Mental Fitness and Artistry

While synchro swimmers develop a variety of physical and social skills, they also benefit from the psychological and cognitive aspects of the sport. Synchro cultivates multi-tasking, goal setting, self-motivation, focus and time-management, as well as skills like counting, memorization, rhythm, coordination and visualization. Competitions teach participants how to think positively, how to stay calm under pressure and how to regroup after making a mistake. Fitness and team training help swimmers to develop emotional stability and a healthy body image, building confidence and self-esteem.

All these skills and attributes promote success later in life. A prime example? Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund and 2014's fifth most powerful woman in the world per Forbes magazine, swam for the French national synchronized swimming team as a teenager. In an interview with The Guardian, she credited synchro with preparing her for her career in politics. "It was synchronized swimming that taught me: 'Grit your teeth and smile.' In exactly the same way, it's a sport of resistance and endurance. You're in tension and control."

Like dance and figure skating, synchro also provides athletes with opportunities to nurture and explore their creative sides. Swimmers often help to write their routines, interpreting music and trying to match their movements with the tone, speed and overall feeling of the piece. Participants try their hand at designing swimsuits that complement their music and choreography. Swimming a routine itself develops acting and other performance skills.

Furthermore, higher levels of fitness — as found in synchro swimmers — may correlate with higher standardized test scores in middle school students, according to the University of North Texas' Center for Sport Psychology. Researchers there suggest that confidence developed from participating in physical activity could result in cognitive and academic benefits.

But all of this isn't surprising to those who have been involved in the sport:

"There is growing empirical evidence supporting the notion that activities like synchronized swimming can enhance one's overall development and general brain function. The sport depends heavily on the accurate and dynamic synergy between the left and the right sides of the brain. Synchronized swimming develops the logical brain and the creative brain. The evidence points to synchro's reliance on the proprioceptive sense (that controls balance and movement) and its reliance on rhythm while upside-down in an unstable medium requiring fast, accurate and precise split-second decisions without the benefit of all the other "muffled" sensory cues one usually depends on in other activities. This may help explain a well-known factor among coaches and other synchro aficionados around the world: that synchronized swimmers tend to experience noted success in academic and artistic pursuits long after retirement." ~ Dr. Linai Vaz DeNegri, former USA Synchro team manager