Swim practice
UNL club swim members at practice.

Chatter ensues as laughter echoes throughout the indoor pool deck. Water splashes in the air as swimmers warm-up in the lanes and a lifeguard sits calmly perched on his tower. It appears chaotic, but then, without so much as a whistle, the water begins to still. Swimmers gather at the edge of the pool with eager ears ready to start practice as someone begins to call out instructions.

Founded in 2008, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Swim Club provides an outlet for many students to continue their swimming careers and be part of a team environment. The team is co-ed, allowing for students from different backgrounds to intermingle. 

I have been swimming for 11 years,” freshman Alyssa Russum said. “I joined the club swim team because I wanted to keep swimming after high school and the people looked nice. My favorite part [of the team] is the friendships I’ve made because of the club and hanging out with my friends.”

What sets this group apart from other club sports at UNL is that the team does not have a coach. It is student-run, so the members have to come together to figure out how best to train, schedule meets and practices and support each other.

“It’s been weird adjusting to not having a coach. I think it makes us hold each other accountable though,” Russum said. “Personally, it makes it more intrinsically motivated, and on an off day, I won’t do my best. Our swim club president is a highly-qualified and super welcoming and nice person, and I’m glad she’s in charge or we’d fall apart.” 

Some members even prefer not having a coach around as an authority figure, attributing it to helping them build self-discipline.

“I like not having a coach because if you aren’t feeling like trying very hard at practice one day, you don’t have to feel bad, and if you’re busy and miss practice it’s fine,” senior and club social chair, Jared Givens, said. “I come to almost every practice, which is three times a week … I typically run six days a week and swim once or twice on my own outside of practice though.” 

The swimmers see the coaching deficit as a challenge to rise above.

“It’s definitely interesting,” freshman Mitch Peotter said. “You have to be more disciplined yourself when it comes to form or even getting in the water.” 

Team unity and collaboration have created a strong support system among teammates from freshmen to seniors. The swimmers feel that this has allowed them to still grow and develop their skills. 

For some, their teammates are a main reason why they remain a part of the team.

“The people on the team is the best part,” Peotter said. “I wouldn’t show up as much if I didn’t like people on the team. My friends on the team that work hard influence me to work harder and to try and do more than the bare minimum.”

The team spends a lot of time together, even out of the water. Not only do members have standing plans every Thursday after practice to go to Fuzzy’s restaurant in downtown Lincoln, but they also meet for other bonding activities such as game nights, movie nights and egg-eating competitions, according to Givens.

“Things we do after practice like going to Fuzzy’s bring the team together more than just practice does,” Peotter said.

The foundation of getting to know each other personally creates a support network between the students and helps with the sustainability of the club for future years to come. It keeps the swimmers coming back each season and helps them find friends as UNL is a larger university.

“My teammates have become some of my favorite people on campus and my go-tos to hang out with. They’ve definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone at times, but I think it was needed,” Russum said. “Having a unified team makes practices easier, hanging out easier and just makes us a cohesive group. Everyone knows that someone will step up if needed.”

Broadcast Production and Sports Media student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from Long Island, New York