Sibling Rivalry in the Water: How to Make the Most of the Situation


Sibling Rivalry in the Water: How to Make the Most of the Situation

It’s no secret that younger siblings tend to try to copy or “take after” their older siblings. Close siblings even tend to play the same games, read the same books, and get involved in the same activities. Naturally, many swimmers also compete with their siblings and in doing so, inspire a whole new level of competition in the water.

But… is swimming with a sibling beneficial?

Sibling Rivalry… Is it a Good Thing?

Competition is a natural part of life, and one which many siblings are sure to take part in. Sibling competition can range anywhere from “who got the last piece of cake?” to “who won Uno last week?”

“Children want to be seen as the most special by their parents. So, they’re always going to push for preferential treatment over their siblings. But, they may also shape their interests and personalities around their siblings’ skills and desires,” Jessica Grose stated in an article on the New York Times website.

For example, an older sibling who has just been appointed captain of the swim team might inspire a younger sibling to join the same team. Alternatively, the younger sibling could avoid the team altogether, out of either annoyance or respect directed toward their older sibling’s position. Regardless, the outcome is a result of a deep bond between siblings. It is also a form of sibling rivalry.

When speaking to young athletes (who also compete with siblings), it is important for coaches and parents to be as respectful as possible. As in all competition, natural talent does exist.

One sibling could easily be naturally gifted, while the other has to work a little harder to keep up. Unfortunately, this dynamic can sometimes lead to jealousy. In addition to competing against rival swim teams, the siblings must now also compete against each other.

A pillar of “success” in an athlete’s mind might be based on whether or not they beat their brother or sister’s time. If swimming is a huge part of their life, this feeling of “success” can be even more intense. Someone could walk away from a race with the feeling of failure because they failed to match their sibling.

Despite this sense, many siblings maintain a healthy rivalry with each other.

The Healthy Side of a Rivalry

Not all sibling rivalries can be bad. In fact, many siblings who know each other well can build a healthy relationship from their time in the pool. Having a sibling can give young athletes a natural support system, or someone to look up to when they need advice. Even at the highest levels of competition, one can see siblings supporting each other.

One such example is the Deloof sisters. Ali, Catie, and Gabby Deloof are all world class athletes from the Univeristy of Michigan. All three will compete at the upcoming Olympic Trials and have long been supportive and encouraging of one another.

Instead of being jealous of natural talent, skill, or personality, siblings should instead focus on supporting each other and their individual goals. If your little sister wants to make a cut in the 200 freestyle, give her some helpful tips on how to do it. Make her dream become as real for you as it is for her. Maybe then, when you’re trying for a state cut in the 100 backstroke, she’ll be on deck cheering you on as well.

After all, most siblings compete on the same team. And every swimmer should be sure to support their teammates. It will only make everyone happier in the long run. A healthy, supportive environment is key to the positive side of sibling rivalry.

The Takeaway

Remember, its okay to be disappointed if a sibling breaks a record or beats another sibling’s best time. All of those feelings are natural.  However, it is important to consider how the other person might feel.

If you – a sibling – are a competitive person, that is okay. Even small, subtle gestures of support can be noticed. A quick head nod, a lopsided smile, a “congratulations” would certainly all be welcome. Later, you’ll be able to talk to your coach or parent about you feel. For now, try and let loose and celebrate. Things such as this can help give two siblings a wonderful and fun relationship.

After all… the water is a fun place to be – rivalry or not.

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Rosemary Niebauer
Rosemary Niebauer
3 years ago

Great article! Fun to read.

Bob Niebauer
Bob Niebauer
3 years ago

Great topic selection! This topic does not get discussed enough in Sports.

And Ms. Dunn did a great job with it!

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