Do you want to be the next Michael Phelps, Rebecca Adlington, or Ian ‘Thorpedo’ Thorpe? Well, you’re in the right place! However, if you really want to make a living from swimming, you will need to make it the very top of the sport.
In order to do this, you will, quite simply, need to train and train and train and train again! The majority of a professional swimmer’s time is not spent competing – it is spent in the training pool or the gym.
Becoming a professional swimmer is more of a lifestyle choice than a career. In order to be successful, you will need to keep your body in peak condition at all times, and you will constantly have to refine and develop your technique. You will need to manage your diet, train every single day, and have serious drive and determination.
The majority of professional swimmers compete in pool swimming competitions. However, more and more people are beginning to develop an interest in open water swimming, the newest Olympic sport.
Professional swimmers tend to specialise in certain strokes (e.g. freestyle, breaststroke or butterfly) and distances (e.g. 200m or 50m). However, most will compete in more than one event at the same swimming competition.
Salary & benefits
Professional swimmers do not earn a salary: they make money through sponsorship, endorsements and prize money.
Some world-record breaking swimmers, such as Michael Phelps, earn millions of pounds through endorsements, although this is very rare. In fact, very few people are able to make a living purely through swimming. Indeed, many swimmers have part-time jobs to fund their training and equipment costs.
A more lucrative way to make money through swimming is to work as a swimming teacher or instructor at a leisure centre or sports complex.
Understandably, this is not an average nine-to-five job. To become a world-beating swimmer, who makes money purely from their sport, you will need to eat, sleep and breathe swimming.
You will be required to travel all over the world for competitions, which may understandably involve working weekends and national holidays from time to time.
There are no academic requirements for professional swimmers. To thrive in this sport, you will simply need natural talent, determination, strength, technique and discipline.
Your interest in swimming should start out as a hobby. Join a local swimming club and begin competing in swimming galas. As you progress and become more and more successful in these events, you should enter national swimming competitions. As you progress even further, you may be selected by Team GB and invited to train for international swimming competitions all over the world.
N.B. This is incredibly rare and it’s important that you maintain a certain amount of perspective: very few people in the world become professional, medal-winning swimmers.
A career as a professional swimmer will be relatively short-lived, and therefore it may be advisable to gain qualifications, such as a degree in sports science or physiotherapy, if you want to develop a career related to the sport once you have finished competing.
Training & progression
Training will be a daily occurrence. With the guidance of your trainer, you will train almost every day of the year, refining your technique, building your strength, increasing your stamina and working on small parts of a swimming race, such as tumble turns and diving.
There is no real career progression. Once you have established yourself on the international swimming scene, it will be up to you to stay there, winning medals and training like an absolute demon.
Once you are past your peak and take a step back from competing, you may look to focus your efforts on training other elite athletes. Alternatively, you could set up a business as a freelance swimming instructor.