Rooming with a College Swimmer 101

Photo Courtesy: Sandy Palmatter

Rooming with a College Swimmer 101

By Kristy Kinzer

Many college athletes elect to room with another athlete, particularly a teammate, for the big transition to college life and sports. But those who room with non-athletic regular people (NARPs for short) must inform their new co room-dweller of the odd circumstances of their schedules and swimming life.

As a former DIII college swimmer, I remember the struggles and joys of giving my new roommate a crash orientation to what life would be like while living with a swimmer. She handled it with grace, and I ended up standing up in her wedding six years later! So if you plan on rooming with a NARP, here are some possible scenarios to prepare for or attempt to avoid for the best possible living situation.

1. Wake up to your morning practice alarm with plenty of time to get to the pool.

Yes, you are crazy enough to climb out of the cozy comforts of warm blankets to jump in a freezing cold pool during the dead of winter long before any human should be awake. You may even accidentally drop your phone acting as an alarm between your lofted bunks and the door, only to have to run out the door to not be late for practice. Make sure your roommate is fully prepared to do a mini room re-arranging session at 5 a.m. to extract your unwelcome awakening device from its landing-place. And try to be thoughtful enough to wake up to the first alarm and not hit snooze multiple times. Not everyone has to suffer the same early-morning fate of a college swimmer, and it helps in forming a long-lasting friendship with this new person to plan ahead.

2. Don’t fret about comparing your appearance with your roomies.

Roomie Love

Photo Courtesy: Lydia Guanga

I had the privilege of sharing a room and a suite with some of the most beautiful girls on campus. That is no understatement. They woke up early, put on an episode of Friends, and beautified themselves before class every day. This is when I learned the concept of teasing your hair, and that a sweatshirt, sweatpants, and headband to cover the chlorinated greasy hair was not the most attractive look. They taught me a few things about appearances, but in the end, I couldn’t shake the habit of wearing the same outfit I rolled out of bed in and scampering off to class with a yawn. Your true friends will not care about your wardrobe, and they will love you anyway, even with that waffle-printed face you just woke up from a nap with. And sometimes these friends happen to be the most stylish ones on campus!

3. Your belongings will always smell like chlorine, so your roomie will just have to get used to it.

No joke. Every time people walked past my dorm room, they caught a whiff of sweaty gym shoes and chlorine. Not the most ideal scent, but it will grow on you. Just try to spare your roommate’s olfactory nerve and put dryer sheets in your shoes and Febreeze your closet every once in a while. If you can, set your towels/suits/caps/goggles in the basement laundry room to dry to spread out the scents or keep them in your team locker room. If your roommate hates the smell of chlorine, try SwimSpray or you may need to look for a new one…

4. Be courteous with your monotonous hairstyle.


Photo Courtesy: Annie Grevers

Yes, many female athletes seem to throw their hair up in a hurry to get from practice to class or to the dining hall, but swimmers are notorious for rocking the “swimmer bun” every day for weeks on end. Be prepared to buy several packages of hair ties and de-tangler, and invest in a good hair-catching shower drain because getting those knots out and un-clogging the drain can seem as difficult as walking a tight rope over the Niagara Falls. Spare your roomie the unpleasant experience of wiping your hair out of the shower and clean up after yourself. This can apply to men as well, since their chlorine-damaged hair tends to fall out in chunks.

5. Women—try not to flaunt your unshaven legs too closely. Or men’s taper-shaved legs.


Photo Courtesy: Dan Alexander

Not every roommate becomes your best friend, but I had the fortunate experience of becoming very close with my college roommate…to the point where I could feel comfortable jumping under her covers and giving her the prickly-leg torture treatment. This consists of wearing shorts and diving under the covers as you’re getting ready for bed and rubbing your dry, scaly and unshaven legs on hers. Swimmers’ common lack of personal space is sometimes not shared by NARPs, so they would most likely appreciate to stay far from our fur-lined, pre-tapered legs. Men tend to get excited about their shaved legs for big meets and flaunt their smooth, shiny scales. This may shock people. Which is okay, but be aware that not everyone is as accepting of this practice.

6. Warn your roommate of your twitching capabilities.

Nearly every swimmer tends to twitch more than the average person while falling asleep. I once experienced a teammate twitch so hard that her arm knocked over a lamp stand in the middle of the night while staying at a hotel during a big Invitational, startling the rest of the girls in the room. If your roomie hears a casual kick of the ceiling or punch to the wall, warn her that this is normal behavior and carry on sleeping.

7. Keep a large stock of snacks on hand and label them.

No habit is more annoying than looking forward to eating your favorite snack, only to find that your roommate got to it first. Set the ground rules early—your food is your food, and her food is hers. Extra calories are a must during intense training sessions, and silly feuds can start over stealing food. Make it clear that claws may come out if food is taken, so please respect your metabolism.

8. Talk about boundaries with teammates visiting.

Many times, swimmers travel in packs to visit each other and snuggle in each others’ dorm rooms. While this is a pleasant experience for you, your roommate may feel bombarded and displaced. Make sure to ask if it’s okay that teammates come over. We can be a rowdy bunch, and the compounded sweat may emit too much chlorine scent for a non-swimmer to handle.

9. Naps during the day are a must.

The first year of college swimming is a difficult adjustment, and daytime naps become a staple to remaining sane during the swim season. Most likely you and your roommate will have very differing class, work, and practice schedules. Make sure that you respect each others’ sleep schedule and keep the lights dim and noise to a minimum when the other is napping. Sleep rage is real, so keep each other on your good sides and try not to wake each other up.

Living with athletes and NARPs can be an incredible experience as long as mutual respect and ground-rules are upheld. The idiosyncrasies you share can form a unique bond that years cannot break. May these nine lessons help to form a lasting bond between you and your roommate for many years to come!

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Charlene Tallen
6 years ago

My daughter is gonna be in a quad, with another swimmer and two volleyball players! Shenanigans ?

Shannon Scovel
6 years ago

Casey Keller, you might enjoy this 🙂

Casey Keller
6 years ago
Reply to  Shannon Scovel

LOL cracking up at the first one, miss it! ?. These are so good, I should write an article of my own ?

Araya Therrien
6 years ago

Sydney Kroes #6 lol

Sydney Kroes
6 years ago
Reply to  Araya Therrien

Oh my god! Everything makes sense now. I’ve always told you that you swim in your sleep ?

Karen Kieffer Heinz
6 years ago

Elizabeth Heinz

Dave LaBerge
6 years ago

#1, plus that time you wake up thinking its 5:30am and time to walk to practice and to turns out to be 3am ????

Dawn Maisenholder-Pierce

Michelle Beck, so glad I had you❤️

Michelle Beck
6 years ago

Lots of shenanigans for sure. Great memories of lily pads swim practices 905 parties rice crispy treats and homemade pizzas! brassy’s and Pirates of the Caribbean of course! Oh man I forgot about the golfer parties wigs Def Leppard, stripping all the lug nuts on your tire when I tried to change it in the middle of the night in the pitch black and we made up stories that something was going to come get us from the woods behind us. I think that’s enough for now. We have to get together and laugh soon

Dawn Maisenholder-Pierce

Michelle Beck -ooohhhh, I miss you!

Kara Muscillo
6 years ago

Julianna Bender Don Bender Margaret M. Bender

Robin Hiddemen
6 years ago

Laura Gray – applies to suite mates too.

Kuppe Baldridge Ivey
Kuppe Baldridge Ivey
6 years ago

Maureen McGowan Despres

Lilly Etlinger
6 years ago

Lea Moore

Lea Moore
6 years ago
Reply to  Lilly Etlinger

Lol i will be a good narp

Lilly Etlinger
6 years ago
Reply to  Lilly Etlinger


Sara Nestrowitz
6 years ago

Georgina Berbari lol #3

Georgina Berbari
6 years ago

Lmao omg miss the smell of fresh chlorine in the morning <3

Kate Hanf
6 years ago

Morghan Heim ? pretty sure you’re used to me already though

Morghan Heim
6 years ago
Reply to  Kate Hanf

I can relate bc of my swim past, so i think we’ll be good:)

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