Expect the Unexpected: How to Adapt as a Swimmer (Examples Included)

Pool Closed

Expect the Unexpected: How to Adapt as a Swimmer (Examples Included)

Swimming is a sport that is filled with many highs, lows, laughs, tears, friendships, frustrations and, of course, unexpected outcomes. As athletes, we have to learn how to adapt in any given moment no matter the situation. Whether you experience a race malfunction such as ripping your suit minutes before your event, or you experience environmental changes like joining a new team, it is important to expect the unexpected, and adapt the best you can. Listed below are some common adaptations that many swimmers tend to face. Read on to see how to best prepare for these situations.

Pool Issues/Closures

This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it requires a lot of planning and on-the-fly changes so that the entire team can be accommodated. On rare occasions, issues arise with the pool or facility where you train. For example, an increase in chemicals, a pipe burst, or a thunderstorm delay could all result in a pool closure, affecting the ability for teams to practice as they normally would.

This past season, my training pool at Ohio University had a pipe burst 20 days before my conference championship meet. My coaches were a huge help in figuring out the best way for us to continue to train for those few days as our conference meet was quickly approaching. My team and I trained at a very small, four-lane pool with no lane lines or flags for one day, and at a YMCA the next morning located 45 minutes away. As long as coaches and teams are aware of the possibility of change and how to handle unfortunate circumstances on the spot, they will continue to succeed.

Class Conflicts

Many college students have to build their class schedule around their practice times so that they can fit everything into their day. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out the way that they hope. In the case that a class is scheduled during practice, swimmers might have to train at a different time during their day, whenever they can fit it in best. This is not an ideal situation, although it is important to know that it is a possibility, and to plan it out so that your schedule is as convenient as it can be. Finding other people on your team who also have a class conflict with practice the same days as you could help make those practices more enjoyable.

Joining a New Team

Whether you are a club swimmer switching teams, or a high school swimmer transitioning into a collegiate program, the process of joining a new team filled with unknown teammates and coaches can be very intimidating. You never know who you will meet or how they will have an impact on you. It might take some time to adapt to the new environment, new faces and different coaching styles, but it is crucial to look at every opportunity with an open mind.

New Teammates

Similarly to the last point, there will be times when new swimmers join your current team. This might make the team environment feel a little different than you are used to, but it is important to put yourself in their shoes and treat them the way that you would want to be treated. As a high school or collegiate athlete, it is good to be aware that the team changes each year due to people graduating and incoming freshman coming in. Sometimes those changes are exactly what your team needs which is why you should always look at a new season with an open mind. Certain things might not feel the same as they once did, but that is completely normal and that is why you should always make the most of your experiences.

Race Malfunctions

Many swimmers’ greatest fears are common: Tech suit ripping, cap ripping, goggles filling up with water off the start, or false starting their race. All of these unfortunate outcomes are not very likely, but they are still possible, making them a swimmer’s worst nightmare. These circumstances are unpredictable, and they always happen when you least expect them to. The best way to stay calm and avoid these situations is to prepare for them. Always bring an extra tech suit to the locker room, an extra cap behind the block and an extra pair of goggles to your meet in case your current ones are leaking. Make sure your goggles are on tight and suctioned to your face before getting up on the block. Practice reaction time drills to avoid false starting. Preparation is key and knowing how to handle these situations when they do happen will help you in the long run.

Missing Your Event

Similarly to the race malfunctions listed above, another common mistake among age group swimmers is missing an event. Sometimes officials will let you swim later with another heat, but other times, they won’t let you compete at all. Usually when swimmers miss an event, they either aren’t paying attention, or they weren’t aware of a heat/ lane change. This situation goes along with the idea of being prepared. Double and triple checking the heat sheet to make sure that you know when you are supposed to swim and that no changes to the heat sheet were made is a great idea for swimmers to do. Being able to adapt on the spot and get ready to potentially swim your event later than you were supposed to is an important role for swimmers to play.

Growing Pains

At some point during your swimming career, you are likely to experience hiccups. There will be times where you believe that you did everything in your power to succeed, but it didn’t play out the way that you had hoped it would. You might expect one outcome and be confronted by the opposite. Circumstances like these are not ideal or wanted, but they will definitely teach you a lot. The most crucial thing for a swimmer to do when this happens is adapt and move on. If you don’t perform well in a race at a meet, you cannot dwell on it. You must stay positive and move on so that you can focus on the next race that you have. Take situations like these and turn them into learning experiences. Ask yourself what you could have done better or differently to obtain a different outcome. Don’t beat yourself up when this happens but learn and grow from it instead.

There are so many situations in the sport of swimming that require athletes to plan, adapt, learn, grow and move forward. A lot of the time, these experiences are unexpected, but that is all a part of the learning process. I hope you enjoyed reading about the different adaptations that most swimmers will experience throughout their swimming career, and how to best prepare for them.

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