Swim Stories | Olympic Swimming | Thanks to Trials, Everything Is Now Going Swimmingly

Thanks to Trials, Everything Is Now Going Swimmingly

“The U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials will be held inside Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.”

Beep. Beep. Beep. I hit the snooze button.

Beep. Beep. Beep. I grab my phone and read the blurry numbers. It’s four-fourteen. Time to finally get up.

This is how all my mornings went, Monday through Saturday, from the first day of ninth grade until my graduation from high school. Sounds so much fun, right? Well, it depends on how you look at it. See, I come from a year-round swim team called NOVA. It is home to many NCSA champions, NCAA champions, Pan-American champions, Olympic gold medalists, and me, a guy who started swimming because his oldest sister did and had no clue where it could or would take him.

When I started learning to swim at eight years old, oh man, was I horrible. I couldn’t do anything right. My strokes were ugly, my turns were slow, and my attention levels were so poor that I could never focus, which I’m sure all my coaches loved. In the third and fourth grade, since I would miss school for swim meets, all my friends and teachers knew me as the swimmer. I’d come into class with heat and lane numbers written on my arm before a test, and my teachers would ask, “Are you trying to cheat?” My friends would ask, “Did you win your meet? Are you going to go to the Olympics?” I still laugh at those questions today. They had no clue how the sport of swimming worked. Even in high school, people would still ask me questions about swimming that would make zero sense. They were trying to make conversation and didn’t really care. Deep down, it annoyed me that people had no clue how much work many of my teammates and I put into the sport.

For all four years of high school, practice was from 4:45 to 7:15 am, Monday through Friday, and 5:30 to 8:30 am on Saturday. Doubles were twice a week in the afternoon from 4:30 to 6:15 pm, and weights were three times a week from 6:30 to 7:30 pm. All of this was required, so if I skipped any of it, I’d hear it from my coach the next morning. Due to these time commitments for swimming, participating in clubs or after-school activities was nearly impossible. My high school started at 8 am and went till 3:30 pm, so I was in a time crunch from the minute I woke up to the minute I went to bed, usually around 10 to 10:30 pm. That is how my life went in high school. Every. Single. Day.

Did it get boring? Of course, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. Did I want to do it? Definitely not when all my friends were out on Friday nights, but I had practice the next morning. Am I happy I did it? Hell yes. This sport has taught me more about life than anything else I have ever done. Time management, organization, hard work, sportsmanship, and gratitude are just a few words that come to mind when thinking about what swimming has done for me. Because of swimming and all these values it instilled in me, I am able to attend and swim at Villanova University. My main goal was to swim at a Division I level, and finally achieving it felt surreal. The path was not easy and took years, but it all feels worth it now.

Now, there are swim journeys a lot more compelling and exciting than mine, but I just wanted to open your eyes to what it’s like. Every swimmer has a different story, but we all go through a similar grind: the physical and mental pain, the sacrifices, the early mornings and late nights, the disappointing seasons, and so much more. My friends who play other sports at the Division I level always tell me how hard their schedule is and that they don’t know if they can play their sport all four years in college. My sport schedule is the same; the only difference is that I’ve been doing it since 9th grade, so I’m used to it by now.

All through my life, nobody has really cared to pay attention to the hard work of swimmers, or even about the sport itself. ESPN never covered swimming unless it was about Michael Phelps or Katie Ledecky. None of the big media outlets would ever even consider a segment about swimming. It never really crossed anyone’s mind, but in the past year, a switch has been flipped.

Swimming has become popular. More people are swimming (for many different reasons), the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials were held in a football stadium, the Swim Trials attendance record was broken, Kyle Sockwell, an Arizona State University swimming alumnus, began creating swimming content and now has more than 85k followers on Instagram, a 17-year old American swimmer qualified for the Paris Olympics, and a 46-year old American qualified for the semifinals of the Olympic Trials and went a best time doing it.

When I first read the headline at the beginning of this blog post, I was shocked and amazed. Swimming finally did it. After years of trying to expand the sport and make it more well-known, the work has paid off. That’s why hosting Trials in a football stadium was such a big deal to the swimming community—it goes to show that more and more people are watching and getting involved in the sport. It is about time people start giving the attention and respect that the sport of swimming deserves.

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