The Highs and Lows (But Mostly Highs) of Swimming With Siblings

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Commentary By Jamie Kolar, Swimming World College Intern.

Sisters and brothers, brothers and sisters. The sibling relationship is usually the longest lasting relationship that you will have within your life; it is a special bond that cannot be replicated anywhere else. The support and love that you receive from a sibling is really something special, but that’s not to say that sibling rivalry doesn’t come with the territory. No one is going to challenge or push you harder than your sibling, but on the flip side, no one else is going to defend you better than your sibling.

Every sibling relationship is unique and not all get along, but here is anecdotal evidence of the impact that sibling support can have on your swimming career.

Swimming with a Sister

“Swimming with my sister has been the greatest gift of my life. It has not always been smooth sailing, as most people with siblings can attest, but there is no one I would have rather have made this journey with,” says a collegiate swimmer.

Kolar sisters

Photo Courtesy: Julie Kolar

She continues:

The greatest example of this was from the NCSA meet in March of 2016. I was swimming the 100 backstroke and was going for my Olympic Trial cut and had been close for about two years but missed it every time: This was my last shot. When it was race time, my sister stood behind my lane and yelled at the top of her lungs when they announced my name before the race and even harder during the race.

I looked up at the scoreboard and thought I had missed the cut once again. After being disappointed for a few seconds, the first person I went to was my sister, who I knew would be there to console me. Instead, she happily corrected me instantly and we both cried tears of joy. It was not only my journey, but hers as well. She had been the one to push me in practice, help me through the problem of the day and was the one to bet that she could beat me when we raced. We had truly gone through the experience together, and I could not have done it without her.


Photo Courtesy: Annie Grevers

Reciprocal sisterly support makes the bond that much sweeter:

On the flip side, this year was her turn. I had gone home from college to watch her swim at her last state meet, and I could tell that she was happy to have me there, even if she didn’t directly say it. The 100 butterfly was her first event, and she was nervous. She hadn’t dropped time in that event in a while and so desperately wanted to. I could feel in my bones that it was going to be a good swim, but you never know until her hands hit the touch pad. So I waited and yelled non-stop for about a minute until her hands hit that wall to show that she had finally swum the time she wanted – and dropped three seconds. She ran upstairs in the stands to find me and we once again cried tears of joy. She needed me as much as I needed her.


Photo Courtesy: Michael Zoltowski

Brothers and Sisters

This relationship is not just for sisters – it also applies to sisters and brothers. A swimmer for West Swim Club in Chicago recalls her best memory of swimming with her brother:

I was at a travel meet, and it wasn’t going super well. We talked during the meet and he just kept telling me to shrug it off; he gave me some pep talks and cheered for me before and after all of my races until I finally pulled through on my last race. I was right on my best time in the morning and was super excited to come back for finals. He knew I had been trying to beat that time for two years, so he knew how much it meant to me. Right before I got up on the blocks, he wished me luck and then during the race, I went to breathe and saw that he brought almost the entire team right next to my lane to cheer for me. When I saw that, I was just so happy he was there for me and supported me in this way. I ended up going a best time; I couldn’t have done it without him!


Photo Courtesy: Cathleen Pruden

In general, no one else quite understands you like your sibling. Swim siblings get the added bonus of doing almost everything with each other, like going to practice or meets. The car rides to and from practice are great sibling bonding time; you get to sit and scream out your favorite songs on the radio, talk about practice or just simply how your day was.

Realistically, arguments arise from time to time but neither of you can stay mad at each other for very long, because you know that you couldn’t function the same without the other. They are the only ones who truly understand the work you put in and out of the pool. Sure, it’s probably dysfunctional at times, but what fun would it be if it wasn’t?


Photo Courtesy: Nicole Caudill

The overall take-away is that your siblings are really your best friends and biggest supporters. They will be there for those big moments in your career – but more importantly, all of the little ones that lead up to them. Be there for each other. Support them, no matter how dysfunctional. You might be surprised by how far you can go together!

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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Author: Jamie Kolar

Jamie Kolar is a junior at the the University of Illinois studying health sciences. She swims backstroke, freestyle and butterfly and is a 2106 Olympic Trial qualifier in the 100 backstroke as well as a multiple state record holder in Illinois.

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