Where Would I Be Without Swimming?

Photo Courtesy: Taylor Brien

Where Would I Be Without Swimming?

By Grace Hoffmann

I have been swimming for 15 years and can honestly say that I have never met a swimmer who has said that they have always loved the sport. If you’re out there and love swimming 100 percent of the time, then kudos to you! That’s truly something special. However, for the vast majority of the swimming community, not every day is great. In fact, no where near every day is great.

Swimming is a sport in which the training is hard and results may or may not come. We push ourselves everyday with the hopes that we’ll drop time in maybe one race. Is the amount of training that you put yourself through really worth the .01 time drop? If I take practice out of the equation, then maybe I could have a job. I could spend more time with my family and friends.

The options seem endless if you think about it, so why keep swimming?

The Beginning


Photo Courtesy: Kara Sekenski

Nylon caps (because latex hurt too much) and goggles that are decorated with fish on the sides. Swimming was a fun after school activity. Maybe you started off at a summer pool and the league was so much fun that you decided to join the year-round team. You got to meet new people at practice and make new friends! Traveling with mom and dad to your meets where you got ribbons after every race, and an additional one if you won your heat– well that was even better.

The sport seemed too perfect. Yes, your parents may have complained quite a bit about how long the meet took, but your 25 yard freestyle race was your time to shine. Then as you got better, and started moving up to the next age group, the sport seemed to get more intense. Competition between your best friends and teammates started. Practice became a race. Suddenly the sleepover you wanted to go to Friday night wasn’t possible because of Saturday morning practice. But of course when your teacher asked what you did in your free time or what your favorite sport was, the answer was always the same: swimming.

The Challenge 


Photo Courtesy: Taylor Brien

If you kept swimming through middle school and into high school it became the norm for you. Your identity was “swimmer.” The struggle of balancing the 3 S’s (school, swimming, and social) was extreme. A lot of the kids you swam with growing up decide that it was not worth it anymore. They stopped swimming and you didn’t blame them. You just didn’t feel the same way as them. Your best friends became the people who saw you at 5 a.m. Other people just didn’t understand. Year after year you start to understand that the summer sport your parents signed you up for had become a job.



Photo Courtesy: St. Thomas Swimming

After a grueling practice, especially if you failed in a set or had to keep repeating it until you made a time cycle, swimming seems horrible. From personal experience, I have heard the aftermath of a bad practice on the pool deck and in the locker room. Swimmers can speak terribly of the sport that they claim to love.

Why would they be swimming if they didn’t love it? Who puts in 20+ hours a week of training just to complain about it everyday? A swimmer does. It’s easy to love swimming and it’s easy to hate it.

The truth behind it all is that not everyone can do it. Swimmers are unique. Swimmers are all borderline insane. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is not easy to do. But I don’t know where I would be without swimming. The highs and the lows will always occur in life. Swimming has taught me how to pick myself up when I fall down. It’s taught me about myself– who I am and who I want to be. If you think long and hard about your relationship with swimming (yes, it is a relationship; quite a rocky one if I say so myself) don’t focus on the bad days. Instead of “Where would I be without swimming?” maybe the focus should be on “Who would I be without swimming?”

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


  1. Denis Senkubuge II

    I swear,i do not know where I would be without swimming because it’s just something part of me….

    • avatar
      Jennifer Parks

      It is part of my life, swam my first race at age 5, and my last race was at 75. Much more more comfortable in the water than out! Thank you for building pools, though I truly love my nearby Lake Michigan.

  2. Staci Hollingsworth Roberson

    As a mother of a 15 year old swimmer and a 11 year old swimmer. Both on two different levels and paths- I don’t know where I would be without swimming. It was quite an emotional judgement to stop summer league due to long course training and meets. Just as swimmers feel this. Parents do as well. We feel your good days and equally hurt on your bad ones. And yes marvel at the overall commitment!

    • avatar

      Well said and exactly what is going on with my girls. Made the decision to give up summer league this year and I’m already having second thoughts.

  3. avatar
    M L Brochner

    Swimming made me prove I could succeed …and thru the many doubters, I made it into Olympic Trials, All-American/Academic, College swimming and the strength mentally to go thru Medical school, Residency and beat Cancer three times. Most of all I have a lifetime of friends that share the secret bond of swimming…..and the power it holds.

  4. Matt Gold

    Abbey Kilgallon definitely somewhere with a social life 🙂

  5. Lynn Titchener

    Well I’ve been swimming for over 50 years! At age 62 I now teach water fitness 6 x week. Moving through water and teaching others how to “FEEL IT” when your body is lifted up when relaxed is just holy to me. I can’t live without water. <3

  6. Paddy Jones

    I’ve been swimming for 35+ years – never competitive but for my physical and mental well being….hate to think of who or where I would be without swimming

  7. Robyne Chabant

    I “stopped” swimming at the age of 12… the pressure was too much. started back up at the age of 52 for an open water event, and I haven’t stopped since…I’m turning 58….I love it!!

  8. avatar
    Mark Mulligan

    Well said and so true! Swimming is part of my DNA…from growing up by the ocean, to YMCA swim lessons, to age group, high school, then college and Olympic Trials…I went through just about every stage. The juxtaposition between extremes of such as joy/disappointment, success/failure, strength/weakness, ecstasy/pain, friendship/no social life were incredible life lessons. I have been and always will be a Swimmer. As M L Brochner says above, there is a “secret bond” between swimmers that only those who have lived it know; we are all part of a universal team. An amazing example of this “team” happened when my son was in a car accident in 2014. He had a traumatic brain injury and was in a 17 day comma (he’s doing great now!). I had high school and college teammates from all over Florida show up and support me and my family in the ER…some I hadn’t seen in over 25 years. That “secret bond” is one of the strongest substances and it is built by hard work.

  9. avatar

    From Manila Philippines here and i started to swam at the lake & beach at the age 6years old.during that my childhood days my first to learned was floating and like frog kicking & it was fun for me and enjoying. And when i grown up started to Learn different stroke &style and speed and also to compete. Now this Pandemic i reminiscing my mindset is to practice and exercise all that was i learned and mentally focused to relieved my depression of stress and anxiety.

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