5 Tips for Taking on Your Final Swim Meet

Photo Courtesy: Andy Ringgold

By Emma Foster, Swimming World College Intern

In the next few weeks, high school and college seniors across the country will be preparing to begin the final swim meet of their competitive careers. Athletes who have spent much of their lives in the pool are jumping on the roller coaster of taper for the last time, waking up for the last mandatory morning practice of their lives, and consuming calories guilt free in a way that will be harder to get away with as a swammer.

For these athletes, there is a mix of intense excitement and grief. With the prospect of moving beyond a part of themselves that has been crucial to their identity, it is easy for intense pressure to sit on the shoulders of athletes about to leave the sport behind. There is desire for this to be the best meet, with the best swims of their lives. Anything else would seem like it was an improper ending to such a long journey.

However, swimmers entering the home stretch of their careers should remember that it isn’t about what the scoreboard says, or what you place in your heat that matters in the long run. What matters is the road you took to get to where you are, all of the triumphs and disappointments that have made you not just a better swimmer, but a better person. You did it. You made it. You’re here.

Emotion is natural when you reach an end such as this. Of course there are Masters programs, lap pools, and millions of other ways to stay involved in this sport you love, but it is also okay, and maybe even important, to approach this last step as an ending. Because, yes, it isn’t ever going to be like this again. And that is a little sad, and a little thrilling, and all of the emotions in between.

So for those swimmers who are entering the last stretch, embrace the emotions, and channel them into soaking up every last drop of the experience. Here are a few tips to keeping yourself focused on the process, but also ready to swim really fast.

1. Enjoy the Little Moments

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Photo Courtesy: Team Elite Instagram

Soak everything in. Every game your teammates play on the bus ride, every pep talk your coach gives before sessions, every taper practice that leaves you feeling either ready to set a world record or ready to admit that you’ve forgotten how to swim. Remember what it feels like to shave off the months of leg hair you’ve been growing. Remember the stupid jokes, and the teasing between teammates, and what it feels like to put on your new fast suit and dive in the water for the first time. These moments are ones that will stick with you long after the memory of times and places fade, so grab onto them and don’t let go.

2. Take the Pressure Off of the Final Meet

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Relax. This is still just a swim meet. The rules haven’t suddenly changed, and there isn’t another handbook telling you how to swim your last meet. In fact, you know how to do this better than anyone, because you have been doing it for what feels like your whole life. You’re an old pro, and that means you get to come in and enjoy every second. Don’t let the fact that this is the last one to control how you respond to the lead-up.

3. Expect to Swim Fast

However, to be clear, while you should be taking the pressure off, that does not mean you aren’t going to swim lights out at this meet. In fact, I KNOW you are. You are going to tear it up, because all those times when someone said “Swim this like it’s your last one” has been preparing you for this moment. You get to go out and dive in the water that feels like a second skin, and do something that you are incredibly good at. Something that you have been working for years and years at.

So for seniors heading into their last meet, now is not the time to take your foot off the gas pedal. In fact, it’s time to go full throttle. Each moment is a moment that you can do everything in your power to prepare to swim fast, because there won’t be another time coming around. Use that to your advantage, and reach into the depths of yourself, to a place you weren’t even sure existed, to make sure you put every last drop of yourself into these last few weeks.

4. Remember the Process

Emily Seebohm in the womens 50m Backstroke Semi Final. Australian Swimming Championships. Sport Swimming. SOPAC. 7 April 2015. Photo by Paul Seiser/SPA Images

Photo Courtesy: Arena

When you get nervous, or sad, or impatient to be done, or just plain scared because this is the last one, and “what are you going to do after it’s over?” remember everything that led up to this moment. Remember the age group days of begging your coach to play sharks and minnows. Remember the dual meets where you forgot to cool down because you were too busy cheering. Remember the quiet optional practices where a select few showed up and the water was still in a way that it never is. Remember the laughs with teammates, and the tears, and the burning in your soul because you knew, more than anything, that you would fight to the death for any of them.

Remember these moments and let them guide you to the ending, and let yourself feel so full because of everything this sport has given you.

5. Pay It Forward

Carmel H.S.-

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

And then, before you are gone, before these moments are less reality and more memory, pay it back. Turn to an underclassmen, or a fellow senior, or even a coach, and give a little bit of that overwhelming emotion that is bubbling in your heart to them. In your last meet, make it about someone else.

Do this, because as much as outsiders like to describe swimming as an individual sport, in the end we all know that couldn’t be farther from the truth. This sport is a community, a team, where everyone who is in has a connection that can’t be fully understood. And even if this is your last one, you will always have a part of that. You will always be one of us.

12 Comments

12 comments

  1. Kevin Russell

    Enjoy it. We are so proud of you.

  2. avatar
    Susie Bernardi

    My roll as a swim mom ended two days ago with my son’s last college conference meet. This article is beautiful; thank you.

  3. avatar
    Dave Radcliff

    Remember there is a wonderful swimming World out there called Masters. Many of us former collegiate and high school swimmers are able to continue our “love affair” with swimming in Masters.

    • avatar
      Sarah Welch

      Hear, hear. Start your masters career and keep swimming. From your 68 year old colleague.

Author: Emma Foster

avatar
Emma Foster is an English and Gender Studies major at Seattle University and is a part of the Redhawks NCAA Division I team. Before college, Emma was a member of the Helena Lions Swim Team and the Helena High School squad.

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