Junior Rebecca Waterson (back right, blue hoodie) and her teammates learn how to make hats and blankets. (Photo courtesy of Tara Halsted)


What is a team?

At first thought, it’s a group of people working together to achieve the same goal.

But swimming doesn’t fit so well under that category; it’s a series of individual races, and each person’s goal is to get a best time and beat the person next to them — even if they swim for the same club.

Yet there’s a reason most swimmers train as a group instead of individually. Despite the idea of swimming being independent, it truly is a team sport.

When I was 12, I was an unattached (UN)  swimmer, which meant I trained by myself and didn’t pay a team to swim with it. I thought I would be fine; I was a dedicated swimmer with lofty goals.

My mom would drop me off at the pool with a fellow UN swimmer who used to swim with me on the Truckee Tahoe Swim Team (TTST). I’d be holding a Ziploc bag with a printed workout generated by a computer program my dad had made in one hand and my phone with a dryland workout app on it in the other.

The first week, my friend and I swam every workout perfectly. But we were bored, so we decided to spice up the sets a bit with longer intervals, more drills and less yardage.

Then I started going to the pool by myself; my friend had lost her love for swimming. I could feel my own enjoyment slipping too; without anyone to pace myself against or talk to, I felt lonely and unmotivated. Swimming just wasn’t as appealing as it had been.

Fast forward to present day, as I’m waiting on the wall with my teammate Keianna between sets.

“Is it too late to switch sports?” she asks.

“I wish I played golf,” I say with a smile.

“Yes! Or shuffleboard,” Keianna replies, stretching her arms.   

Despite our complaints, we really don’t want to stop swimming. There are days we really don’t want to get in the pool, but all my teammates can agree that by the end of practice, we feel much better.

I credit this feeling to how supportive a team is. When I swam by myself, I’d feel bad getting in the water and worse getting out. I associated everything sour with the pool since I only ever felt bored or angry there.

Now, though, I can’t wait to get back to the pool for another practice.

Recently, another teammate — Tara — held a Saturday breakfast and Crochet 101 session. After practice, most of the team went to her house to learn how to make hats and blankets.

“I’m so excited, honestly. I’ve been looking forward to this all week!” my teammate Sanne exclaimed as she stirred a pan of scrambled eggs.

“I did not expect all the boys to come,” Keianna commented.

“I’m going to start a knitting club at school,” Sanne replied.

It had been freezing and windy at practice, and everyone was stressed about a big meet a few days later, but being able to spend the morning at Tara’s making breakfast for one another and playing around with yarn made everything seem OK.

“We could be that team that crochets at meets,” Salome said with a laugh. A chorus of agreement followed her statement.

“What if every Saturday we had a team meeting where we learn something? Like, next week we can do friendship bracelets!” she added.

“We’re going to be in Texas next week.”

“Oh, right. But you get the idea!”

Come Sunday morning, everyone started to brag about their escapades to Michaels so they could get more yarn and crochet needles.

“I expect a lot of hats and scarves from everyone,” our coach joked. “Everyone is required to make me something.”

“I’m bringing a loom on the plane!” Sanne said, setting off a chain of people listing what they would also bring.

I’ve never seen a team so excited for a travel swim meet.Little things make a team. For DART, that little thing is our newfound love of knitting and crocheting. Races might be individual, but without a close-knit community of swim team support, the sport wouldn’t be as fun!

—By Rebecca Waterson

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