The Positives that Covid-19 Brought to College Swimmers


The Positives that Covid-19 Brought to College Swimmers

It has been two years since COVID-19 shackled not only our health, but also our lives. There was no exception for student-athletes in college. With the pandemic, NCAA and NAIA championships got canceled. Therefore, many seniors in college lost their last opportunity to race one more time for their school.

College swimmers and athletes around the country shared their frustration after not having their last national championship. However, for the 2020-2021 season, the NCAA and NAIA decided to give athletes one more year of eligibility – “a fifth year.” This fifth year opened a new opportunity for swimmers who were still looking to swim and study one more year at their university, or transfer to another school.

More Undergrad Opportunities For Athletes

Being a swimmer in college can be challenging, due to double practices and meets. Swimmers might struggle to take enough credit hours each semester to finish their degrees on time. This is why the fifth-year option opened the door for those who did not want to rush their undergrad coursework, or wanted to add a concentration, double major, or minor. The extra year of eligibility allowed swimmers to keep training, racing, and studying. Furthermore, it gave more time to those who had unclear futures.

Transfer Portal

Transferring has always been an option for student-athletes. Nonetheless, most athletes sign their first year hoping to graduate from that university. However, the transfer portal became a regular option not only for swimmers, but also for coaches. With the fifth year of eligibility granted, some coaches focused on recruiting transfer students who could provide an immediate spark. Some swimmers saw transferring as an opportunity to have a new experience with new teammates and coaches. Some others desired to transfer to a university with enhanced competition to improve their times. This was the case for some NAIA swimmers who transferred to the NCAA with the expectation of racing at a higher level.

Graduate School An Option

The addition of a fifth year of eligibility enabled swimmers to pursue Masters degrees as student-athletes. Paying for graduate school can be pretty expensive, so the extra year of eligibility gave swimmers the advantage of earning an additional degree without cost, or through a discount.

For international students, fifth-year stays provided a tremendous opportunity to obtain a Masters degree in a STEM area (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and extend their Optional Practical Training up to three years. For those whose goal was to stay and work in the United States after college, it was a great possibility with the OPT extension.

Moreover, some athletes decided to swim for an extra year, start graduate school and finish as a graduate assistant coach. This was the case for many who wanted to accomplish their Masters degree within two years.

Covid-19 has turned the lives of student-athletes upside down. Yet, it also opened some opportunities for individuals who wanted to extend their careers and continue their studies.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.