A Toast of Gratitude to Swimming

NMU swimmers cheering on fellow swimmer at GLIAC 2017. Photo Courtesy: Paula Probstfeld

By Rachel Helm, Swimming World College Intern. 

How many times do you hear your teammates grumble about training, lack of sleep, disagreements with coach, etc.? Sometimes during the grind, it can be hard to keep focused on gratitude and the positives that swimming has brought to our lives. However, we truly wouldn’t be the strong, resilient and hard-working people we are today without the sport.

I very nearly didn’t become a competitive swimmer. Little seven-year-old me was terrified at the thought of having to race other people. After all, I was surrounded by amazing swimmers at a competitive club. Reflecting back, the decision I made to become a competitive swimmer is the best decision I’ve ever made. Seventeen years of my life have been devoted to swimming. Quite literal blood, sweat and tears have been shed across this timespan. The sport has shaped the majority of my life and will continue to do so. Joining a swim team was most likely one of the most impactful decisions you have made in your life, too.

So please follow along in my toast of gratitude to swimming.

Thank you, swimming.


Rachel Helm medal ceremony 200 yard Backstroke 2018 with coach Heidi Voigt. Photo Courtesy: Paula Probstfeld

I want to thank you for giving me a whole new family: a non-biological family I never thought I would have. You gave me people I connect with on a whole different level – people who have seen me during both the highs and the lows. Thank you for bringing people into my life that I will forever be friends with and share unforgettable memories with.

Thank you for making me tough. I may not have always had the hardest of swimming lineups (thank you sprint life), but back in the day, I did my fair share of 400 IMs. I will never miss swimming this event, but the training taught me a lot. Thank you for making me tough enough to survive practices for the most difficult of events such as the 400 IM. You made me realize that I’m stronger than the limits I put on myself.


Rachel Helm about to swim at the Green vs. Gold meet. Photo Courtesy: Meghan Curran

Thank you for teaching me to be kind to my body. My shoulders may be in pain most of the time, but you have taught me to look after my shoulders and come back stronger. I only have gratitude to you for developing my broad shoulders and nearly webbed fingers and toes – at least that’s what non-swimmers tend to think I have. Thank you for bringing purpose to my flipper-like feet and hyper-mobile joints.

Thank you for the countless laughs. “Do you not get bored?” is the most commonly asked question. No doubt, swimming up and down the same lane for two hours may seem a bit of a bore. Yet it is always filled with laughter. Swimmers are a unique bunch with a humor of their own.

Perhaps the most impactful lesson you have taught me is how to deal with disappointment and come back stronger. Not everything will end in glory. Cuts are missed, mistakes are made and you don’t always swim the way you want to. However, thank you for teaching me disappointment so that I always come back fighting.


The infamous black line on the bottom of swimming pools. Photo Courtesy: Cathleen Pruden

Swimming – you have really shaped my life, and I am forever thankful for all the opportunities you have gave me. If it wasn’t for you, I would never be swimming all the way in America or traveled all around the world to different chlorinated pools, watching the familiar black line.

And most importantly, thank you for choosing me. Join me in raising your glass to the sport that has given so much joy and depth to our lives!

-All commentaries are the opinion of the author. It does not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World nor its staff.

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Jacqueline Beckford Henriques
3 years ago

Yep, it gave me a fabulous husband and now a future daughter in law. ?

3 years ago

Holly Prior

Heidi Voigt
3 years ago

Thank you Rachel! I think this is a must read for anyone getting ready to start this college season!