The Competitive Lane

By Jeannie Howard

Photo Credit Richmond Sailfish

Swim meets are where swimmers compete against the clock to reach their personal best and cheer on their teammates as they race.

Participating in swim lessons are a popular youth activity and after a few years of participating, many families want a more intensive level of training but the leap into recreational or year-round competitive swimming can seem like an overwhelming commitment. John Schonder, head coach of the Richmond Sailfish team, said that being a part of a year-round swim team is a bit more of a commitment but the benefits are worth it.

Swimming offers kids, and adults, several health benefits, according to Schoner, such as being a cardiovascular and strength workout, because of the thickness of the water, but without the risk of injuries often experienced in other sports. Schoner also emphasizes the social benefits of being on a swim team. “Although swimming is a team sport, it’s more of an individual based sport; it’s you against the clock and trying to get a personal best time. So, it can be less stressful for kids who many not have felt comfortable in team sports, like baseball or basketball,” he explained. “You get all of the benefits of being on a team—you get to make friends and have that positive support system—but you don’t have that pressure of having to make the winning goal for someone else’s success.”

Unlike seasonal, or recreational, swimming teams or lessons, which are often only a couple days each week in the summer, competitive teams will typically practice daily. While some teams do have a minimum attendance requirement, Schonder said that the Sailfish team does not. “We offer practice Monday through Friday and the only swimmers that have an attendance requirement are those that receive a scholarship rate. They are required to maintain a sixty percent attendance rate.”

To help encourage families from a wide range of economic backgrounds to join the team, the Richmond Sailfish offer a fifty percent scholarship rate to qualified families. “We give about 25 percent of our team spots each year as scholarship spots,” said Schonder.