The Importance of Team and Unity – They Can’t Be Overstated

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To all of the swimmers and divers, you all know what it’s like to feel somewhat unmotivated in the pool. This could come from those lovely 6:30 morning practices that make you not want to literally do anything the rest of the day. What keeps you going then? The answer is simple: your team.

Why does a team even matter? Swimming and diving are pretty much individual sports. The only time I need a team is on a relay or in synchronized diving. 

Merriam-Webster defines a team as “a number of persons associated together in work or activity: such as a group on one side.” But a swim team is so much more than that. A swim team is family, the people who teach you, inspire you and motivate you. 

When it comes to competitions, even at the club level all the way up to the college level, swimmers and divers are competing for their own personal bests and to beat out the rest of the competition. However, they do it as one beating heart.

Teammates are built-in cheerleaders. At dual and championship meets, spectators, even the ones solely focused on one kid, will notice teammates gather at each end of the pool whistling and screaming GO! at the top of their lungs. Their urge to motivate and cheer is itself a propulsive force. Teammates should sit down as little as possible when their teammates are on the blocks. When it comes to divers on the boards, the team could develop a quieter way of cheering them on like a single or double clap after they hear the degree of difficulty being announced.     

The way a college team represents itself in and out of the pool will often influence which school a recruit will choose in their college search across all NCAA divisions. When recruits visit college swim and dive programs, team dynamics are a critical part of the decision. How do teammates act toward one another? Is every teammate included? If recruits come to view part of a practice, is there any energy and positivity? And, importantly, if a recruit is able to watch a meet, what’s the vibe on deck? Is the word “family” used when swimmers describe their teams?

Beyond endless hours in the water, what helps build a family is team bonding out of the pool. To build a close-knit family feel, teams can get together for game nights or movie nights. Academic support, such as assistance with homework or creating team study groups can be part of the process as well.

In addition, there are activities designed specifically to build teamwork and team communication skills. An example of this is a “make a team with” activity, in which a coach or captain would shout out instructions like “make a team with people with the same favorite color as you,” and everyone “teams” based on those similarities. Or perhaps a simple sharing event in which teammates reveal personal stories about themselves in an open, honest way that encourages stronger connections.  

This spring, when colleges and high schools throughout the United States found their pools closed and their teams separated, coaches, captains, and swimmers had to ask themselves: how do we keep the team together? This is where social media has come in to save the day. Swimmers and divers figured out other ways to have movie nights and game nights. For example, for some, movie nights have turned into Netflix parties or finding a virtual multiplayer game online. Team captains and coaches have arranged team Zoom calls to check in during quarantine. Some teammates have found ways to work out together over Zoom with someone leading yoga or a bodyweight workout. 

College swimming and diving programs across the United States have put out their own bingo boards filled with unique aspects. The swim and dive programs have their own traditions such as taping psych ups to walls and/or lockers for competitions with memes, which could be added to a bingo square in some way by saying “been made into a meme.” There could also be let’s say interesting moments included as well like getting sprayed by a hose if they’re late getting into the pool for practices. 

Still other teams have created video compilations. Bowling Green State University (BGSU) posted a TikTok of their swim and dive team “practicing social distancing all across the world” by individually doing a pound and swipe to the next teammate all to the beat of We Will Rock You by Queen. Another video showing young swimmers from RSA Swim Club in North Carolina passing their caps and goggles to their teammates. There seems to have been an interest in keeping the spirits high and the family together. 

They say there’s no “I” in t-e-a-m. While that may be true, there is actually an eye in team. The eye comes from teammates looking out for each other in and out of the pool, just like close family members do instinctively. After all, team does stand for: The Energy Always Motivates. Swim and dive athletes may prepare and compete individually, but they come together and stay together as a family, in and out of the pool. 

2 comments

  1. avatar
    Judy

    Fabulous job Ms. Gigi! I love the article. It’s a beautiful reminder of how wonderful being on a close knit team that sticks together in and out of the pool can be!!! Looking forward to reading your next article. -Mrs. Rose

  2. avatar
    Bruce

    Good advice, a constructive article. Thank you.