A Conversation with an Unlikely Best Friend: The Black Line

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A Conversation with an Unlikely Best Friend: The Black Line

By Jamie Kolar

Swimming is unlike any other sport. It is the only sport where you cannot talk to any other person or coach during most of the practice or during a race, allowing for a lot of time alone. Being alone for those extended periods of time is not something to be taken lightly. That amount of solitude will drive you crazy, as thoughts run wild without being able to share them with your friend in the lane over.


Photo Courtesy: Cathleen Pruden

However, what most people do not realize is that the black line at the bottom of the pool becomes your best friend throughout your career in the water. There are several reasons why you will have this strange and unique relationship with an inanimate object with such seemingly little significance.

The Black Line Will Always Listen

Natalie Hinds talking with her coach before the finals.

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

When you spend so many hours a day looking at one thing, it is not totally out of the ordinary to start talking to it. It starts to have a personality of its own and a unique way of being involved in your life. Although it seems crazy to an outsider, swimmers know the comfort that the black line can provide.

You can talk about anything with the black line. Topics can range from how much pain you are in from the set to how school went that day or what you thought about the new movie you just watched. It is nice to have someone – or something, rather – who is always there to listen.

The Black Line Offers Great Advice


Photo Courtesy: Taneal Baptiste

The black line really has a mind of its own. It listens to you talk about your day and your problems without expecting anything in return. It is always there for you, unconditionally.

And when we are finished rambling on and in desperate need of a second opinion, it will gladly offer one. It just takes some good listening skills on our end, because the black line is subtle when it offers its advice. Sometimes, it takes its sweet time in answering you, but it eventually will. When you listen closely enough to finally hear what it has to say, it often is some of the best advice you will ever receive.

Do you give up on number six of ten 100s all out? No – stay strong and steady. Do you get out and pretend like you have to go to the bathroom? No – be a dependable teammate and push through. Oh man, the girl next to you looks like she’ll be fast. Maybe you won’t race as hard because you will lose anyway. You’re better than that – give it your all.

The Black Line Will Always Be There For You


Photo Courtesy: Team Elite Instagram

No matter what pool in which you are practicing or what competition you’re racing in, you can always count on the black line at the bottom of the pool. In a sport with so many changing variables, this factor will always be a constant.

It is comforting to know that the black line will always be there to guide you no matter what. It bears witness to all that happens – the good, the bad and the ugly. No matter how hard the practice or how nervous you are before a race, the black line will direct your path and support you the whole way. And no matter how far you swim, it will always be in the same place where you started. The time the two of you spend apart will seem irrelevant, as the two of you can always pick up where you left off, no matter how much time has passed.

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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john m razi
john m razi
5 years ago

Well done. So much to this v

5 years ago

My black line’s name is Wilson.

Isabella Vegas von G
5 years ago

Solange Adum Abdala

1 year ago

There was a great poster years ago showing the black line with a cool poem. Had one… but may still be available out there!

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