Creating the Future: Why Swimmers Can Make Great Leaders


Creating the Future: Why Swimmers Can Make Great Leaders

What makes a good leader?

I know, that question can have myriad answers. For one person, a positive leadership influence can come from a great coach, while another looks up to a particular teacher. There is no one, clear-cut formula that “great leaders” fit into. However, leaders often share similar traits – with responsibility, communication, and confidence being among the most important.

Well, swimming is a sport that can forge some great new leaders.

Many young swimmers take leadership positions on their teams. This can happen because their coach gave them a formal title such as “captain,” or it could just happen because they set a great example. Either way, swimming is a sport that can develop young leaders and – as a result – can make the world a more productive place.

But how?


Good swimmers are responsible – that’s for sure. Many high school and college level swim teams require their members to attend practice six days a week. Sometimes, coaches will hold practices early in the morning, before swimmers go to school or attend class. Balancing all this practice time with school, work and other actives can be an exhausting task.

It can be easy for some to just call it a day and quit.

However, the swimmers who are truly dedicated and passionate about what they do will stay, no matter how difficult managing their schedules may get. These swimmers will often times make the best leaders.

A young athlete who attends practice regularly – despite scheduling complications – learns to be good at managing their time. They will also learn how to prioritize what is truly important to them. And, if they have to go to six swim practices per week – so be it! If they choose to stay, practices will be fun and productive, and not work for them. Thus, time management becomes easier to handle and young swimmers are taught how to balance several activities in their lives.

Learning life skills in a fun way can be an invaluable experience that will help student-athletes long after they leave their high school or college pool. More, a swimmer who can attend practices, keep up with school, and use free time wisely is someone who can help others learn to do the same. That person is also someone who the coach can trust with leading a set, or helping out a new team member.


In addition to building responsibility skills, swimming also allows team members to better communicate with each other.

Still skeptical?

Take normal, everyday practices, for example. Swimmers enjoy organizing themselves into lanes based on stroke or speed. The people who you swim with every day in practice are usually those who swim similarly to yourself. Well, in order to find the correct lane, swimmers learn to communicate with each other.

Saying things such as, “Hey, are you swimming backstroke?”, “How fast are you in the 200?”, and “Is it okay if I lead this lane?” are all ways that swimmers learn to work with each other in order to create a beneficial practice for everyone. After all, coaches can only do so much to help out.

Another way communication plays a part in swimming is through big sets. Usually, one swimmer takes the lead and shouts out what part of the set the team is on. This person also helps out other swimmers who may be confused. Well… that’s leadership! One – or multiple – people are taking charge in order to ensure that things run smoothly.

Being able to work and adapt to different situations is an important aspect to leadership, and one that swimmers take part in every day.


“Besides the obvious physical benefits of swimming, the independence acquired with increased swim skills are a confidence boost for children,” states the Hubbard Family Swim School on its website.

Swimming is a sport that requires a great deal of self confidence. For example, when a swimmer climbs onto the blocks, they exhibit their skills to all watching. This fact can be rather frightening for someone not used to being the center of attention.

In order to be successful competitors, swimmers must learn to keep calm in front of a crowd. That’s not always easy. They must learn to rely on themselves and their abilities in order to swim a good race. Every time a swimmer goes to practice and fixes a part of their stroke, they are building their resilience and confidence for their next race. Self reliance is an important key trait to possess.

When you are in the water, you are alone. But, that feeling of self reliance can go a long way in helping you become a better person and leader. In order for someone to successfully lead a team or organization, they must first have some degree of confidence in their own ability to manage that team. Confidence projects outward. If your team members feel that you have no confidence in yourself, that will make them more nervous and uncertain if they want to work with you.

On the flip side, a confident leader inspires others to follow their example. Someone who grows up watching an older swimmer lead sets and begin team cheers will eventually want to do the same.

The Leadership Effect

Leadership can be difficult. Believe me, I know. I’ve seen positive examples of leadership that I hope to one day emulate. In fact, one girl on my swim team exhibited all the positive traits of a good leader, setting an example for everyone else. Now, the team has become better because of her.

Swimming is meant to be a sport that builds people up. It stresses characteristics such as self reliance and confidence, while also allowing members to be part of a supportive team. If you take away nothing else from this article, consider joining swimming or another sport. The skills you learn will only help you become a better person in the long run.

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

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Carolyn Miller
10 months ago

You are a fantastic leader, Riley. You influence so many and I am so very proud to have witnessed your growth.

Rosemary Niebauer
10 months ago
Reply to  Carolyn Miller

Enjoyed your article! ♥️

Mr. Polansky
9 months ago

GREAT article Riley!!!

Bob Niebauer
9 months ago

Thanks for writing this article, Ms. Dunn.

I really enjoyed reading it and learning about swimming but also learning about you!

You write very well!