What is Success?

Photo Courtesy: Allen Rich

By Katlynn Emaus, Swimming Word College Intern

What defines success? Is success winning NCAAs? Or getting 100 percent on a chemistry midterm? Or is it meeting your seasonal goal time? Or maybe it’s even missing the national cut. Success is a term commonly used. Everyone wants to be successful, but everyone has a different definition of the term.

In swimming, some people see success as pretty black and white. You either get your goal time or you don’t. You either win or you lose. You are either successful or you are not. That is just plain wrong. Although, swimming can appear to be a pretty straight forward sport, there are plenty of gray areas when it comes to defining success.

I distinctly remember a time when I was younger, when my coach told me “no matter what you do in this 200 breast, just take seven strokes a length and let’s see what happens.” I added eight seconds. I was pretty upset, however my coach considered that a successful swim. I couldn’t see where he was coming from. How was adding eight seconds and getting fourth considered a successful swim? It was not until recently that I realized what made it a successful race. It was successful because I went out and did what I wanted to do: I took seven strokes per length. I was trying out a new strategy for a race. The race was successful, but the strategy was not.

The focus was so much on the end result. I wasn’t able to see what I did differently to get there. That can be true for much of swimming. A lot of swimmers are just so focused on the end result-their championship meet-they forget to cherish the opportunities presented to them along the way. Don’t get me wrong, focusing on your championship meet is important; it’s been the focal point of your training all year. But remember that trophies tarnish and medals get lost, but the memories made with your teammates are what will last a life time.

The Process


Photo Courtesy: Julia DeGregorio

Training trip, travel meets, and dance parties in the locker room before meets– those will be the moments engraved in our memories rather than our best time engraved on the back of a medal. It is fun to swim fast and it is fun to win, but doing it with some of your closest friends makes it a lot more special. In a environment where everyone wants the person next to them to be as successful as themselves, if not more, is where swimmers can all blossom and a successful team can bloom. That is what makes swimming a team sport. Land-sport people always say swimming isn’t a team sport. Boy, are they wrong. True when you are racing it is just you and the clock, but behind your lane is your team, cheering you on, hoping that you will succeed.

My coach used to always tell me, “you don’t get faster, you simply learn” which is a trait that successful swimmers have. They analyze their races rather than solely focusing on their time. By deciphering the race and seeing what they did well and what they didn’t do well, swimmers are able to take that information forward and apply it to their training and their racing. Even if a swimmer didn’t accomplish their goal time, if they are able to sit down, see what they need to work on, and focus on that above their time, it is a successful swim.

For me, success in swimming is being content, but not satisfied. Meaning you can be content with a race, but not too content. You are hungry for more. Never be satisfied, then you’ll stop working. Find the little things you did in the race and make them the focus of your training. Try new racing strategies to find which one works for you. Laugh with your teammates until you have a six pack. Go parasailing or cliff jumping on training trip with some of your closest friends. At the end of the day, when you are lying in bed exhausted but perfectly content– that is what success is.

Notify of

Welcome to our community. We invite you to join our discussion. Our community guidelines are simple: be respectful and constructive, keep on topic, and support your fellow commenters. Commenting signifies that you agree to our Terms of Use

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Joshua Munro
8 years ago

Well writen

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x