Our Away-From-The Pool Heroes: The Debt That All Swimmers Owe

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Our Away-From-The Pool Heroes: The Debt That All Swimmers Owe

By Jamie Kolar, Swimming World College Intern.

Swimmers live busy lives. We never stop moving from the moment we wake up until the moment our head hits the pillow at night. We wake up, run to practice, run to class and then run to practice again. We fit meals and homework in there somehow, but we are hurricanes that never stop.

While we are running around all day, we have people who help us along the way that we often just leave in our wake. This isn’t to say that they are not important: just that our minds are normally filled with what we need to get done or what we need in general. Our intent is never to be selfish, but sometimes that is how we come off. Every once in a while, it is nice to sit back and remember those who make each and every day possible, special and enjoyable. These unsung heroes deserve our respect and gratitude, as they do so much for us that we don’t even recognize all the time.

Our Teachers


Photo Courtesy: Phoenixville Schools

Our teachers put up with a lot from the general student population on a daily basis. They grade our papers, allow us to show up a minute late because we got lost or had trouble walking up the stairs, and they impart as much wisdom as they can to prepare us to the best of their ability.

They are often extra understanding for us athletes with missing class and make special accommodations each and every time we find ourselves in a bind. Our teachers make being a student-athlete easier. They understand all the work we put do both in the classroom and the pool. Without them and their empathy, being a student-athlete would be nearly impossible and certainly much harder.

Our Friends

Matthes & Naber

John Naber and Roland Matthes sharing a bite during a visit between the two backstroke legends and friends who sat on Naber’s couch watching 2016 Olympic backstroke finals together 40 years and 20 days after their own poignant 100m final in 1976 – Photo Courtesy: John Naber

Our swim friends are with us through every morning, swim set and dryland. They are there through thick and thin. We are grateful to them for their partnership through our journeys in the water.

But what about those friends who are not in the water with us? The ones that really don’t know the specific mechanics about swimming and yet understand you and the sport perfectly. The ones who will wait until practice ends to hang out with you. The ones who listen to us as we ramble on about how hard practice was and how tired we are and will empathize with you every time. The ones who ask us to spill our guts about anything and everything, swimming related or not.

They may not be directly inside the swim community, but they are still a part of the family. They support us out of the water and support us unconditionally through their constant understanding and love. They put themselves in our shoes and understand everything without participating. To us, that means the world. It allows us to have a different perspective and feel slightly more sane about our chaotic lives.

Our Families


Photo Courtesy: David Rieder

Our families are perhaps the most understanding of all. We don’t get to see them as much as we would like to, especially during season. We probably see our teams more than we see our blood relatives, yet they are at every meet they’re able to come to, cheering us on. They are there when we have hit rock bottom and rush to pick up the pieces when we are broken and shattered. Only when they are putting them back together, they somehow make us stronger than before we were broken.

These people are the ones who keep us going in the water. They truly allow us to be great and deserve our utter praise and thanks. We are in debt to them and could not function at such a high level if it were not for them. This debt can never be fully repaid, however. To those who we forget to thank on a daily basis, we could not be athletes without you. You may not be with us through every second of the journey, but you are the reason the journey is possible and make the destination attainable.

From the bottom of our hearts – thank you for all that you do for us! Who do you need to thank today?

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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Judy Puopolo
5 years ago

Yes well said!

Nancy Pa Tucker
5 years ago

Lisa Thompson Olsen Eric Olaf Olsen

Mike Kolar
5 years ago

My pleasure Jamie.

You and your sister are most welcome.

With tears.


Madison Whartenby
5 years ago

Taylor Worrell famous

Holly Thomsen Jones
5 years ago


Sarah Elizabeth
5 years ago

Betsy Stacey

JB Baker
5 years ago

So true

Chad Wamsley
5 years ago

Great picture!

5 years ago

Gabrielle Louden there is no place that I would have rather been, than watching you chase your goals in the pool. All 17 years of them.
Love you, Mom

Jackie Gilliland
5 years ago

Erica,so rarely that emotional

Jenny Hastings
Jenny Hastings
5 years ago

Wow, powerful words ….so many to thank, memories 🙂

Shelly Woodard-Powell
5 years ago

Ryan Powell, read this article, please.

Ryan Powell
5 years ago

Shelly Woodard-Powell really good

Angie Calvert
5 years ago

Jenna Petrocchi

5 years ago

Lovely article – brought tears to my eye!

Vicki Parkes Auditore
5 years ago

great article! The pic and the article brought tears to my eyes.

Wendy Batson McCreery
5 years ago

Love this picture.

Eira Moroney
5 years ago

Maria Ash

Mike Kolar
5 years ago

The author is my First daughter. Her sister is also D1 scholarship swimmer.

To be subtlety appreciated is beyond her printed words.

This kid has it right. To see others respond with my fatherly reaction is indescribable.

Thank you swimming.

2 months ago
Reply to  Mike Kolar

Good stuff!

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