There are negative swimmers on every team. How should you deal with them?

WHEN YOU DON’T GET ALONG WITH TEAMMATES

11/10/2014

BY MIKE GUSTAFSON//CORRESPONDENT, USA SWIMMING

Every Monday I answer questions from swimmers and Swim People from around the country. If you have a question, please email me at swimmingstories@gmail.com. Due to volume I can’t respond to every question. Thank you for your patience.

Hey Mike,


I’ve been thinking about quitting swimming lately. I wake up everyday knowing I have to go to practice and I don’t want to. The team isn’t helping with the situation either. The members of the team are some of the most judgmental people I’ve ever known, they criticize and judge everything anyone does and it’s hard to not let that effect me. I feel like by hanging out with them I was becoming a more hypocritical judgmental person and that is not what I want to be known for. Recently I’ve distanced myself from the team and now I feel completely left out in the cold. Any advice on what I should do?

Sincerely,
Confused

——

Hey Confused,

In a perfect Swim World, teams and teammates would all get along. Lane mates would be encouraging andsupportive, teammates would stand and cheer for each other every race, and everyone would be best friends. Sometimes this happens. Other times it doesn’t. Most times, it’s often a mixture—some teammates are cordial and supportive, others are judgmental.

Once, a teammate of mine threatened to “punch me in the mouth.” At the time, I wanted to punch him back. We almost had a boxing match at the end of lane 2 (who said swimmers can’t throw a punch?). Now, here’s the rest of the story: We were in the middle of a difficult distance set in a crowded lane. He was swimming slowly, and I was behind him, riding his feet. He refused to stop and let me pass.

Ask him what happened, and he’ll say I was a jerk who purposefully drafted off him. Ask me what happened, and I’ll tell you he was a jerk who purposefully wouldn’t let me pass.

My point is: With most interpersonal conflicts, there are two sides.

And on most teams, there are two attitudes.

With your teammates, of course, it’s wrong to judge. It’s wrong to say negative things. Swimming already has negatives: Cold

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water, hard sets, long practices, weekend-long meets, etc.. So when a teammate says, “This sucks” or “I hate that kid in front of me” or “That’s a stupid looking swim suit,” it can feel more negative than a lot of other environments, because swimming is already so difficult.

Here’s the thing: You could quit. You could stop swimming, do something else, and move on. You could forget these judgmental teammates and leave these negative people behind you. Then, you could find some other activity, where you meet another group of people who also, after time, appear to be negative and judge.

Quitting won’t rid the world of negative people. Quitting won’t help you learn how to deal with negative people. And honestly, there could be teammates who feel the same way you do. You could have teammates who feel that your team is too negative. These teammates could just be waiting for someone to come along and change the negativity culture. Maybe they don’t know how. Maybe they are just like you, thinking they might soon quit altogether. Negativity is like a poison: It can

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take over quietly, and suddenly, and once it has its hold, you’re left wondering, “How can we fix this?”

The good news is this: Good attitudes can be just as contagious as bad ones.

Option #2: When they snarl, you smile. When they judge, you joke. Like an avalanche starting from one small disgruntled pebble, sometimes major change just takes one person deciding on a course and following through.

No matter what you decide, whether to swim or not swim, wherever you go in this journey, wherever you trek to:

Be the example. Be the good attitude. Be the small pebble