The #1 Thing I Learned About Swimming This Year

Photo Courtesy: Brian Jenkins-UVM Athletics

By Chandler Brandes, Swimming World College Intern.

If anyone were to ask what swimming has taught me, I’d give the standard answer.

It has taught me time management, organization, and how to balance everything. It has helped me learn to work with a team, set meaningful goals, and showed me the importance of dedication and commitment.

While all of these are completely true and the sport of swimming has taught me invaluable lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life, I learned the most important lesson of my 12-year career this season.

And that lesson, you might ask?

It’s okay to not always like the sport.  

You’d think that any athlete who has chosen to continue their sport at the collegiate level absolutely loves it all the time. Although I can only speak on behalf of myself, it’s not true, and it’s something that athletes usually won’t admit. Especially publicly.

Because it’s not always rainbows and butterflies—it rarely is. It’s hard. It takes an emotional, physical, and mental toll on you. At times, it really, really sucks.

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Photo Courtesy: Annie Grevers

I was not pressured or forced to start swimming when I was eight years old. I was the one who decided to give up other sports and activities in high school to focus on swimming and it was my decision to swim in college.

I do not regret my decision to swim in college by any means. I absolutely love my team and all of the girls on it. I love my identity as an athlete and the people and opportunities it has exposed me to. I love representing my school and knowing I’m part of something bigger than myself.

After a solid freshman year, I was excited for my sophomore season. I was hungry for more success. I was focused. I was motivated. I was ready to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump.

But then something changed, and I have yet to pinpoint what and when exactly it was. I had a concussion mid-season that set me back a few weeks. I dealt with some illnesses here and there throughout the season. I became really sick the week before Championships.

I could use these as excuses and I promise you I could come up with many, many more if you asked me to. But I’m not going to make excuses; I’m going to be completely honest with myself.

I hated swimming this year. I didn’t want to swim anymore and very much contemplated quitting.

I didn’t have the season I should have or could have, nor did I have the Championships I wanted. Am I disappointed? Sure. Do I feel like this year was a waste? Absolutely not.

I’m glad I recognized and learned the things I did when I did. It gets to a certain point where you can no longer fake it, and I could no longer fake it this year.

And I have learned that that is okay.

It’s okay to admit when you need help and to seek out resources. It’s okay to communicate to your coaches about how you’re feeling. It’s okay to let your teammates know what’s going on. Chances are, some of them may be feeling the same way.

Most importantly, it’s okay to no longer put on a fake smile and power through.

I still have two more years before I hang up my cap and goggles and call myself a swammer. I know those two years are going to go by fast, and I’m going to try to enjoy every minute of it.

As I go forth, I’m going to set goals that are meaningful to me; not what I think others want to hear. I’m going to keep working hard and recognize that these feelings are perfectly valid and not uncommon.

And that is perfectly okay with me.

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Author: Chandler Brandes

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Chandler Brandes is a senior at the University of Vermont where she is majoring in Public Communication and double minoring in Coaching and Sports Management. She is a former swimmer for the Catamounts and this is her fourth year on board with Swimming World.

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