Swimming Game – Swim Subtraction

Category: Distance swimming, Group

Core Skill: Coach’s Choice, Reading the board.

Name: Swim Subtraction


This game is for swim teams that know how to read the board a little bit. Some ability to read your shorthand, your practices, or some familiarity with your program is important. Do not play this game with beginners.

We played this game with our Developmental 1 and 2 groups and it went very well. Granted, we did this at the end of a 16 week season where the majority of swimmers had been on the team for at least 3 months. They were familiar with our language, our small group structure, and my shorthand.


This game works on reading the board and following a practice.

The basic premise is to have a set amount of yards as your pool, or your maximum that you want to accomplish in your practice. For Dev. 01 we did 500 yards. For Dev. 02 we did 700 yards. That is the total amount we want to do in the practice time we have after warmup.

Write 3 different categories.

A) This was equal to 100 yards and an actual 100 yard swim in the game. Write three choices under category A.

  • 100 FR with Fins
  • 4 x 25 on 1:00 IM order**** must do this one at least once.
  • 100 BK K w/ Fins

B) This was equal to 50 yards and was skill based work. I wrote down three choices that swimmers could choose from.

  • 3 x SL + 3 FR + flip
  • 3 x SL on BK through hula hoop held at the yellow
  • 3 x SL + 1 BR stroke

C) This was equal to 25 yards, and was the “Fun” portion, or section of the practice. This was full of games, short challenges and activities that we might do in swim lessons. They’re focused on body awareness, movement, body control, and laughing things like “Coach Jeff is the Best” song.



  • One person from each lane picks a category, or letter. A, B, or C. Once you choose a category, choose an item from inside it to do. Your lane then does it. Rotate who chooses so everyone gets a chance to choose.
  • You cannot do the same letter, or category 3 times in a row. You can do, A, A, B, A, A, but you cannot do C, C, C, B.
  • Tally how many of each letter each lane does. So if lane 1 does category A, make a 1 next to it. When they do it again, mark another tally next to the A in their lane tracking box.
  • At the end with about 5-7 minutes left stop everyone. Add up how many A’s, B’s, and C’s lanes did. A’s are worth 100 yards. B’s are worth 50 yards, and C’s are worth 25 yards each.
  • Subtract the amount they earned doing categories and subtract it from the end swim. IF swimmers did 1 A, 2 B’s and 4 C’s, they’d earn 300 yards. Subtract that number from whatever you selected at the beginning.
  • Swimmers that goof around with all C’s will swim more at the end non-stop. Swimmers that do All A’s will swim less at the end.

Have you played this game? Let me know in the comments below and share your story!

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