5 reasons why college swimming is the best (and why you should pursue it)

All swimmers should have goals to swim in college. Why? Because college swimming has so many lifelong benefits, and to put it bluntly…college swimming is the best! If you ask any collegiate swimmer, current or former, about their college swimming experience, I guarantee that they tell you they wouldn’t trade it for the world! You may think college swimmers are a little bit crazy, but fueled by their passion, college swimmers have made one of the best decisions a swimmer can make.

  • It is one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences you will ever have in your life

NCAABeing a full-time student is challenging in itself, but being a full-time student-ATHLETE is 100 times more challenging. You are not only going to class and studying, but you have a 20+ hour training schedule that you somehow manage to fit in to your week as well. On bad days you don’t get to go home and lay in bed until dinner like other college students… collegiate swimmers get their acts together so they can bring their A-Game at their next practice. How swimmers even balance all of the work that they do is beyond me, but they do it and they do a heck of a job! The sweat and tears and emotion that go in to college swimming seem unbearable at times, but with passion for the sport, a supportive team, and some serious determination you make it through. Yes it will be one of the hardest experiences of your life, but it is easily the most rewarding! The time and effort that you put in to your four years is not or was not easy and it is definitely not something just anyone can do. You are part of an elite group of athletes who swam in college and you should be very proud!! (It’s okay to brag about it every now and then too!)

  • College swimming is an experience you will be able to relate to and use in every work experience for the rest of your life

Competitive. Works well in teams. Self-motivated. Great communicator. Passionate. Receptive to criticism. Leader. Perseveres. Am I describing the perfect employee or a collegiate swimmer? The answer to that is BOTH! Every experience that you have gone through as a collegiate swimmer and everything that you learned in your four years all make you extremely valuable to any workplace you find yourself in. Remember that time you were sick and struggling through an entire day of workouts and class, but you pushed through your day anyways? You will do what you need to in order to overcome obstacles and achieve success. How about that one time you had to uncomfortably approach a teammate about their effort at workouts? You are an effective communicator and an honest leader who is willing to hold your co-workers accountable and who wants to see your team succeed. What about that one time you and your coach had a disagreement? You are not a weak individual and you know how to respectively and effectively speak up to authority. Everyone has their individual experiences as a college swimmer, and every single one of them is a great lesson that betters you as a person and a worker.

  • Those teammates of yours are a lifelong support system you are going to want at your wedding  

These people have seen you at your highest highs and at your lowest lows, and there is no other group of people you would rather share those experiences with. They start out as teammates but they become so much more than that over the course of four years. Your team becomes this unconditional support group that will help you and push you through whatever you have going on. They have seen you when you are sweaty, crying, angry, and stressed and it’s not even a little bit embarrassing. You share so much of your lives with these people and your relationships with them will hold value and importance for the rest of your life. I want to share my happiest moments with my teammates. I want them at my wedding, and you will too! 

  • The intense level of fitness and nutrition is something that you will learn in college swimming and will keep with you for life

Going from your average 4-5 hours of work out a day to the 30-45 minutes you can squeeze in during the work day is tough, and going from eating 5,000 calories a day to 2,000 is more frustrating than you can ever imagine. However, the fitness and nutrition that you learn as a college swimmer are two things that will stick with you for the rest of your life. You will always hold yourself to this higher standard because you know what you are capable of and you expect the best of yourself. Your routine may change after college, but the habits you developed over the course of four years of college swimming will not go away. College swimming created the framework for an active and healthy lifestyle. As your college years come to a close, that framework remains intact, allowing you to naturally continue your healthy habits.

  • A college swimming story will always one-up a typical college story, HANDS DOWN!

How many millions of cliché college stories are there out there? You will have friends, co-workers, and acquaintances for the rest of your life who will continually try to impress you with an “awesome college story.” Unfortunately for them, you went to college too, and you swam competitively! Take any one of their awesome stories and throw a tough dual meet, a killer practice, or any number of crazy experiences only swimmers go through in to the mix. Sorry friend/co-worker/acquaintance, but anything that you are about to tell me, I guarantee that I can one-up your story.

Elle Meinholz, headshotContributor Elle Meinholz fell in love with swimming at an early age. Born and raised a Wisconsin girl, she pursued her lifelong dream of swimming as a Wisconsin Badger from 2009-2013. She graduated from Wisconsin with degrees in English and Communications. A year out of college and out of swimming, she is now a full-time Admission Counselor at the Milwaukee School of Engineering in Milwaukee, WI. She continues to fulfill her passion for swimming through high school coaching, writing, living vicariously through her younger sister, and getting in a couple thousand yards when time allows. (Twitter: @ElleMeinholz) 

 

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DDiNardo6018
6 years ago

I’d like to add that the Parents of the Swimmer get to form friendships with the other Moms and Dads that echo the relationships between the swimmers.

Swim1
6 years ago

Ugh..

Mark
6 years ago

Well you could have probably named at least another 5 but you really put it to paper on those 5. I did swim in college and those same things you mentioned above are still with me to date and I am mature now, own my own construction business, work weights at the gym, still swim at the gym pool to keep it real, swim in the masters meets when possible with working all those hours, still maintain a “work out” body of which my wife appreciates, have swam all over the U.S.A. in meets, competitiveness is still there and if you do beat me you worked for it–with a side note that we all are there for the same reasons—we… Read more »

Reply to  Mark
6 years ago

No doubt a fitting culmination after 15+ years of work to get there.

Brandon
6 years ago

Fact. This is a phenomenally written article.

easyspeed
6 years ago

College swimming is good for 99.8% swimmers out there. It’s a positive for the reasons mentioned in the article. Not to mention, most swimmers won’t see any $ from the sport, so might as well get some tuition paid for.

But in the year 2014, the very elite should not waste their time with the NCAA (until they start allowing pros compete, but even then probably isn’t worth it).

And not just for money reasons. It’s short course yards, not LCM. If you really want to be the best, too much SCY can hurt you. Also, the college season can conflict with long course meets.

And after you’ve won a Gold medal or set a WR, do… Read more »

Swim1
Reply to  easyspeed
6 years ago

Agree 100%

JJD
Reply to  easyspeed
6 years ago

Easyspeed,
I’m sure it was critically important to the elite of the elite of the elite that they get your advice on this issue. Thanks for the meaningful contribution to the vast majority and thanks on behalf of the super elite for your sage advice.

Admin
Reply to  JJD
6 years ago

JJD – As a swim fan, I understand that you may not be used to how sports work, but this is how sports work: people have conversations about the super elite, regardless of whether the super elite care what their opinions are. I behoove you to understand that, you’ll be much happier as swimming continues to grow.

dmswim
Reply to  easyspeed
4 years ago

This idea that too much SCY hurts your LCM abilities has not been proven. Look at the Olympics this year. Many of the medal winners: Murphy, Baker, King, Pernot, Haas, Schooling, Smith, Smoliga, Worrell, competed for their colleges in the season leading up to the Olympics. I don’t think it makes much of a difference, as long as you have a coach that is smart about it.
Also, for every success story of a swimmer going pro after high school, there is also a disaster story. Look at Dagny Knutson, Katie Hoff, and Kate Ziegler. All of their careers suffered (or even ended abruptly) when they went pro. I think it is the right choice for some, but definitely… Read more »

coacherik
6 years ago

I mean, you ARE right, Easyspeed..

It blows my mind how Dana Vollmer, Rebecca Soni, Ryan Lochte, Conor Dwyer, Aaron Peirsol, Anthony Ervin, Cullen Jones, Natalie Coughlin, Tyler Clary and Nathan Adrian managed to have any success at all long course, wasting all that time swimming college. What fools Simone Emanuel, Ryan Murphy, Lea Neal, Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky are…

TheTroubleWithX
Reply to  coacherik
6 years ago

And while you could mount a counterargument that most of those swimmers got faster, and/or became truly elite, after college, I don’t think there’s really any way to know for sure if that was due to focusing on LCM and not having to worry about NCAA’s, or just naturally getting better with time and age.

Rafael
Reply to  TheTroubleWithX
6 years ago

Better to save 40K a year and swim NCAA being a WR holder or rack up much morey money, pay the tution and still got some money left? I Would personnaly go for the second.. I would prefer to have some money cushion with me and pay for college than risk having an injury at college and be left withouty any cash..

coacherik
Reply to  Rafael
6 years ago

The only way to really get that much money is to be a very marketable person (or be the iron lady), which more and more swimmers are starting to become. However, not everyone has the charisma and the money right now seems to be in the World Cup Circuit. If we look at the catastrophic side (versus injury in college), traveling to some of these countries isn’t always the safest. Anything can happen which can be magnified on the other side of the planet for US citizens.

A full ride, out of state tuition for Stanford is for someone who finishes in 4 years is about 170K. A 5th year at 210K? Given the change in rules in the PAC12,… Read more »

Rafael
Reply to  coacherik
6 years ago

Maybe for the majority this is ok.. But I wonder how much $$$ Ledecky and Missy could have now if they gone pro.. I remember reading more than a million..

PsychoDad
6 years ago

What I really wonder is what advice to give to your child if, say, she is a super student that can go to top schools, but only an okay swimmer that can swim in low (swimming) level Div 1, or Div 2 and 3 schools.

What advise do you give to your child? Degree at Stanford and no swimming, or degree from Lower Volta State and swimming for them? I know what I would want them to do, but it is not all about me, even though I am a psycho.

coacherik
Reply to  PsychoDad
6 years ago

Is the name on the diploma more important then the degree or swimming experience? Do you just need to compete in college or do you need to contribute to conference championship or D1, D2, D3 National Championship to feel good about your college swimming experience?

If your athlete is going to get a masters, that gives you more flexibility in your undergrad choice. Where you get that is far more important then where you get your undergrad.

Catherine
Reply to  PsychoDad
6 years ago

You know the answer. Tell them the academics are more important for their long-term success in life. Leaving competitions behind is difficult whenever you do it, but it has to be done sometime.

Ferb
Reply to  PsychoDad
6 years ago

There are plenty of top schools (academically speaking) that have more accessible swim programs. If the swimmer is not good enough to make the Stanford team, maybe they could swim for Harvard or Northwestern. If they are not even at that level, maybe they could swim for University of Chicago or Washington U. of St. Louis. If swimming is important to them, there is no reason they have to sacrifice strong academics to find a swim program they fit into.

TheTroubleWithX
Reply to  PsychoDad
6 years ago

My first thought is that it’s usually a stretch to expect to get into a school like Stanford, no matter how good of a student you are, unless you’ve done something to truly set yourself apart, or have other certain advantages in the admission process. Having said that, I have to think the choice is not so stark as not swimming at Stanford or swimming at State University. I’m not really sure if a) your pondering is merely hypothetical or not, and b) how you define low level Division 1, but in my biased opinion, I’d urge such a student/swimmer to look into a school in the quaint hamlet of Williamsburg, Virginia, that consistently ranks as the best small public… Read more »

NM Coach
Reply to  PsychoDad
6 years ago

Psycho DAD???? Look at all those UP votes! this MUST be an imposter.

Frankly, what a fantastic problem to have…WR holder and deciding to go pro or have your college paid for!

Finswimmingforfun
Reply to  PsychoDad
4 years ago

If your daughter is awesome she will succeed no matter if she goes to Stanford or technical school. True grit comes from overcoming challenges, even if the challenge is an overbearing parent. Get out of her way and fuel her fire, success follows passion.

aswimfan
6 years ago

I’m sure Michael Phelps, the GOAT swimmer, agrees with this.

O_o
Reply to  aswimfan
6 years ago

You mean the fellow with two DUIs? I wonder if a little more structure and education would have been great for him.

Hmmmm....
Reply to  O_o
4 years ago

I think they mean the fellow worth $55 million, with 39 world records and 28 medals (23 gold). That guy…. I’m sure he would have turned out way better if he had swam for West Virginia Tech.

About Elle Meinholz

Elle Meinholz

Contributor Elle Meinholz has been in love with swimming all her life. Growing up she swam for the Waukesha Express Swim Team and Catholic Memorial High School. The oldest daughter of two former UW-Badger swimmers, Elle went on to college to fulfill her lifelong dream of swimming as a Wisconsin …

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