Life is full of difficult decisions. There is an inexplicable pressure to make the right one, and each decision determines a different outcome that ultimately leads to even more choices. However, whether the choice was right or wrong, the decisions that we make help to shape us into the person we are today.
Both in their personal and athletic lives, swimmers are constantly faced with tough choices common to the collegiate swimming experience. The decisions that they make reflect their discipline and dedication to the sport. Every choice, no matter how small, determines the kind of swimmer that they are. Here are five common issues that competitive swimmers face and must choose what is best for themselves.
1. Extra/Morning Practices
Every swim team has a combination of afternoon and morning practices throughout the week. While coaches usually only require swimmers to attend a certain amount of practices each week, some swimmers take it upon themselves to attend more. Any swimmer can show up to afternoon practice, but it takes a dedicated swimmer to wake up and go to morning practices at 5 a.m.
To sleep or not to sleep: that is the question that every swimmer faces. Swim schedules are rigorous, so it comes as no surprise that swimmers love their sleep and get it whenever they can. Sleeping becomes a sacred ritual, so being woken up by a blaring alarm at 4 o’clock in the morning can make a veteran swimmer cry. In that dazed moment, a swimmer comes to a difficult decision: turn off the alarm and go back to sleep or jump into freezing pool waters.
With the amount of calories that swimmers burn at each practice, they have gained the reputation of being able to eat a colossal amount of food. It’s easy to eat anything you want because it will be worked off at practice. While some swimmers disregard healthy food, nutrition is an essential part of being a successful swimmer. Eating healthy is not easy for anyone, but it can determine how you perform at practice and meets.
At every practice, there are separate intervals for different sets. Sometimes, coaches will nudge a swimmer to do a certain interval because they know they are capable of achieving faster times. However, for the most part, coaches allow their swimmers to pick an interval that they believe they can make. This presents swimmers with a difficult decision, because they are left to gauge their abilities for the set that is written. Some intervals are comfortable to do at the beginning then turn into touch-and-go, while others are too easy. It is up to the swimmer to know the perfect middle ground that pushes them but does not break them. Fear often holds swimmers back from pushing to the next level.
The extensive amount of time spent with the same small number of people can lead to drama within a team. Due to its prevalence in swim team culture, drama can be inescapable. It’s easy to become sucked into the swirl of gossip and let it consume you, complicating relationships and creating more hardship. As a result, some swimmers may decide to turn the other way when they hear about the latest news on the team. Would you rather become distracted and pulled down by negativity or stay focused and pull the team forward?
5. When to Walk Away
There are various reasons that lead swimmers to leave the sport for good. It could be due to injury, not wanting to continue at a collegiate level, or they have realized their passion for something else. Whatever the reason, it is never an easy decision to make. It can be the hardest dilemma of their swimming careers, because leaving means saying farewell to their swim family and hard work.
However, some swimmers decide to stay. Some even become coaches. They come full circle, and now it becomes their job to teach the new swimmers the tricks and trades of swimming. They use their wisdom and experience to help guide the future of swimming.
All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSSS nor its staff.