Swim Sunday!

Have you ever wrestled an alligator?

I have, and he came in the form of a 6′ 2″, very well-muscled swim teammate. Normally swimming isn’t a contact sport, but occasionally we take a break from business and have some fun (and work out grievances haha) with one another.

In this case, we were playing a game of Sharks and Minnows, aka probably the best way to drown yourself. One swimmer at the center calls for his minnows at the end of the pool to join him in the water, so we’ll slide in, streams of bubbles following our feet to the pool bottom. The point of this game is to tag other swimmers with their heads above the water, so it’s a test of lung capacity and inconspicuousness. They then become sharks and the game continues in rounds until one minnow remains.

A favored technique is to bob along the surface like a seal, then dive to the bottom as a shark approaches and stroke to the left or right to avoid any grabbing hands. This practice can break down in a few ways, however. It can be easy to fight off a grip on an ankle or wrist in order to reach safety at the half line or wall, but even two or three of the smallest girls on the team can practically launch a guy out of the water when they’re pulling at the same time.


Schooling fish in the Sea of Cortez

Now Cole, someone I’ve been swimming with for about three years, has a reputation as the king of Sharks and Minnows. While he doesn’t bite like some of my other teammates do (yes, it happens), he doesn’t hesitate to kick or scratch to get away. However, I caught him all by myself, and so I’ll fill you in on some of my Sharks and Minnows secrets:

1. Grab large body parts, like around the stomach or neck (jk…maybe), so your victim can’t slip past you with a flick of the ankle. On the flip side, lotion yourself up good before a game! In my case, I wrapped my arms around his midsection, grabbed my wrists, and prepared my shoulders for a beating.

2. Anchor yourself. It’s definitely an advantage for a shark to be able to stand upright and leverage him or herself against the pool bottom while in the shallow end. Sometimes, it turns into a tugging match, the shark forced to dig in their heels against the onslaught of an especially strong kick.

3. Wait ’em out. Hopefully your opponents choose to breathe rather than pass out, so if you simply hold them under water for long enough (which can be considerably shortened by letting them struggle), they’ll do your job for you and pop up to the surface, where you’ll be waiting to bop them on the head!

See, you didn’t know swim practice could be this fun, right? Animal ball is another game we play, and it’s basically water polo, already a very violent sport in and of itself, with the added bonus of no rules! I’ll save that one for another post though…

Have any of you played Sharks and Minnows as a kid? Was it even more intense than our college version? What other water games make your favorites list?

Every weekend, I’m going to be throwing out something swimming-related. Now, I realize the extent that most of you  lovely readers have with swimming is paddling around the pool as little kids and cooling off in a pool during the summer, so I’ll try to keep this relevant! Also look forward to a few swim workout sets here and there along with some techniques to get yourself off to a strong swim workout.

I have an actual swim meet next Sunday, so since I’ll be super excited, you should be super excited about my next post too!

Part of the team at USMS Nationals, April 2011

Part of the team at USMS Nationals, April 2011


7 thoughts on “Swim Sunday!

  1. I love Sharks and Minnows! But weirdly, I’ve only ever played it on dry land. It sounds like fun to play it in the water too!

    I would love to see some swim workouts here, I’m trying to become more of a swimmer and need some inspiration for fun workouts!

    • I have no idea how to play it out of water! Do you just divide up a field or something and run to different sides? Man, I can see my team turning that into a game of tackle football.

  2. Great story!
    Most of the times I’ve played sharks and minnows I’ve been on dry land, but I’ve played in the water a few times with my siblings. Freeze tag can be really fun in the pool, especially the tunnel tag version!

      • It is like freeze tag. When a swimmer is tagged by the person who is “it” they freeze and stand with their legs apart. In order to be freed another swimmer must swim between their legs. It’s great because then everyone has to dive underwater more!

    • I completely forgot about this game until now, so thanks! We would always choose the weirdest colors, like off white or sea foam green. Haha those games would last foreverrrr then 🙂

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