The Individual Team Sport

Over the past few weeks I had a hard time to find my way to the pool. Life as a soldier finishing up my duties with the Swiss Armed Forces and the winter weather have been issues but the biggest issue was being teamless (think I just made up a new word). Besides not finding the time to go swim what was missing when I actually made it were my teammates. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind to go and swim on my own, mix up lane lanes with the “normal” people. I can do a set and push myself, it’s just not the same.

I remember the time when it used to be my coach and I almost every early morning…just the two of us…him ready to send me to hell and back…I ready to chase my dreams…both of us working to achieve a goal, working for a swim that won’t even last over a minute. Just the two of us, yet it wasn’t the same. Although I did swim almost every morning on my own and often did different workouts than my teammates in the evening, I was part of something bigger…a TEAM!

Success is viral…when I did well, most of the time my team did as well (and the other way around). Not just in practice but mostly in meets…it’s like a invisible force that is pushing you. It gives you a mental boost to watch your teammates do well and makes you believe that you can do the same.

Then again, unless it’s a relay what do you care if your teammates have a good meet or not as long as it’s going well for yourself. You’re still going to celebrate a good race at the end of it even if one of your teammates has a bad day. You worked hard to be successful and it feels good to reach a goal…no matter what. Yes, in that moment it’s all you and that’s ok!

And then the other day, I found this quote by US swimmer and WR holder Mike Troy:

Swimming is a wonderful sport. You don’t have to count on four, ten or elven other guys as a team sport. You do well or you don’t do well. You can swim a 100 free a 100 times in competition and never win but you can always improve. Only one person can be number one at any time but everybody else can be a winner! -Mike Troy, Gold Medal Swim School

Mike’s right…although only one person can be number one, we can always improve and be a winner…even I can. To cheer me up, I went to last year’s Masters National and won the 100m breaststroke, a first for a former backstroker and recent butterflyer. I’m a winner…but somehow it’s not the same.

You might think it’s normal…Masters Nationals…probably not the toughest competition out there. And you might be right but only one person can be number one at any time, remember?

So why do I still take more pride those days in a timed 100 fly showing up during a practice with my team when I know there’s no way I can do well against my teammates that have been training unlike myself? Is it pride or what we call team spirit? Probably both…you don’t want to get beat by your teammates but they also push you to do better than you would without them.

That night I surprised myself, my teammates and even my coach had a good word after that 100m fly. Although this time it was only for one practice and not a whole season, we knew this 100 was coming up at the end and we shared the pain during the actual workout that we had to go through first and did it together as a TEAM.

If I completely lost you by now, don’t worry…it’s confusing! We swimmers do all of this for our won success but swimming definitely wouldn’t be the same without a team.

Is it or is it not a team sport? Watch the video “Swimming is a Team Sport” and listen to Gary Hall Sr. telling the story of the 1976 Men’s US Olympic Swim Team and if you want take the poll on The Race Club website and let’s hear your thoughts.

To my teammates!

Lancy Natation Tenerife 2010
Lancy Natation Elite Team, Tenerife 2010