Swimming: A Thinking Man’s Sport

PHOENIX, Arizona, January 1. FROM time to time, we like to publish some off-the-beaten-path works from various articles submitted to us. Today, we print a solid piece written by David Long of Fairport Area Swim Team. Long wrote the piece as a college admission essay, and plans on attending Colgate University. Congrats to Long for taking the next step in his higher education career.

Long's piece, reprinted below, is about how swimming is a thinking man's sport. It truly gives you time to contemplate your life while training.

My sport is thinking. Others go out to the baseball diamond, others to the track, and yet others to the basketball court; I go to the pool to swim and think. While my practice routine changes from day to day, the one common theme is thinking; thinking during the hour-long car ride into Fairport, thinking during the two hour practice, thinking on the way home, thinking at night in bed.

Don't get me wrong; I certainly love the swimming and time with my friends, but it's the serenity of the pool and how it seems to cleanse both inside and out that keeps me coming back every day. Every ounce of energy I expel in a workout stays in the pool, accumulating over the months, dying to get out. Meet day comes and all of that energy finally escapes. It goes right to the clock, shrinking and shrinking the number that it shows.

In reality, the actual swimming is only half of the sport to me. Perhaps not even half. What I'm addicted to is the freedom that the water gives me, and how it allows me to focus on my life, away from all the distractions of the world. With all of this time on my hands when homework, friends, television, cell phones, and Instant Messaging cannot intrude, I have the opportunity to truly think. I consider and reconsider everything, examining each notion, belief or opinion I've ever held to be true. I believe that it is this fact that clearly separates me from the football players, track athletes, and basketball players of the world: focusing on plays and drills requires one to put his mind on someone or something else, while the silent world of swimming lends itself to personal reflection and self examination.

Each hour-long car ride to Fairport to practice with the elite Fairport Area Swim Team is just as useful to me as time in the water. The time has come to drive to practice. I hop in the car, fasten my seatbelt and make sure I have my swim bag. As I merge onto I-390 to begin the trek, all that happened that day begins to whiz through my head. I start by reviewing my day, beginning with Spanish class first period, all the way through band eighth period. I wonder about the chemistry test that I took fourth period, and if I had assigned all the correct oxidation states to each atom. I wonder if I had the correct acceleration equation for the particle that we were studying in calculus. "I can't wait until we start the new marching song this year in band," I think. "This year's band trip to Chicago will be great."

"Where am I? Have I passed the exit?" I look around. "I'm fairly sure it's around this corner. Oh, here's an exit sign, what does that say?" I squint, "Exit…twenty-seven? Great, I passed my exit!" As I get off I-490 East just to get back onto I-490 West, I slip back into my world. "Spanish test tomorrow at SUNY Geneseo," I remember. As I review when to use the subjunctive mood rather than the indicative mood, I arrive at Fairport High School. I greet my friends, fill up my water bottle, stretch, and begin the evening's workout. I am lulled into a zone by the rhythmic splashing of the waves against the walls, the sounds of kicking against the surface, and my slow, in-sync breathing.

Here is where I do my most personal thinking, about my friends and my family, about whatever troubles me, and about the most difficult decisions I have to make. It was in this setting that I decided where I want to attend college next year, and what I would do for my Eagle Scout Project. I think about the world at large, the problems in the Middle East, the up-coming elections, my opinion on gun control and our foreign policy. I make my mind up on smaller things here too, such as what to get my best friend, Tim, for his birthday, how to approach The Canterbury Tales for an essay due next week, and what I would like my senior quote in the yearbook to read.

"Why do you swim?" they ask me. Well, just as light is distorted when it passes through a lens, so, too, does the world change when you view it through the lenses of your goggles. Those dark, foggy, and often blurry goggles help me to remove the darkness, fog, and blur from the world around me. My mental vision is enhanced, and more clearly can I think.