Friendly Competition: Revelry and Rivalry

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Photo Courtesy: Brian Jenkins-UVM Athletics

By Maddie Strasen, Swimming World College Intern.

Although there’s debate on whether or not swimming is the toughest sport out there, there’s no arguing that it’s difficult when your teammates are also your competition. As your team works towards one common goal, we each work towards our own goals, striving to improve ourselves as individuals. This means battling your own teammates and friends throughout a close race, or even a tough practice, but also means pushing each other to the limit, leading to improvement on both ends.

Having teammates who see your potential is uplifting in both training and competition. This means it’s likely that your best friends are those who you’re in the pool with and possibly swimming the same events as. Those who train for the same events every day gives you the people who most understand you, but your best friend being your competition can have its downsides.

Swimmers naturally have a competitive edge, and being plotted against the person you consider your best friend can cause frustration, self-doubt, and jealousy. You might find yourself questioning why you can’t train as hard or race as fast as the same person who have endless movie nights with, cheers you up when you’re sick, and consoles you when all you want to do is cry.

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Photo Courtesy: Brian Jenkins-UVM Athletics

It’s easy to get frustrated with yourself. Some days, you’ll see others have an amazing practice as you’re left in the dust (or bubbles), just barely making the send-offs. You’ll ask yourself where you went wrong, what’s holding you back, or why you aren’t as strong as your teammates. Keep in mind that they have these days too. You might have forgotten the great practices you’ve had where your teammates might not have been doing so well, but still supported you and were happy for your accomplishments.

Don’t get angry or take your self-loathing out on those who performed better than you did. Although it feels defeating to see your competition get one step closer to their goals, they’re also your teammates and more importantly your friends. No one likes to see themselves fail, but it does happen and doesn’t give you an excuse to feel angry at those who did not fail at the same time you did. Failing sometimes is important for personal and athletic growth. Remembering that it happens to everyone at some point or another can help you move forward.

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Photo Courtesy: Hannah Dahlin

Comparing yourself to others comes with the nature of a competitive sport, but can get to a point where it becomes unhealthy. Pushing each other in practice is one thing, but you should never try to one-up your competition. Although you might share similar individual goals, everyone has different strengths, weaknesses, mentalities, and insecurities. Because of the endless differences among two or more people, constant comparison isn’t beneficial and is often invalid.

Over-analyzing and comparing yourself to others can deteriorate mindsets and weaken friendships. It’s always best to think about how you as an individual can improve yourself and get to the next level. Swim for yourself, not anyone else. Use others as support and motivation rather than using them to talk yourself down or up.

Most importantly, be there for each other. Lift each other up when you’re down. Admire them for their hard work. Be happy for each other when you have a good practice or reach a goal. Talk to each other about how you’re feeling—be open and honest if you’re struggling. In the end, no one will remember who had a higher number of good practices or who out touched the other at a meet. They’ll remember the laughs (or tears) during practice, the cheering so loud that you could hear it from under the water, and the support you gave each other both in and out of the pool.

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Photo Courtesy: Hannah Dahlin

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

3 comments

  1. avatar
    Dina DiTommaso

    Great article with great photos!

  2. avatar
    Michael Maloney

    Ledecky… Manuel…..1 will never be as GREAT as the other….and their team mates for now..

  3. avatar
    Flona

    Good idea