When I was eleven years old, I decided to join the world of competitive swimming. As a child, the sport presented with excitement and constant fun. As I grew up, the sport became a central part of my life, influences my friends, hobbies and choice of college.
In a recent conversation with some relatives, I was asked a question that got me thinking.
Why did I pick swimming and would I pick it again?
It would be easy to say that I picked swimming simply because I loved it. While I do love the sport, my relationship with swimming and the reasons for my continued involvement are far more complicated than one overgeneralized statement.
One of the biggest reasons I stayed in the sport isn’t the sport itself. It’s the people. The friends I met on my club team are some of the greatest relationships and support systems that I have in my life. My friends on my current college team are even more so. Swimming has provided me with a group of people who understand working hard, dedication, and supporting each other no matter the circumstance.
In addition, the very nature of swimming attracts me. Swimming may be an individual sports when it comes down to racing, but to me, it couldn’t be more of a team sport. The feeling of knowing that day in and day out, you and your team are working together to become the best version of yourselves that you possibly can be is invigorating. The challenge presented to chase excellence and to continue to hold each other to a higher standard than before thrills me.
Deciding why I picked swimming was easy. Deciding if I would pick it again was hard.
I will not lie, the life of a competitive swimmer is a difficult one. Swimming requires long hours, year round doubles and grueling morning practices. The sport requires much sacrifice and the benefits and rewards are often not seen until months later at the end of the season. You are always tired and sore, and your free time is spent at the pool.
Swimming may test me mentally, physically and emotionally on a daily basis, but I could not imagine any other lifestyle for myself. The opportunities and friendships that swimming has provided me has helped to shape me into who am I now.
The difficulty of swimming is easily overshadowed by the benefits it provides in my life. So while the sport presents me with challenges on a regular basis, there is no other culture that I would rather be a part of.