Mike's Mailbag: When You're the Fastest in Your Group

Mike's Mailbag: When You're the Fastest in Your Group

By Mike Gustafson//Contributor  | Monday, March 5, 2018

Every Monday, I answer questions from swimmers around the country. If you have a question that you’d like answered on USASwimming.org or in Splash Magazine, please email me at swimmingstories@gmail.com, and I’ll try my best to answer.



I am super passionate about swimming, but right now I am feeling very frustrated with swimming because I am the fastest swimmer in my group and whenever my coach gives a set, everybody but me thinks it is a hard set. The sets we do are always super easy. I am always first in my lane and if we do 100s or 200s I usually lap the last person in my lane, even though I was first, and my friends get mad at me because I either lap them or they want to go first but I won’t let them because I am faster, or the coach tells them no because I am faster.

I know that my coach knows I want to move up groups and I think she might move me up soon, because she always lets me practice with the team above me, but I am always feeling weird doing that because she said I am the only one she will let practice with them from my group because I am the only one who can keep up. Also, I feel like I hurt my friends’ feelings.

-Fastest In The Group



Hey Fastest,

Competing among friends can always feel weird, and tricky, and strange. On the one hand, you really want everyone to get along and be friends. You want to have fun, you want to support each other, and you want everyone to experience success. On the other hand, you also want to succeed, be the first in your lane, be the best in your event, and drop lots of time and win medals.

A lot of people think these two ideas are different.

I don’t.

Competing and friendships go together. They balance each other out. Rarely does an athlete ever reach the top of one’s event without some kind of support network — a network of fellow teammates, coaches, family, and friends. Elite level athletes need that support network to succeed, to fend off pressure, and to be the best they can be.

The same theory can be applied to teammates: You want your teammates to be fast, because the faster they are, the faster your practice sets will be, the faster your relays will be, and the more you’ll learn about the sport. While this may mean fewer medals for you, in the long run, you’ll be challenged more by faster teammates and likely train harder, train better, and train smarter.

Don’t feel guilty about moving up practice groups. Right now, in your competitive career, you just need more of a challenge. Right now, you’re not being challenged enough. You need to move up in order to really improve — and your teammates and friends will understand that. These are teammates who will be on relays with you. These are teammates who will one day compete alongside you. True teammates root each other on rather than root against one another.

One day, these teammates might be faster than you. So, remember: Just like you want them to support your own endeavors to move up training groups and practice harder and improve, you should also be there for them, supporting them, cheering them on — even if they beat you one day.

While your friends may miss your presence in their training group, they should understand that you just need to be in the faster group. It doesn’t help them any to be lapped in longer sets, either. You’re helping them by moving up — swimmers should train with other swimmers their own speed.

And don’t worry so much about hurt feelings. Just continue to be a supportive, kind, empathetic teammate in the same ways you want them to be supportive, kind, and empathetic towards you.

I hope this helps.



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