A Team Is Only As Strong As Its Weakest Link


A Team Is Only As Strong As Its Weakest Link

Fall is prime time for elite college swimming. We see teams that seem to catch fire and follow with a lights-out season. It happens every year. A college team gets one or two standout swimmers who start dropping top times, and all of a sudden, the entire team gets on board and becomes a powerhouse. There are many factors that contribute to this trend.

Team Culture

The culture that is practiced within a team has exponential effects on performance and results. The first thing noticeable in a high-performing team is the athletes’ gratefulness for the position that they are in. If you scroll through Instagram on a Sunday night, you’ll find many of the top college swimmers reflecting on their week.  These swimmers are always stating how lucky they are to be in that position and are appreciative of the process. In other words, there is a high level of awareness which becomes normal among all team members. When one or two people start to show this gratitude, it spreads like wildfire, and soon everyone becomes fully invested in the process.


Elite Teams = Elite Leaders

Within these top teams, you’ll find a few core leaders who are driving the success. This could be team captains, upperclassmen, or NCAA qualifiers. These people are the drivers of success within the group. They initiate team meetings, encourage teammates, and are the support system whenever someone needs help. Strong leaders are the key to the transformation into an elite team. Moreover, team leaders work behind the scenes to ensure everything is running smoothly and is taken care of. When the athletes feel that they have strong leadership other than coaches, the team starts to lean on each other. These leaders for instance, start the hype circles at meets, answer questions that the freshmen have, or just lend a helping hand during rough situations.

Weakest Link

On the same token, the best teams also have the best “weakest link.” Even the slowest swimmers on these teams are high class student-athletes. They are excellent teammates, have killer habits in and out of the pool, and are actively contributing to the success of the group as a whole. Within elite teams, every swimmer puts forth their best effort and making themselves better. There is simply no “dead weight.” Having everyone on the same page is something that can catapult a team into the spotlight. From top to bottom you will find high class student-athletes, and even better people. These swimmers push each other to higher levels.

Standard of Excellence

The most impactful change that can happen is when a team holds its swimmers to a higher standard of excellence. In this case, actions speak louder than words. You can always tell who the best team on the pool deck is. Elite teams will often be the loudest on deck, the most organized, and responsible for holding each other accountable. In fact, this high standard of excellence is something that is unspoken and is often established at the beginning of the season. People show up early, use positive language, and support each other. The teams that seemingly get much faster in a short college season, often reset the standard of excellence to the highest level possible, benefiting performances dramatically.

Becoming a better team starts with small habits. A team is only as strong as its weakest link.

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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Dr Bruce Lawrie
Dr Bruce Lawrie
1 year ago

Interesting points, valid for teams at all levels!

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