Top 5 Must-Have Skills for Synchronized Swimmers
There are some skills that you (and your synchro team) just can’t rise to the top without. And to make sure that your team doesn’t rise without you, make yourself an irreplaceable asset to the group by mastering these five must-have tricks of the trade.
1. Keeping Time
In order to be a good synchronized swimmer you have to be able to synchronize. Seems obvious, but it can be harder than you think.
First, you have to learn to count the music to stay on pace. Second, you have to be able to switch your counting tempo instantaneously since so many routines have a few different pieces (and speeds) of music cut and pasted together.
Listening to the music is a vital part of synchronization—not all pieces of music are easily countable. The more you listen to your routine music, the better you will be able to memorize exactly how long that one silent part lasts in the middle or when, precisely, that giant symbol breaks up the beat.
2. A Vertical above Your Knees
At a certain point in every synchro swimmer’s career, it is no longer acceptable to be below your knees in a vertical.
In more advanced levels of the sport, figures and technical elements require sustained vertical holds. These long held positions allow the judges to take note of your height and reward the added difficulty, but also give them plenty of time to pick out the lowest person on the team—which can then result in a point reduction.
Incorporate practicing your vertical height into regular routine practice and make it a priority every time you go upside-down.
3. Flat Splits
Flexibility is vital throughout synchro, but nowhere is it highlighted more than in the flat splits. Flat splits are rewarded at every skill level, but at the elite stage, they are a standard.
It's easier to gain flexibility before you hit your teens. Becoming flexible at a young age will make your job of simply maintaining your range of motion much less painful throughout your career.
Any splits that are “almost but not really flat” will to set you apart… in a bad way. Everyone has seen a team in the splits with a few unsightly feet poking up out of the water—make stretching one of your top five priorities so that those feet don’t belong to you!
4. Jump to Your Hips
Jumps, or boosts as they’re technically called, are also important because they are technical elements. But, they have been and will continue to be in just about every routine, tech or free, that you ever do. That’s why they made this Top Five list!
During a boost, you must jump high enough so that the leg holes on your swimsuit are out of the water and you can show some (hip) skin. Not jumping high enough will actually affect your synchronization: If you have less distance to jump because your maximum height is lower, you will arrive in position faster, unsynchronized with your teammates.
Keep in mind that judges tend to look at the top or end of movements. If one jumper’s head or hands don’t reach level set by the rest of the team, it will look like a matching or timing mistake.
5. Hold a Pattern
Knowing how to stay in your pattern is the last but certainly not least essential skill. You should also have the ability to notice pattern problems and fix them quickly. This will not only save you from the incessant nagging of your coaches, but will also make you a better teammate.
Patterns are best when they’re done one of two ways: with eye-catching creativity and skillful transitions; or with such precision that they essentially go unnoticed. If you are out your line, diagonal, falling behind or racing ahead, those watching will focus more on the pattern problems you are causing than the part of the routine begin done well.
Some Things Are Natural…
Some of these skills may come naturally to you and some may prove to be extremely challenging.
Remember though, it’s the drive to improve everyday that makes great athletes, not what they may have showed up with on day one. If you’re striving to be the best synchro swimmer you can be, make these five skills a priority so that you won’t be held back from attaining your goals—whatever they may be.