15 Reasons to be Thankful for Swimming

2013 Thanksgiving – A Look Back

ONE – SWIMMING COACHES

NC State 800 free relay, 2013 ACC Championships. The celebration begins. (Courtesy: Tim Binning/TheSwimPictures.com)

NC State 800 free relay, 2013 ACC Championships. The celebration begins. (Courtesy: Tim Binning/TheSwimPictures.com)

You think you know what you can do in the pool. You think you know how far and fast you can swim, but there is always that one man or woman standing on deck, yelling, screaming, cheering, conjoling, doing anything in their power to  push you farther. Coaches come in all shapes and sizes, big and fat, tall and skinny, or shorter than a stump. Some may not own shoes and wear the same deck-wore flipflops for years at a stretch. Others live in khakis and rotating club logoed polos like an eternal Best Buy Salesmen, but they all share one thing in common, pure passion for the sport.

If you’ve ever had that moment — that surprise moment — when you slip through that hole in the water and feel effortlessly fast, thank a coach. If you’ve ever  looked at the clock and seen a time that could not possibly be yours, thank a coach. If you’ve ever had the worst swim of your life (or the worst season, and I mean god-awful) but somehow continued on in the sport, thank a coach.  Typically we have a few over our careers. We love them all, but one changes our life forever. They’ll attend your graduations, your weddings, send cards when your first child is born, and something tells me the day you die, you’ll think of them and love them and thank them allover again for everything they did for you.

TWO – SWIMMER FRIENDS

If swim or ever swam, you’ve got them, and they are close friends. You’ve suffered together, felt the pain of two-a-days, being broken-down, only to taper and explode with energy!  That unspoken experience lasts a lifetime. You should be PROUD you’re swimmer or swam year-round, for the rest of your life, and it’s reflected in friendships. You can finish college, start a career, marry and have five kids — a lifetime can pass by — but when you see that person that trained next to you, you feel an immediate connection.  Training together, competing together, bonds you like nothing else can.  Swimmer friends are the backbone of life, something you learn every year you get older. Be thankful for swimmer friends this thanksgiving!

THREE – MICHAEL PHELPS

Phelps, the greatest Olympian of all-time.

Phelps, the greatest Olympian of all-time.

Michael Phelps is returning to competitive swimming. We’re 99.99% sure. I mean, he’s in the WADA testing pool. He’s back, right? Phelps is more than a swimmer, he’s a symbol to us all to strive to be the absolute best we can possibly be, and for that we love him.  Being your best is about personal mastery. Swimming provides us that opportunity every day, and Phelps has lived (and is living) that ideal. If you’re a swimmer, coach, or swim-parent, you understand the daily dedication it takes to achieve personal best times. Phelps delivered on that level nearly every year of his life, and he’s got more to show us. Be thankful for Michael Phelps!

FOUR – FOOD (THE SWIMMER APPETITE)

Do you love food? Do you love eating food, massive meals that feed your body, nourishing every single cell? Then you love swimming, because nothing makes you famished like a gut-busting, shoulder-grinding, leg-crushing swim practice.  Workout ends, you climb out of the pool feeling hollow, every fiber of you hungry, crying out for anything and everything, and you can essentially eat it and still push away from table with a washboard stomach. You know what I’m taking about, right?  Thank swimming!

FIVE – COLLEGE SWIMMING

College swimming holds a special place in the hearts of swim fans. Yes, they swim in yards, which is scoffed at by most of the world, but that’s what makes college swimming unique. In a sport where the lines between amateur 13-year olds and professional 30-year olds are so badly blurred, 25 yard pools are where college swimming can really stand on its own, without having to be compared to the times from the Olympics or the World Championships. That’s part of what makes us care; that along with the team aspect that can’t be matched anywhere in the world.

SIX – TRAINING TRIPS

Ahh, yes, training trips.  Some of the best stories and moments come from these.  While the day-to-day life isn’t necessarily glamorous (eat, sleep, train, tan, repeat), training trips are a great way to break up the monotony of a season, and reenergize yourself for what’s to come.  Especially if you’re from the midwest or the northeast, when you’re escaping the frozen tundra in the dead of winter for Florida, Hawaii, or the Caribbean.

SEVEN – EVE AND CANDACE

Giving themselves the self-appointed role as “The World’s Foremost Unknown Swim Vloggers”, Eve and Candace have been bringing their own unique spin on covering the sport they love for the last five years.  Their vlogs, tweets, and insight have pumped some new life into the way we look at swimming, including breaking down the barrier between athletes and their fans.  Although they are sometimes portrayed as stoic machines who do nothing but swim up and down a pool all day, Eve and Candace have shown the personalities behind elite-level swimmers.

(PS: follow them on Twitter: @EveandCandace)

EIGHT – MISSY FRANKLIN

Missy Franklin at the 2013 Golden Goggles.

Missy Franklin at the 2013 Golden Goggles (courtesy of Melissa Lundie, melissalundie.com)

It’s hard to think of an elite swimmer since Johnny Weissmuller who has been as accessible to the general population as Franklin is. She has crossed-over into mainstream outlets like television and movies. She’s not the first swimmer to move into television; Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte have also done so recently. The way Franklin has done it just seems different, though. She’s got the legitimate star quality that appeals to a generation of young women, and that gives her staying power in the broader public eye even after she’s done winning gold medals, and not just as a canned punchline for late-night television. Others have crossed-over to serve themselves, but Franklin has made the crossover to serve her audience, and that’s unique.

NINE – THE OLYMPICS

It’s what nearly every young swimmer sets as their ultimate goal: reaching the apex of swimming and joining the pantheon of greats who have won medals on the world’s biggest stage.  Every four years, we get to witness some of the greatest competitions of all time, in any sport.  These eight days bring us examples of pure athleticism, where you just want to stand up in awe, and some of the sport’s great teaching moments.

You know what we’re talking about.  That one period every four years when everyone in the country glues their eyes to the television and results as much as you do.   When you’re the smartest person in the room, as less-swimming-educated friends and family come to you for explanations, predictions, and analysis.  When everyone jumps up and down in their living room like their favorite team won the Super Bowl when things like this happen.  When swimming stories–crazy (the rumors about Phelps’ diet) and inspiring (Jessica Long winning three Paralympic games gold medals at age 12) alike–hit the airwaves.  When everyone understands just what it takes to be an Olympic-level swimmer.

TEN – THE POST-PRACTICE/RACE FEELING

Don’t get us wrong, sometimes it feels like death.  You cramp up, can barely lift your arms, or simultaneously feel like throwing up and housing three Grand Slams from Denny’s at the same time.  But when that gives way, and you’re sitting in the locker room at 7 AM, having already accomplished more in the previous two hours than the average person will all day, or laying down in the shower after having putting together an incredible set in a back-breaking threshold practice in the afternoon, or floating in the warm-down pool after a lifetime best swim… a feeling of total euphoria hits you.  Despite the crazy mix of emotions that swimming can instill, it’s moments like these when you break through barriers that keep you coming back for more.  New swimmers, college swimmers, and seasoned master’s swimmers all know it.

ELEVEN – NATHAN ADRIAN

He has three Olympic gold medals, one won in absolute surprise, toppling the famed James Magnussen, the Aussie Missile. We’re thankfulf for Nathan for that one reaction alone, that unfiltered emotion and joy he showed after winning the 100m free at the London Olympics, but Nathan’s so much more than one swim. We love Nathan because he is so ridiculously good-looking, and he doesn’t have a clue how utterly good-looking he is. Perhaps it’s because he was raised by professors, or it could be the Cal education, or Dave Durden’s influence? Whatever the reason, the medals, the looks, they don’t affect him. Nathan is as genuinely nice and smart and well-manner as they come.  If we could mold and program the perfect Olympic Ambassador, Nathan Adrian would it.

TWELVE – JAMES MAGNUSSEN

James Magnussen, The Missile

James Magnussen, The Missile

Magnussen is a man, an Aussie man, The Missile with a mouth for bold predictions. The guy’s got the confidence we want in an athlete who lives center-stage in the sport, a gladiator in the blue ribbon event, the 100m freestyle.  We love him for his bravado, a quality often missed in swimming (or only embodied by a few bold individuals, like Gary Hall Jr.).  Magnussen carried the weight of a nation into the London Olympics and barely came up short, netting silver in his signature event. Many swimmers throughout history would’ve been emotionally crushed by the experience. Magnussen was not. Magnussen came back strong, reclaiming his perch atop the 100m free mountain, winning gold at the Barcelona World Championships, promising us more drama to come, more excitement for the future…and for that we THANK him!

THIRTEEN – THE AUSSIES

It is a big country, its on continent, 85% swimmerless empty space, 15% swimmer concentrated. Compared to the United States, we have more people living in one tiny corner of one state, Southern California, than all of Australia. Still, the Aussies challenge the Yanks every Olympics.  Somehow they produce swimming stars that intimidate and inspire the world. As a country, no other is as passionate about the sport. Swimmers from the rest of the world long to compete within their borders, to hear a crowd cheer that actually knows and appreciates our sport. Be thankful for the Aussies! Swimming would not be the same without them!

FOURTEEN – MICHAEL ANDREW

Michael Andrew (courtesy of Jae Feinberg)

Michael Andrew (courtesy of Jae Feinberg)

The man with over 33 National Age  Group Records has already felt the spur of criticism within the community.  At only 12 years old, Olympic swimmers and even Olympic coaches weighed in across the country to offer their wisdom on why his success would not continue. Michael, a tall, skinny kid from Kansas, was and remains unfazed, taking down records whenever and wherever he falls in the pool.  True, much of the controversy surrounded his training method, Ultra Short Race Pace Training (USRPT), and that it would not sustain him past 50 meters in a race, but, oddly, those criticisms fell flat,  (to quiet sulks) when Andrew took down Michael Phelps‘ 13-14 200m IM National Record this past summer.  What’s best about Michael and his coach is that they’re the only swim program in the world who will lay out all of the cards for anyone who wants to see them. They’ll answer any question that anyone has, and that’s unique in a tight-lipped world of swimming.  For staying strong, staying focus, staying true to his training method, and for continuing to prove his critics wrong, we are thankful for a swimmer like Michael Andrew, and we look forward with keen interest to his bright future in the sport… Mostly, we are thankful that a kid who is clearly going to be 6’8 or taller and great in any sport he chooses, has stuck with swimming and his Indy Swimming method.

FIFTEEN – THE DOORS SWIMMING CAN OPEN

You’ve undoubtedly heard parts of this one before: swimming is one of the greatest teachers of time management, discipline, and goal setting out there.  Once you get past the early age group years, swimming is no longer a “seasonal” sport.  It runs a good part of your life for 11+ months a year, every year, that requires you to but in hundreds (or thousands) of hours of training for one competition.

As cheesy as it sounds, those are the kinds of things stick with you well after your competitive swimming career (excluding Masters Swimming, of course) is over.  Companies spend a lot of resources trying to develop the very skills (time management and goal setting) in their employees that were embedded into you by years of high-level swimming.

The people you meet and the skills you learn from a young age can take you further than most.  For some, that means admission to the university they’ve wanted to attend since they were five.  For others, they’re the key to a dream job.

We stopped at 15, but we could have gone on forever. What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? 

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Swiimer

Personally, I enjoy looking through the lists. They are easy and fun to read.

…I get emails asking for them or suggesting topics, a lot of topics. I like them too. We produce so much news, they’re a nice change of pace.

RyanM

Great read. Especially for an older swimmer who looks bad on those days with fond memories. My job, my college education, my lifelong friends, my wife and my kids all basically happened because my parents put in a pool and at 8 years old I wanted to be on a swim team. It all snowballed from there.

RyanM

**looks back** not bad…..

Lynn Allen

I love reason #1. It reminds me of my brother. He would be up and down the deck cheering on his kids or anybody swimming for his swim club. I miss him so much.

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