If your son or daughter just made the swim team, chances are you’re going to need to obtain some basic equipment for practices and meets. In this article, we’ll go over the required gear for new swimmers as well as a few extra nice-to-have items.
Look the Part: Team Swimsuits
Team members are usually responsible for purchasing their own swimwear for training and competition. For higher-level swimmers with training sessions multiple times per week, you’ll likely want several training suits. This helps reduce the frequency of laundry as well as extend the life of each suit by rotating through them. Besides, wearing the same suit everyday can get boring fast! If your swimmer will be spending a long time in the pool, be sure to check the durability rating of each suit. Many “recreation” or “fashion” swim suits, like the kind found in department stores, are not rated for hundreds of hours in the pool. Some suit fabrics might cost $10 more per suit, but last an extra 100 hours. For serious swimmers, investing in higher durability training suits pays off.
For race day, most teams will pick out a team suit as a group, and everyone on the team will wear this suit to meets. The coach or team parent will usually let everyone know which brand, model and color of suit you’ll need.
Boys will usually have a choice between jammers and briefs, but check with your coach first since this can vary by age group and skill level. Jammers provide more coverage, while briefs have less surface area for reduced drag.
Women’s suits vary by cut, strap, and back style. For the most part, strap and back styles only affect comfort and aesthetic. Slim straps might look great, but can be bothersome or even painful for some girls (often depending on their stroke). Often, this will be a matter of preference and some swimmers simply have a body shape that lends itself to one style or another. Fortunately, competitive swimwear comes in a wide variety of cuts and styles, and often, more than one strap style is available in each design giving individual team members greater comfort while still sporting the team design.
Team Training: Kickboards, Fins & Pull Buoys
Making the most of crucial practice time means providing the right training gear for your swimmer. Fins are a must for strength-building, technique correction, and flexibility-enhancement. Plus, they’re usually required for team practice sessions. Some swim teams provide fins for in-school practice but other schools don’t have the budget and will ask you to purchase your own. Your son or daughter may already have a pair of fins, but the coach might request that everyone wear the same style during team practice such as short-blade fins or buoyant foam. If you’re left with a choice, know that silicone fins are going to be the most durable option, possibly taking your swimmer through several years of practice. On the other hand, rubber fins are more comfortable since they’re made from natural materials and will wear-in the more they’re used. Foam fins provide buoyancy to the lower body and help align the hips for a more dynamic streamline.
Though you shouldn’t assume that anything will be provided, it’s likely the school or club will have a set of pull buoys and kickboards for team use. If your swimmer wants to get extra practice on the side, you’ll want to have your own gear on hand. Kickboards serve as a lower body isolation tool ideal for swimmers that need kick and body position practice. Kickboards also double as a tool for general conditioning. Holding the board vertically like a tombstone and walking through the water or thrusting it forward through the water strengthens the core and arms.
Pull buoys bring focus to the upper body, allowing swimmers to immerse themselves in catch-and-pull, rotation, and breath practice. If you’ll need a pull buoy and a kickboard, ask your coach if a combo (sometimes called a pull-kick) would be OK. The dual design is smaller than a standard kickboard so it’s easier to travel with and the combined product is usually cheaper than buying both.
Personal Equipment: Goggles, Caps, & Bags
As a member of a swim team, your swimmer will need their own goggles if they don’t own a pair already. Since swim goggles wear out with heavy use and you don’t want to miss practice on account of a broken pair, being prepared with several goggles in your swim bag is highly recommended. Goggle choices typically aren’t dictated by the coach, so feel free to pick up any brand and style your swimmer is comfortable in. For practice, a low-drag design is preferable, but comfort is critical since they’ll be swimming for hours. For race day, a low-drag style is the better choice to shave crucial seconds off their time. Look for a goggle with an inner-eye fit and low-volume gaskets. The smaller, the better when it comes to competition goggles.
Swim caps are simpler. They’re one-size-fits-all and don’t leave much to choice other than color and material. Most swimmers prefer silicone caps because they’re more durable than latex and could last all season. Like goggles, its good to be prepared with a spare cap. Latex caps are much cheaper, thinner, and super malleable making them easy to get on and off. But, since latex caps are made from natural rubber, they’re more likely to develop tears and wear-spots from chlorine contact.
For convenience, organizing everything you need for practice into a dedicated swim bag is a good idea. Swim bags and backpacks are especially designed for swimmers and have features like wet and dry compartments, and special protective pockets for goggles and caps. Some athletes prefer a simple mesh bag with a drawstring while others prefer the convenience and organization of a backpack. Before investing in a bag, be sure to check which gear your swimmer will need to take to practice. If they need to bring their own pull buoy, fins, and kickboard, for example, you would need a large backpack or duffel with enough room to store those bulkier items.
While there are plenty of other tools swimmers may use during the course of training, the items covered here are the most common requirements for new swim team members. Armed with the right equipment, your swimmer will be off to a great start in the exciting world of competitive swimming!
AUTHOR BIO: This guest post was written by Lizzy Bullock, a WSI-certified swimming instructor and team gear specialist at AquaGear® Swim Shop. If you still have questions that weren’t covered in this article, please feel free to contact the author directly.