If you love to swim but hate all that time training alone, maybe you should
consider synchronized swimming.
It's a sport that combines the athletic ability of a long-distance
runner with the creative expression of an ice skater -- and it's a lot
more fun than swimming alone.
Synchronized swimming teams are popping up all over North America. There
are more than 35 colleges that have teams so you can stay active and study
at the same time.
It's a lot harder than it looks. It takes a lot of concentration,
muscle tone, strength and stamina. Many swimmers also train with weights and
aerobics to keep fit for the sport.
A team is made up of eight swimmers, but there are also competitions for
solo and duet performances.
The sport is almost all female. There are a few men in the sport, but the
rules of many competitions say that men are not allowed. Men may not compete
in the Olympics, but they can compete at the Goodwill Games.
A routine is a series of movements performed in harmony with the others
on the team. Body lines must match as the swimmers do lifts, spins and poses.
A routine lasts from 3.5 to five minutes and a good portion of this is
done underwater. During a routine, a swimmer may not touch the bottom or sides
of the pool.
Scoring in competition is similar to the scoring for figure skating and
gymnastics. Teams are given points for level of difficulty, how well the swimmers
match each other, amount of body weight extended above the water and control.
Teams also receive points for artistic impression, which includes their
use of patterns and rhythms to interpret the music and involve the audience.
Eiffel Tower, flamingo, a catalina and a knight are just some of the positions
used in a routine. Each one has an exact standard for the placement of the
legs, arms, torso and head, and many of them are done upside down in the water.
It may look funny, but the nose clip is the most important piece of equipment
for a synchronized swimmer. The clip prevents water from entering the nose
when the swimmer is performing upside down movements.
Swimmers often carry an extra clip in their suit in case they lose the
one they are wearing during the routine.
Usually, a swimmer's hair looks slick thanks to gelatin, which is
used to keep the hair in place while a swimmer is moving in the pool.
A good part of the competition is entertaining the audience, so teams usually
wear bright, sequinned costumes and a good deal of make-up to show off their
happy smiles. It's hard work, but the point is to make it look easy.
Synchronized swimmers have several career options after college. Many go
on to star in water shows that are produced in theme parks across the country.
Swimmers can also have a career coaching teams, or teaching swimming classes
for local schools and recreation departments.
Synchronized swimming teams have been featured in music videos, commercials
and print ads for magazines. Doing commercial work is good money and it's
also very exciting.
Only a small portion of synchronized swimmers follow the "Olympic track"
-- training and competing to reach the Olympic level. Most of the swimmers
involved are on the "recreation track" -- they swim and compete for fun.
Swimmers start as young as six years of age, and compete throughout their
years in college. Most national-level competitors are in their early 20s,
but at the lower levels they have had swimmers up to 85 years old.
If you can swim safely, being physically disabled shouldn't prevent
you from joining a team. You need the ability to see the other swimmers, and
the muscle strength to stay afloat and perform the moves. Even if you're
not strong enough to compete, a recreational class could be just the thing.
Most competitions run from late winter to early summer, but swimmers train
all year long. Swimmers who compete often train up to 20 or 30 hours a week,
but six to 10 hours is a good number if you're just swimming for fun.
Check the Web or call your local community center to see if there is a
team in your area. Many groups offer summer camp lessons for those who would
like to try out the sport. Also, check the swim clubs in your area to see
if they offer synchronized swimming.
If you want to compete, you'll have to invest some money as well as
time. You will be required to join an association and pay dues to your club.
Dues may run as low as $20 a month, but they can be a lot higher depending
on your area.
You will also be expected to purchase your costume ($50 to $200) and pay
travel expenses. Many clubs run fund-raisers and weekly bingo games to help
pay the costs of the pool and travel for the swimmers.
At a recreation level, expect to pay around $200 a year. The costs rise
dramatically for competitive swimmers and many have local sponsors to help
with the costs.
Synchronized Swimming U.S.A.
The home of synchronized swimming in the U.S.
Synchronized Swimming Programs
Get info on various colleges
Synchronized Swimming History
Get the background on the sport