By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Monday, December 5, 2016Every Monday, I answer questions from swimmers around the country. If you have a question, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'm thinking about quitting my swim team. I mean, I still love it, but people who I used to be lapping are nowpassing me. All my friends moved up to the next group. I'm just not having fun anymore. I used to look forward to practice, but now I dread it. I think of it as time I spend getting lapped by people I don't like and missing my friends. Should I just tough it out and see if it gets better, or try a different sport? I'm only 12 and I don't know if I'm happy swimming, I need advice, please help.
- Confused Swimmer
Hi Confused Swimmer,
When I was 12, I had my comfortable group of friends and teammates, like you. We were a solid, tight-knit group. We played basketball together outside of swim practice, we had sleepovers, we hung out at each other’s homes, and we were best friends. We had a great time. I looked forward to practice every single day.
That lasted for two years. Then, when I turned 14, I started high school. Since I swam for a club that attracted swimmers from all over, many of my club teammates attended different high schools. We parted ways, heading off to other high school teams, other teammates, other practice squads.
High school swimming was a drastic change. I had some friends on the team, but I was the youngest person in the group. Suddenly, my close-knit club swimming group wasn’t in the lane next to me. Instead, there were new faces, new names, new personalities.
At first, the change was difficult, physically and emotionally. I missed my club team and teammates. The older kids seemed like giants—especially the seniors. As a freshman, and the youngest on the team, I was the new kid on the block. And those first few weeks were hard, meeting new people, doing new practices, and interacting with new teammates.
But by the end of that season, several months later, those same high school teammates (even the seniors) became even closer than my club teammates. We had swim team parties and we hung out during holiday training. By the time our final relay finished the season at our conference championship, I realized I would miss these high school teammates even more.
My point is: Give your new teammates time. Friendships, especially new ones, take time to evolve. You don’t expect a tree to grow overnight. But over the years, friendships are like trees that take root and grow.
Fifteen years later, my high school friendships made during those high school swim team days are as strong as any other friendships made throughout my swimming years. A few months ago, I hung out with a few old high school teammates. One of those teammates recently had his first child. We shared old memories about lots of things, including high school swimming.
It may seem like you don’t like your new teammates. It may seem like quitting is the answer. And eventually you may realize you want to try a different sport. But you’ve already committed to swimming and you’ve already signed up for swimming. Give it time. See if new friendships begin to sprout. Don’t make a sudden decision just because a few friends changed training groups. Over the course of your career, many swimming friends will depart for many other avenues. Some will quit the team. Others will join other teams. Others will go to college. Some will play soccer or basketball or take up interest in photography and never swim again. And that’s okay.
Over my career, I’ve had hundreds of teammates. Most of them turned into good friends. It didn’t happen overnight. But years later, those friendships are the ones I am most thankful for, and they were because of swimming.
Again: Give it time. See how this season goes. At the end of the season, re-evaluate and make a decision — not because those old friends moved on, but because you want to move on.
I hope this helps.