ARTSWIM 101: Why do Artistic Swimmers Practice so much?

The Complicated Sport of Artistic Swimming

Many people who are new to artistic swimming are completely astounded at the amount of hours these athletes practice. They may know people who have their children in other sports who practice only a fraction of the hours of artistic swimmers. To be truthful, artistic swimmers do practice more than most other athletes in other sports. The reason being, artistic swimming is a very complicated sport. Above the glitter of competition-day makeup, the hours it takes to make something very difficult look easy is the reason why these swimmers need to put in so many hours.

In some ways, artistic swimming is a sport that is a combination of several sports – all rolled into one. Athletes need to be able to swim proficiently and efficiently – like speed swimmers, be as flexible as gymnasts, have the endurance of marathon runners, and the speed of sprinters. They have to have strength to lift their teammates in “highlights” – and the “fliers” need to learn the skills of divers to execute jumps, dives, and flips off their team-mates. Athletes have to think and train and have the posture and grace of dancers – by swimming to counts of eight on music, remembering changes to routines, and being in “synch” with their team mates. All the while they learn to hold their breath and do this upside down!!!

Its no wonder then why they practice so much. It takes a significant amount of time to incorporate all this work into a fabulous routine! Most provincial-level teams in artistic swimming clubs practice anywhere from 6 hours a week for the youngest swimmers up to about 15 hours a week for the older swimmers. National level teams bring the level of difficulty of the routines to a much higher level – and hence must practice even more- starting at a younger age. Most National-level teams in artistic swimming clubs start with at least 12 hours for the youngest swimmers and move upwards to 15 to 25 hours a week by the time they are are sixteen years old.

So what exactly are our daytime High-Performance swimmers doing?? Most athletes on all teams are doing combinations of the same sorts of things but at different times, and for different lengths of time. All receive swim- stroke correction from an Etobicoke Swim Club speed-swimmer coach, daily swim endurance training (laps), diving instruction from a qualified diving coach, figures instruction and drills with artistic swimming coaches, dance and flexibility with a dance coach, yoga, strength and weight training with coaches and trainers, and lots of lots of team, duet and solo routine work including land-drilling and practice in the pool.

However, each team practices a different amount of hours a week. On the Black team (12 & under), the swimmers train 17.5 hours a week, the 13-15 National (Gold) team practice 20 hours a week, and the Jr. Fina team practice 25 hours a week. In addition, all teams attend practices twice a month on Saturdays usually for another 3 to 5 hours. And then…..they go to school!

On the whole, artistic swimmers tend to be very organized and hard working individuals. They develop lifelong friendships and time-management skills that they take with them into school and their future careers. They learn how to function as team members, and work well under pressure and stress. Most parents would agree that the lessons their swimmers have learned from artistic swimming are invaluable!