Individual vs. Team Sport

In most circles, swimming is categorized as an individual sport. Each swimmer has full control over the outcome of her race. Unlike team sports, you don’t have to rely on anyone else to win. Swimming is an individual sport- except for in college.

College swimming couldn’t be more of a team sport. While, each person has her own individual races, college meets are based off of a point system. At a college meet, each place is given a specific point value and are as follows:

  • First place scores 9 points
  • Second place- 4
  • Third place- 3
  • Fourth place- 2
  • Fifth- 1

The teams combine their points and at the end of all the scheduled events, whichever team has the most points wins.

This point system gives each race a higher stake. Instead of swimming for a best time, you swim for your teams points. Often, swimmers find themselves swimming events not because she wants too, but because that is where the team needs her too. In college, the swimmer swims for the team, not for herself.

Take it from my own experience. I entered college as a 200 butterflyer / 200 freestyler. I joined a college team lacking any true distance swimmers. As a result, I was placed in the distance events, often swimming the mile at dual meets. It wasn’t because I wanted to swim the mile, it was because that was where the team needed me to score. Now in my senior year, I am a solid distance swimmer who proudly swims the mile at every meet because I know that this is where I can contribute most to my team.

College dual meets break the illusion that swimming is an individual sport. Races are swam for the team. There is more pride in winning an event or scoring a high amount of points than there is in getting a best time. It is the combined effort of each swimmer that results in wins. Swimming may appear to be an individual sport, but it is anything but.


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