3 Lessons Learned with Age: A Guide to Swimming With Perspective

SEENIGAMA, SRI LANKA-OCTOBER 6, 2015: Laureus Ambassador and Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin greets end of Sri Lankan young swimmers training session during the Missy Franklin Sri Lanka Project Visit at Sport Academy Swimming Pool of Foundation of Goodness on October 6, 2015 in Seenegama, Sri Lanka. (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Laureus/Getty Images)
Photo Courtesy: Buddhika Weerasinghe

By Jamie Kolar, Swimming World College Intern.

Dara Torres once said, “Age is just a number.” In many ways she was right. Swimming is one of the few sports that you can start at any age and continue doing for the majority of your life. Through your career and as you get older, you learn different lessons from swimming – some earlier than others.

Swimming for a club team when you are older than the majority of the kids is an interesting experience. You realize how young and naive you once were and how far you have come since then. The journey has now had its ups and downs, and you have learned some valuable lessons along the way.

Some of these lessons are easier to understand with time and experience; however, learning from seasoned athletes at this point in your athletic career can help you ward off faulty thinking and disappointment. Here are three lessons passed down from an older swimmer to help you swim with perspective.

1. Not every swim will be your best.

Race Cheering

Photo Courtesy: Jeremy Crawford

When you are younger, you drop time left and right: It is a pretty common phenomenon. And then one day, you cannot seem to beat the clock at its own game. What happened? Frustration starts to kick in, and you seem to focus more on time than any other aspects of the swim.

As you get older, you come to terms with the fact that not every swim will be your best. That is okay, because now it might be the bad swims that are the most beneficial to you as opposed to the good ones.

The bad swims show us what we can improve upon and challenge us to keep trying. You learn that the bad swims aren’t something to be afraid of – it’s the perfect ones. When you have a perfect race, you typically do not learn as much.

2. Swim for the love of the sport, not the love of dropping time.

Photo Courtesy: Kalina DiMarco

The ultimate goal of swimming is to go a best time, which usually means dropping time at the end of the season after taper. It’s hard to ignore that goal: It’s what all the hard work during the season goes towards and why you are competing in the first place. Or so you thought.

When you started swimming, there is a good chance you did not know the state cuts off the top of you head or how much time you needed to drop to achieve those times. It was just about swimming for fun and being with your friends. Swimming was about the journey, not the destination.

Someday when you are done swimming, you are not going to remember how much time you dropped in that one meet. It will be all the moments that made you smile and laugh along the way. If you can remember to have fun along with working hard, the destination will not matter – it will come naturally in the end.

3. When you fall, you dust yourself off and get right back up.

Grevers, Matt-25

Photo Courtesy: David Farr

When you fail, it is much easier to give up and walk away than it is to try again. Trying again involves swallowing your pride and admitting you need to fix something – not an easy feat by any means. Swallowing your pride is a challenge. You don’t want to be wrong, let alone admit that you were wrong; however, it is a skill that gets easier with age.

A bigger fear when dealing with failure is the question: What if I try again and fail again? This is a valid concern. It is a possibility; however, in order to be great, this is a chance that you have to take.

Swim with perspective.

Grace Kennedy Thinking Before Race-0020

Photo Courtesy: Colin Sheridan

Thomas Edison was once asked about his failures and had an incredible response: “I didn’t fail. I just found 2,000 ways to not make a light bulb; I only needed to find one way to make it work.” Failure is all about gaining perspective and having the courage to try again and maybe “failing better” the next time. This one takes some practice, but it does not seem so frightening after a few times.

Commentary: All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.