Why My Identity Will Always Be Rooted in Swimming

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Photo Courtesy: Rachel WIlt

By Erin Himes, Swimming World College Intern

Exactly one week ago, I finished my 16 year swimming career. And while there have been many signs this season that it was certainly time for me to move on, I found myself emotional on that last day. To go from calling myself a swimmer for the majority of my life to suddenly no longer being one is an undeniably huge identity shift, one that nearly every collegiate swimmer faces at the end of their career.

There are things I will certainly miss, things that I feel confident cannot be replaced by other aspects of life. The satisfaction that that one awesome taper swim brings you, knowing that every single morning practice was worth it. Being in the pool with a group of your best friends every single day, working together to accomplish your individual and team goals. Crawling into bed in December after two practices and a lift and feeling so exhausted, yet proud of what you’ve done. Cheering on your teammates at finals, watching everyone accomplish what they’ve worked for. Truly feeling so deeply a part of something that it moves you to tears to see all of this success blossom in front of you. These are the things I’ll look back on and deeply miss the way they made me feel.


Photo Courtesy: Codie Cox

But while those moments are just memories now, the things I took from them and the values swimming has given me, I am beginning to see, have already worked their way into other aspects of my life. I’m extremely excited to channel energy I’ve never had before into nurturing those sides of me with the mentality of a swimmer.

I’m excited to use my teamwork and leadership skills to drive me in my career. Swimming taught me how to open up to all different types of people and work toward a common goal with passion and drive, and I’m looking forward to doing that outside of the pool.

I’m looking forward to setting personal goals out of the pool and working to accomplish them. Swimming taught me, very much a night person, just how much you can accomplish before the sun rises. I feel confident that whatever goals I set in my personal life, I’ll have the drive to reach them, because swimming showed me just how worth it that is.

I’m excited to try my absolute best and to sometimes fail, because swimming showed me that sometimes thats when you learn the most. After every bad race I had in college, I would spend time thinking about what could have been better and try to apply that at practice. I’m no longer terrified of failing, because swimming taught me that from failure comes much better and more satisfying success.


Photo Courtesy: Jeff Golden

I can’t wait to apply my competitive drive to my work out of the pool. Sure, I’ve done this to a certain extent, but to really focus all my time and competitive energy on non-swimming pursuits is going to be special. Through swimming, I learned how to be a respectful competitor. This skill is driving me forward in other aspects of my life, too.

The things I love the most about swimming aren’t even necessarily the way I feel in the water or the exhaustion of a hard set, although I do love those things. The most touching part of my swimming career has been the way it has shaped my character, my mindset, and my work ethic. And these aren’t things that can be taken away from me along with the title of swimmer. As I move forward, into whatever chapter of life is marked by the word “swammer,” I know that the pieces of my identity I cling to most were shaped by this wonderful sport and I’m determined to keep them central to who I am far into my future.

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



  1. Taryn Capper

    Josh Harris Naomi Harris Jess Lucas Michelle McDowell … good read ?

    • Naomi Harris

      Love it….sharing x

  2. Sha Oui

    Rachel Wong you’re in one of the pictures!

  3. avatar

    Join Master’s Swimming! You don’t have to give swimming up.