How Swimming Changed My Life (And The Merits Of Being a Swimmer)

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How Swimming Changed My Life (And The Merits Of Being a Swimmer)

When I was younger, I tried nearly every sport, searching for the one I would fall in love with. Looking back, I realize why nothing felt right. I never felt like I belonged in any of the other, non-swimming, sports. I wasn’t loud or aggressive and I didn’t really form any connection with my teammates. Also, I didn’t really remember any of the practices I participated in, because they weren’t all that fun for me.

Eventually, I started to wonder if, maybe, I just wasn’t supposed to play a sport. 

At least until I joined my first swim team in fifth grade. That first year, I was 10 years old and wanted to try something new. I had no idea at the time how much this new, strange sport would affect my life. Well, now I know just how lucky I was! Through swimming, I gained new friends, confidence, and purpose. I also learned how to be a supportive teammate and how to lift up others and cheer for them during tough races. 

Not once in my life have I looked back and missed basketball, soccer, or softball. However, if I were to lose swimming, I’d mourn the loss of something special, unique, and beautiful. Something that made me who I am today. 

Swimming really does have the power to change lives. It certainly has changed mine. 

The Merits of Swimming and The Importance of Good Leadership

One of the best aspects of the sport of swimming is the idea that everyone can lift up and support one another. It’s not like other sports, where only a set number of players take the field at a time. In swimming, everyone has a chance to play. Swimmers are racing their old selves as much as they are racing opponents in the lane next to them. 

This makes it easy for everyone to have a place on the swim team. It also makes it easy to find friends or people to look up to. 

When I first joined my YMCA swim team, I found a few great role models to look up to. Merriam-Webster defines the term role model as, “A person whose behavior in a particular role is imitated by others.” There was one girl, in particular, who I eventually chose as my role model. She personified everything I love about swimming and was friendly, fun, and supportive of those around her. 

She came to practice every single day and even did extra dryland workouts in order to make herself the best swimmer she could be. Even if she didn’t realize it, her constant presence at practice set a good example for the younger swimmers and her energy in the locker room made the time we spent at meets more fun.  

She helped me to understand how vital coming to practice can be. Even in the early mornings or late afternoons, every hour can help a swimmer’s body become stronger and more able to reach their full potential. Practice can also help to relax those who become too stressed or worried during the day. The older girl’s example and leadership truly helped to make my years of YMCA swimming enjoyable. It also shaped my first two years of high school swimming in a wholly positive way. 

What I have come to learn through my – now going on seven – years of swimming is that the swimming world is filled with many people like her. Even the great Olympians find time to cheer for one another. Almost every team I’ve come across has had their own jokes and experiences and bonds. 

Swimming just seems to have a way of bringing people together. And it makes the many hours of practice much more bearable. 

A Lifelong Sport

I’ll be honest, I’ve considered not swimming in college. I’ve considered it many different times. Sometimes, it was because I was frustrated at practice or upset about school. Sometimes, I simply just wanted to be done with chasing after times and devoting free time to a sport when I had other, more academic prospects. 

However, every time the thought vanishes after a few hours of consideration. As my junior year of high school draws to a close, I’m beginning to understand that there are a few things I must carry with me into college. Swimming is one of them. 

The nice thing about swimming is that there are always options available for those who want to continue with it. Club and Masters swim teams welcome anyone who wishes to join them, regardless of ability level. There are also many college teams who will gladly open their doors for hardworking individuals. 

Swimming doesn’t have to stop. And I don’t think I ever want it to, after all it has done for me. 

The only advice I have for young swimmers is to “just keep swimming.” You never know where it might take you.

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

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Marie Falkenberg
4 months ago

Great article!!

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Rosemary Niebauer
4 months ago

Love this article Riley!

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Emma Liggett
4 months ago

I just loved this article! Amazing Work!

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Bob Niebauer telephone
4 months ago

Ms. Dunn has done it again! What a great article! I have read Ms. Dunn’s articles over the course of the last two years or so and I find each one interesting and well written. At this point, I am happy that Ms. Dunn has chosen to continue to Swim because it has added a new dimension to her life. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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Jeanette
4 months ago

What a nicely written article. Your love for swimming is so evident and will inspire others to find this sport as enticing as you did.