Four Traits that Competitive Swimming Can Teach You

Swimming is an age-old pursuit. As humans, we have a special relationship with water, for obvious reasons. We need water for survival and sustenance. We need it for hygiene. But water also enters our consciousness for immaterial reasons. The way we speak is full of ideas connected to water. We talk about how an argument flows. We describe unfriendly personal interactions as icy. When we encounter a string of problems in quick succession, we throw up our hands: “When it rains, it pours”. So water, even in desert cultures, is always somewhere in the mind’s eye. 


It’s no surprise, then, that swimming has formed an important part of human activity since time immemorial. We even have cave paintings that depict Ancient Egyptians swimming in distinct styles. In our own modern era, almost all human activities have been turned into competitions of some sort. However we might feel about that, the fact is that swimming is one of the best venues for children to learn to compete with, and cooperate with, other people. It’s also an ideal sport for people of all ages, because of the unique way in which it combines solitary effort with group dynamics. In this article, we will be looking at why this is the case.


Swimming is a skill that people have to learn. Like almost all skills, the best way to learn is in a group, under the instruction of an expert. A competent swimming coach will instil the correct technique and posture from the beginning, and a good team will provide a context for each member to benefit from his or her peers. However, to be a successful swimmer, you need to absorb knowledge, knuckle down and work hard. This means long hours of training, most of it in the relative solitude of being underwater. You have to make friends with the black line at the bottom of the pool, and you are always in competition with yourself. The pleasure of improving our time, by fractions of second, has to be enough for you. You don’t even get to hear your friends and family cheering for you, unlike you do in other sports, because, well, you can’t hear them! In short, you have to become self-reliant, otherwise you will simply give up. The value of this disposition is hard to estimate. It’s especially important for children, because self-reliant children become competent, resilient adults.


In addition to having to motivate themselves, swimmers have to be patient. Results don’t accrue overnight, and there will be plenty of setbacks. Sometimes, progress will slow down drastically, even while training and good diet continues. There is such a thing as a plateau, and you will be there at some point. All that you can do is keep at it, training hard and eating properly. If you really want to get serious with swimming, you will have to make some sacrifices in terms of what you put into your body and how much time you spend on other pursuits. 

Losing with Grace

In many sports, the spectacle of the sore loser is a kind of cliche. Most of us can remember seeing certain tennis players or soccer players throwing tantrum. You may have even seen professional sportspeople refuse to congratulate a victorious opponent. But you’ll have a much harder time thinking of a famous swimmer who is guilty of this. It’s hard to say exactly why this is the case. It’s possible that nobody wants to behave poorly when he still has to duck under lane ropes to get out the pool. Or it might be that if you come third, you’re going to have to occupy a podium the Gold and the Silver. Another possibility is that there’s just less room for error in judging who the winner is, nowadays. Whatever the cause, swimming is not a sport that is known for poor sportsmanship or sore losers.

Rising early

This one might sound out of place but it’s really important. It’s so important, in fact, that it frequently gets included in the list of indispensable habits of successful people. Why might this be? Well, anyone who has undergone serious swimming training knows that a lot of this happens early in the morning. It turns out there are some physiological advantages to doing it this way. But for many people, students and adults alike, it’s just a matter of finding enough time in the day to fit it in. Swimmers get up bright and early and begin the day with a bout of intense exercise. This builds their strength and sets them up for lifelong health. For students, it has the further advantage of helping them focus on their schoolwork.

Swimming and Character

There are many more, but these four traits are among the most valuable things that you can learn from swim training. Wherever you are in your journey as a swimmer, it’s likely that you are being challenged to develop these qualities. As you progress, you will find that you are stronger in some areas than others, and the satisfaction you gain from personal growth is every bit as enjoyable as winning medals.


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April 8th, 2020|0 Comments

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