Changing club teams is not a decision to be made lightly. However, there are times that it might be worth considering. If there have been changes at the current club in terms of coaches or club management, you might want to at least research your options. Also, if your swimmer has changed with regard to goals, ability or future swimming plans, there could be another team that would be a better fit.
In my son’s case, we experienced several of these and he decided to explore his options. Changing club swim teams is a very difficult process so, before jumping in, here are 5 factors to consider.
Teammates are often a swimmer’s closest friends. They typically spend more time with them than with school friends or anyone else. In many cases, teammates have known each other for many years. It is sad to leave long-term friends and staying in touch with them requires time and effort when you no longer see them every day.
Another consideration is how your swimmer will fit in with the new teammates. Are they people he will want to hang out with every day? Are they good training partners with a similar work ethic? On some teams, the guys and girls socialize together and on others, they keep to themselves. Some teams are very tight and you can feel the bond when you are with them.
There are no right answers here but a swimmer needs to decide where they are most comfortable. It is helpful to attend a couple of practices with a potential team if possible to see what the kids and the practices are like.
Swimmers spend so much time with each other that they are bound to get tired of one another from time to time. Be sure your swimmer is not just experiencing a temporary feeling of frustration with current teammates before using this as a reason to switch teams. My son typically felt this way in December each year during “holiday hell” when they were training doubles with high intensity and he was physically and emotionally exhausted. I just listened to him vent and knew it would eventually pass.
Is The Problem With The Swimmer Or The Team?
Although it can be difficult, your swimmer needs to really do some soul-searching before changing teams. If they are experiencing a lack of motivation or commitment, they need to determine whether the problem is the team or changes within themselves. It is common for swimmers to plateau and for their motivation to wane at times. This is usually temporary and can occur for a variety of reasons. Before jumping to a different team, a swimmer should meet with her current coach to review performance goals, etc. It is also a good idea to let the coach know if you are feeling frustrated or less motivated as they can also help you through it. If the issue is conflict with the current coach or the coach is leaving, this obviously does not apply!
If a swimmer has reached the point where she just does not enjoy swimming anymore or there are other activities she would rather participate in, changing teams is not going to solve this problem.
Meet Schedule – Traveling vs Hosting
Another consideration when evaluating teams is the meet schedule. Some teams host nearly all of their meets, requiring parents to volunteer, while others travel to most of the meets. Ideally, a team will have a balance. The convenience of having most of the meets at a home pool means that your swimmer (and you!) will sleep in his own bed during meets and you will not have to spend money at restaurants all weekend. On the other hand, you may have to volunteer at single or multiple sessions. Some parents do not mind this as you get a great view of the pool and it makes the meet go much faster. I always enjoyed volunteering as sitting in the stands can get mighty boring and I liked interacting with the swimmers and watching the races up close.
When teams travel a lot, it can be family travel or team travel. Family travel can provide good quality time with your swimmer driving to and from the meet and in the hotel. This quality time often depends on how well your swimmer is doing at that meet. (There were many weekends when I wished I had my own room!) Travel can also be expensive and requires time away from your spouse, other children, work, etc. Team travel is where the swimmers travel with the coaches and maybe a couple of chaperones. This is certainly the easiest option but you do not get to see your swimmer race. Following along on Meet Mobile is not the same!
None of these options are necessarily better than others – it is more a matter of what works best for your family. We were on a team that hosted 19 meets per year which was crazy in terms of volunteering. Another team traveled to every single meet one year as parents would not volunteer the year before. They were eager to volunteer after that! The team my son is on now has a nice balance of the three options.
Sometimes a swimmer is ready for a change if he wants an increase or decrease in intensity of training. This can occur due to changes in coaching philosophy at a current club or changes in a swimmer’s goals.
If a swimmer wants to participate in other activities and/or is not planning to swim in college, she may decide to change groups or clubs in order to practice less frequently or for a shorter time each day. She may even just want the intervals and drills to be less difficult. More often, a swimmer may realize that their current level of training is not going to get them to the level where they want to be. This can also be due to changes in coaching philosophy or a coach leaving. Regardless of the reason, this is a very legit reason for changing teams.
Researching other local teams, meeting with coaches, and trying out practices is a good way to figure out which team has the training intensity your swimmer desires.
Different teams also have different philosophies regarding dryland training. Some teams use yoga, others incorporate weight training, others focus mainly on cardio and running, and some have almost no dryland training. In addition, some teams use professional trainers or dedicated dryland coaches while other programs are coach-led and others are primarily unsupervised. I was never comfortable when my son was in a group where dryland was not supervised. I was afraid of injuries occurring and of the swimmers slacking off and not getting much out of it.
As my son got older, he could see that the swimmers on other teams were getting stronger than he was. He asked around and discovered that there was far more focus on dryland on some teams than others. This was a large part of his decision to change teams.
Practice Schedule and Location
Swimmers have difficult schedules trying to juggle school, swimming, family, and social activities among others so the convenience of practice times and locations have to be taken into account. No matter how much your swimmer loves the team across town, it may not be practical if he (or you!) have to drive an hour each way to get to practice every day.
Practice times may interfere with school hours or other commitments as well. Some teams require morning practice multiple times per week. Your swimmer has to decide if he can handle that plus perform well in school. It may require better use of lunch hours at school or cramming more school work into the weekend to accomplish it.
The vast majority of swimmers are students first and must be able to maintain good grades so time commuting and practices make a difference.
My son evaluated all of the factors listed above, some weighing more heavily than others. His old team was in a far more convenient location and did not include morning practices. In addition, he had been swimming with the same kids since he was 8 years old and many of them were his best friends. However, due to some instability at his team, he was concerned that the training was not going to be intense enough to help meet his goal of swimming at a Division I mid-major program in college. He knew he had to become better at time management and even decided not to take AP Biology (a course he had looked forward to) his senior year in order to allow for the increased time practicing and driving to and from practice.
Ultimately he decided that the quality of training outweighed the other factors and he changed teams. The transition was difficult as he left behind his long-term friends and the kids on the new team had known each other for years. An interesting effect of his switch was that he became closer to many of his school friends as he was not socializing only with swim friends in his free time. He did make new swim friends and discovered that there were actually better training partners on the new team. Within a couple of months, he could tell that he was getting stronger and faster and that he made the right move.
Changing club swim teams is typically not a decision that can be undone so be sure to consider it carefully. I hope these tips are as helpful to you as they were to us!
Michelle Lombana is committed to helping parents like her whose children want to swim in college. When she’s not working on swim time spreadsheets, she can be found at www.collegeswimmingguide.com.
Make A Splash!
Subscribe to get the free newsletter and learn how to prepare your swimmer to swim in college.