Enjoy the Moment: When I Knew I Was Ready to Retire

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Photo Courtesy: Sara D. Davis

by Courtney Bartholomew, Swimming World College Intern

Since I retired a little over a week ago, I’ve had a lot of people question my decision. While I am not writing this piece to explain my reasoning on why I chose to retire, I think it’s important that people know I am happy with my decision. My decision to retire was not an easy one. For weeks I went back and forth, searching for the answer that would make me the happiest.

I found my answer in the most unexpected place. At ACC Championships after winning the 200 backstroke. As I stood on the podium and looked at my teammates, I decided right then that I was going to retire. I realized that my love for the sport of swimming is not the swimming itself. My love for swimming is in my love for my teammates, competing for the University of Virginia, and setting goals with the intentions of reaching them. I realized as I stood there that I had accomplished almost every goal I had set for swimming and I was happy with how my career had gone. I realized I would only be swimming to make others happy, not myself.


Photo Courtesy: Tim Binning

While my decision to retire was not an easy one, through it I realized the most important thing swimming has taught me over the course of 16 years is to enjoy the moment.

Swimming is a process-driven sport. You set goals, work towards those goals, achieve those goals. Repeat. But what happens when you are so focused on the process that you forget to enjoy what you are doing? Swimmers fall in love with the sport because one day, when they were little, they won a race and realized that the sacrifices made were worth achieving a dream.


Photo Courtesy: Courtney Bartholomew

Over the course of my years, it was easy to get so wrapped up in working towards a goal that I would forget why I loved swimming. My mood would be based off of how well a practice went or if I had been able to make steps towards completing a specific goal. I would get easily frustrated when I couldn’t hit a practice best time or would get upset if a set did not go as I had planned. I started basing my season off of the things I was not accomplishing.

However, through my years of practicing and racing I have come to realize that my best days in the pool were those spent enjoying the moment. The times where the team would be uncontrollably giggling during abs and would be told to be quiet. Or the moments the sun would shine just right through the AFC windows to illuminate the pool. If you can enjoy the little moments, it’s easier to put the process in perspective. It’s easier to enjoy the sport of swimming and sacrificing for a goal when you understand what makes you happy.

When I realized that I was going to retire, I was enjoying the moment. Up on that podium I looked into the stands at my family, heard my teammates cheering, and took in the chlorine-filled air. In that moment of peace, I realized that no matter what I chose to do, I would be surrounded with support and love. And it’s true–the amount of support I have received from my teammates, my coaches, my family, and my friends has been incredible.

Photo Courtesy: Griffin Scott

Photo Courtesy: Griffin Scott

When I climbed out of the pool for the last time at NCAA Championships into the arms of my teammates, I soaked in that moment. For the rest of my life I will remember the feeling of my last race with my heart racing and how tired my legs were. But most importantly, I will take with me the feeling of being part of something bigger than myself. Racing for the university that I love, alongside of the people who have become my family.

So next time you’re at a pool, as you stare at the water while wearing your cap and goggles, take a moment to soak in all that is around you. Cheer loudly for your teammates, dive in the pool and experience the silence that only a pool can bring. Take a piece of the sport and what you have learned over the course of your years, and enjoy the moment you are in right now. It will help you appreciate the process so much more.


  1. Cathy Chamberlain

    Well said. It has been a pleasure following your career over the years. Good luck in your promising future.

  2. avatar

    Nicely expressed. I wish I’d had your clarity & self-confidence when faced with this decision some time (ahem) ago. Best of luck to you, Courtney!

  3. avatar

    So well put I am an old (62) retired female swimmer, coach parent of 2 girls who swam. Love the community great way to raise my girls. Best wishes for you as you move forward. Such a well written farewell!

  4. Jenn Robert

    Thank you for sharing!! Made me step back and think what my daugther has been telling me.
    Alexia, is that you, next to her??!! Small world ☺☺

      • avatar
        Jayne Moberly

        Courtney – while I cannot say I understand how you feel from a swimmer’s viewpoint , I can tell you I never missed a meet away or at home for six years. I was so glad when my grandson took up the sport years later. He lived out of state, but I caught as many as I could. Best to you in whatever you choose to do from here on. Grandparents Judy and Chuck have kept me up to date Congrats to you , Jayne Moberly