Role Models: College Swimmers Return to the Club Scene

Photo Courtesy: Taylor Brien

By Kennedy Cutler, Swimming World College Intern

I’ve had the opportunity of swimming with two young ladies the last few years, Marissa Marion and Abby Haaksma, swimmers for Eastern Michigan University and Olivet Nazarene University, respectively, who have returned to our shared club team in Rockford, Michigan, to train for the summer. Both girls take their standing as role models very seriously.

Whenever we are home on a break from school, we visit our club team to clock in some pool time and to catch up with old coaches and teammates. At this point in our swimming careers, most of the people who we have trained with during our high school seasons and years on the club team have either graduated or are no longer swimming. We find ourselves seeing new faces and learning new names just about every time we are home. The thing about it is, while we may not know them, they know us. They’ve heard our names, even followed our times through our old club coaches.

Those of us who have been around the sport long enough to have made it to college have an additional weight placed upon us that we don’t always consider – being a role model. It’s one thing to represent your team and to lead by example to the underclassmen in college and even in high school, but it’s a completely different story when you realize there are dozens of younger kids back home who hear your name and look up to you.

“I think it gives the kids really good motivation, because we are pretty much where some of their goals are,” Marion said. “They are able to swim with us and see us at practice. Seeing the older kids who came back always gave me hope that I could be better and get to that point in my swimming career.”


Photo Courtesy: Mike Cutler

“Personally I love being a role model to the little kids and being able to make their day. When I was little and the older kids came back I loved watching them and it was always a big deal when they talked to me. I’d always feel special and it kind of gave me motivation or something to look forward to,” Haaksma said.

A conversation that many of us have had with our coaches is this: leave the team in better shape than when you joined it. Our responsibility as role models turns into not only leading by example, but by paving the path towards success– showing them ways that could help them accomplish their own goals. It is our responsibility to get them to the places we are unable to reach– as great as it is to have a record, watching someone break one of your own should be seen as just as much of a success. This will, in turn, hopefully leave the kids we’ve helped during our time go on to help those coming up after them.

“I think it gives them kind of a buddy that has been through what they are going through, that can help them, because I know I’d always talk to the older kids and they’d help me with whatever,” Marion said.

“I love that we now have the opportunity to have that impact on the younger kids,” Haaksma added.

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