Why I Started (and Keep) Swimming

Swimming is a journey for most. One filled with highs and lows, but it’s one that I haven’t regretted. Even though I never would’ve imagined that I would start swimming competitively all those years ago. 

Whenever someone asks me why I started swimming, I almost always laugh. Most people start swimming because they like the sport, their parents make them, or it’s something they wanted to try.

Me?

Well…I joined the swim team because I thought it would be an ‘easy’ PE credit. I saw that my school offered swimming in lieu of the actual PE class. And I remember thinking to myself, ‘I like to swim!

Pin: Why I Started (and Keep) Swimming

Why I Started Swimming

By now, those seasoned swimmers are probably laughing at my naive thinking. And there might be some out there uncertain as to why this is so humorous to me now. 

Because I quickly learned what most competitive swimmers already know.

Swimming isn’t easy. It’s not splashing around in the pool and having fun all the time. Rather, it’s hard work, dedication, and determination. 

For me, it was 5:30 morning practices and 5:00 afternoon practices. It was learning strokes I only saw on television during the Olympic years and learning the various rules and terminology along the way.

None of that was in the description when I signed up!

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Pin: 10 Reasons to Start Competitive Swimming
10 Reasons to Start Competitive Swimming

Through some miracle (or sheer stubbornness, haha), I decided to stick with the sport my freshman year. 

While I wasn’t the most dedicated or serious swimmer in my first few years, I loved the sport in a way I never thought possible. Morning practices were still awful but being around my teammates and dropping time invigorated me.

Once I started to take the sport seriously, though, I never looked back. And with it, I dropped times and earned cuts. I made my way onto select teams, found myself ranked nationally, and earned a swimming scholarship.

What I Learned From Swimming

Swimming, despite how it started for me, ended up teaching me so much about myself. Things that I probably never would’ve learned elsewhere. 

Such as time management. And not just learning it, but owning it. 

How to work independently while under pressure, but also, work within a team environment. I learned just how much I could push myself past my comfort zone. But also when to pull back if I pushed too much. 

More than that, swimming gave me self-confidence and courage. Courage to keep going, even when things felt rough and when I hit a plateau.

And it’s all those lessons, reasons, and more that helped shape me into the person that I am today. For better or worse, and with all the ups and downs, I wouldn’t take it back. 

Competitive Swimmer Resume
Competitive swimming provides life skills that help start and advance careers.

The Brief Decision to ‘Retire’

Despite my love for swimming, I did stop for a few years after I finished my collegiate career. 

Some swimmers will say it was the best day of their life when they stop swimming. Others will say it’s their worst. For me, it was bittersweet.

I stopped for a few reasons. For one, the chance to sleep in past 5 was mindblowing, haha. 

But I think in part, the biggest reasons came from having no sense of direction in my swimming.

I swam for a few months following my last Conference meet until my dad told me I was wasting my time. In his words, I finished my NCAA eligibility and I didn’t have anything to gain from swimming anymore.

Harsh words from a parent and looking back, I wish I hadn’t listened to him. But I did. My swimsuits were retired and shortly after graduation, I was living abroad in Japan.

Why I Started Swimming Again

This story does have a happy ending though!

Much like how I started swimming all those years ago, I started swimming again in a similar manner. After returning from Japan, I called up my coach and started swimming again on a whim. 

He let me test the waters to see how I felt and honestly? It felt like coming home in so many ways. There was something about being back in the water that resonated with me.

Related article: How to Return to the Pool After a Long Break

The feel of it welcoming me back, the burn of a good workout, and the thrill of chasing the clock. 

I started training again and I haven’t looked back since! 

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True, my dad still thought it was a waste of my time and money. He asked me constantly what I hoped to achieve. I couldn’t earn a scholarship and swim in college again. And I wasn’t fast enough to compete for money.

To be honest, though, I ignored him. Because this time, it wasn’t about him. It was about me and for me.

Shortly after starting swimming again, I discovered Masters Swimming. I decided to join (again, on a whim) in addition to my year-round club team with USA Swimming

Best. Decision. Ever.

Masters Swimming became that missing piece I didn’t even know I was missing. It became my encouragement and helped drive me forward.

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Why I Keep Swimming

Getting up again at 4:30 is still awful, no lie there. But dropping time alongside my teammates and watching them find joy when they get a cut makes it better. 

Helping them achieve those goals is the icing on the cake.

As someone who’s ‘been there, done that’, I have the opportunity to pass along advice that can help my teammates. It’s so incredibly rewarding to offer help and then watch as they achieve that goal.

Whether it’s in swimming or in life! 

And yes, it’s true that not all my teammates ask (or want) my advice. But it’s not my job to make them understand or change something. I only need to offer advice. 

What they do from there is up to them.

I’m not a coach or a parent. Instead, I’m more like a swim advisor. I’m another swimmer there to offer guidance and that’s it. And I enjoy that so much.

As of 2020, it’s been 7 years since I came out of retirement. 7 amazing years of seeing what I could do for myself and challenging myself to go further.

And most of all, swimming for myself. 

In that, I’m not swimming to keep my spot on a high school or college team. And I don’t have to worry about eligibility or keeping a scholarship. 

I’m swimming because I want to swim. Simple as that 🙂

In Closing

Although my story of why I started swimming isn’t what most people expect, they’re still mine. They still helped shape me into who I am today and I’m forever grateful for the chance I had all those years.

I’ve had people ask me if I regret any bit of it. To that, I say, HECK NO! I don’t regret a single thing in my swimming career. Not how I started, not the college I picked to swim at, and not starting back up again.

Out of the things I do regret in life, swimming has never been one of them. 🙂

Still on the fence about if you should start swimming? I think the best advice I can give is just to jump in and go for it. Find a team that fits your budget, time, and your personality, and dive on in.

The worst that could happen is you realize swimming isn’t for you. The best thing that could happen? You could fall in love with the sport and excel! And then you can watch as it takes you higher and further than you ever thought possible.

As always, to happy swimming!

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Want to Improve at the Pool?

Join swimmers and swim parents to receive my free newsletter and receive a free Swimming Glossary e-book as a thanks!

Every month you’ll receive tips and coaching to help you find success at the pool.


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