Sprinters versus distance swimmers. A rivalry as old as time. With both groups being key components of every swim team and having the abilities to score valuable points during championship season, what brings such angst towards one another?
There is no plain, all-purpose answer to this question. There are several, with the main reason obviously being the difference in workouts. While sprinters have the perceived luxury of swimming sets similar to 10 fifties every day, distance swimmers are grinding through sets that would give anyone nightmares. And, sadly, even though distance swimmers don’t like to endure such grueling sets, they sometimes have no other choice. At a young age, during summer league, everyone gets the chance to swim everything. But, as time goes by and we start developing distinct skill sets, we are divided into our matched training and racing groups.
Distance swimmers also feel that sprinters receive the most praise for their accomplishments. It may sound unfair, but the sprint events are the most exciting to watch. These are usually the closest and most high intensity races with the most exciting finishes. These are the races that draw the crowds. Sprinters are also given the opportunity to be on relays. Relay positions are places that distance swimmers will hardly get to see if they can’t throw down an impressive 50 or 100 time. So, distance swimmers are left to cheer on their teammates from the side of the pool.
Taper season is the tensest time of the year between these two groups. When the sprinters start to lay off of the yardage for a couple of weeks, the distance swimmers still have thousands of yards to do before they get the same luxury. Both deserve the rest after a long season, but different swimmers have different needs based on their body types and training regimens.
During aerobic workout phases of training when everyone is pumping out yardage to build up endurance, who do you think is the happiest? The distance swimmers, of course. This is their chance to show off. While the sprinters are struggling and barely keeping afloat, the distance group is swimming circles around them. This is also true for open water competition. The sprinters may start out strong, but it’s the distance boys and girls who can tough it out for the win.
While it seems like most of the distaste is coming from the distance group, there is no denying that both groups are equally talented in their own ways. There is an unspoken respect between the two because they both know that they are incapable of doing what their counterpart can. They both work hard for the same reasons: to win their races and win for a TEAM. At the end of the day, they need each other to succeed.