Here in Florida, the count down has started to high school swim season. It’s almost time to put on your school colors, be recognized at pep rallies, and cheer your school-loving heart out! Each year an entirely new crop of students join the swim team, so here are a few tips on what those first-timers can expect.
1. You won’t be the slowest on the team.
And if you are club swimmer, chances are you may be one of the fastest. At most high schools, all students are encouraged to come out for the swim team and many school teams do not have any sort of cuts. So chances are there will be some true beginners in the pool, trying competitive swimming for the first time. So fear of performing should never hold you back from going out for your high school team.
2. 5 am alarm will be your best friend and worst enemy.
This may be your first time doing two-a-days, so welcome to the early-morning breakfast club! Plan on trying to figure out how to eat in the car on the way to practice, swim a few miles before school, sit in class counting the hours down until lunch, and then get right back in the pool after school gets out. We’d like to say you’ll get used to it but that’s kind of like saying you’ll get used to a splinter in your eye. Never gonna happen.
3. Your team will have your back.
There’s one thing about swimmers: we not only stick together but we stick up for own. Once you’ve proven your dedication to hard work in the pool, the rest of the team will have your back, especially those senior swimmers. So, while high school fears may include unwelcome bullies, you’ll have a built-in support group!
4. Scheduling time to do your homework is a thing now.
You’ve heard the saying, “Eat, swim, sleep, repeat” right? Now fit your homework somewhere in there. And remember, you are in high school, possibly with AP classes, SAT test prep, and volunteer work to boot. If you’ve never learned to schedule your day before, we guarantee you will get a crash course your first few weeks of school.
5. Wearing your team shirt in class will get your teachers’ attention.
Unlike club swimming where few of your school classmates ever hear about your swims, the school newspaper, morning announcements, and even the local newspaper will be reporting on your school team, so be prepared for some well-deserved recognition.
6. A fancy dinner will last longer than some of your meets.
The regular season features dual meets often with only one or two heats per event, so officials have to schedule in breaks and diving just so the swimmers can catch their breath in the warm down pool. Yep, this makes meets fun and fast-paced (parents love it!) but it also makes choosing your events a challenge as you might be competing in back-to-back swims within minutes of each other.
7. Pick your events wisely.
You are only allowed to compete in two individual events per meet, which allows more swimmers on the team to participate. (This is a good thing for high school swimming – there is rarely “riding the bench” like you see in other sports.) This also allows you to truly focus on your best events; but be warned, your coach may ask you to compete in two other events that will instead help the team score the most points. (And sometimes the coach knows his swim stuff, and sometimes he’s just a faculty member who agreed to take over!)
8. All eyes will be on Districts.
You have to make it through Districts to get to Regionals and then to get to the State meet, everyone’s ultimate goal. Unless you place in the top 2 at the District meet, you have to qualify for Regionals based on your time. So, some slower swimmers will taper for Districts, but then have to keep it going through the next few weeks in hopes of advancing all the way. Meanwhile faster swimmers won’t taper until State. Either way, it’s Districts that starts it all.
9. Your age group doesn’t matter anymore.
Whether you are a 7th grader (prep schools) or a 9th grader (public schools) you are still competing against juniors and seniors. Gone are the days of “aging up” and so you may find yourself standing on the blocks next to a 6’2″ returning state champion. Or, as often occurs in Florida, you’re swimming the anchor leg on a relay trying to pull a Jason Lezak on an Olympic Trial qualifier in the lane next to you.
10. Girls not shaving their legs is a good thing, but guys shaving their legs is an even better thing!
Just remember, your teammates are in the exact same boat. Most girls will go for the whole season with “au naturel” leg hair, hoping to produce as much drag as possible. Meanwhile, you guys will learn how to shave not only your legs, but your arms, back, stomach, and chest when you are getting ready for your end of season championship meet!
So all you first-timers preparing to join your high school team, get ready for what can turn out to be one of the most fun and rewarding experiences! Go team!