

How to Overcome Adversity

Swimming isn’t always going to be fair. It’s not always going to go your way, and the same can be said for life. There will be times in your career as a swimmer that no matter how hard you train or how many extra sessions you do, your effort in training will not match the results in the race.

You will be disappointed, it will hurt and cut deep, and you will want to give up, but when this happens, it’s important not to give up but to persevere and keep going, push through, work on the one-percenters and try again.

How you overcome obstacles and adversity is bigger than any win. If you master this skill, you will go far in life because life will knock you down many times, but it’s how to get back up again and continue to persevere and achieve your goals is what counts.

Time Management is Everything


Photo Courtesy: Flickr

Swimming is a very time-consuming sport, but that doesn’t matter to us swimmers because we love it. We learn from an early age that time management is everything and how to handle our time to get the most out of it. We have to practice at 5 a.m., then school or university all day, followed by practice again in the afternoon. Most nights we don’t get home until 7 or 8 p.m.

Swimming teaches us to schedule our time efficiently while juggling our training, schoolwork and social life. If we don’t, we end up drowning in schoolwork, missing practices and time with friends. The juggle seems hard at times, but when you start your professional life, you will be thankful to have these skills.

Balancing workouts, going to the gym, working all day and still having time to socialize with friends is the dream and us swimmers can do it with our eyes closed. We’ve had that much practice.

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

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3 months ago

Great article! As a retired competitive swimmer and coach I agree, wonderful life lessons.

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