Throughout my 16 years of swimming I have created many lasting friendships with the people on my team and with people I have swam against. I decided to take a chance and reach out to some of my biggest role models and some of my friends that I have met through swimming. As I headed over to social media to reach out to these girls, I didn’t know what to expect. I reached out to people I had never talked to before, and even Olympians, and the results have astounded me. I would like to thank everyone who has helped me acquire a list of such great advice, without you guys, this would not have been possible. I asked girls from all over the country what kind advice they would give to a freshman entering their first year at college and their first year as a college swimmer, this is what they had to say:
Courtney Bartholomew (Retired; swam for University of Virginia)
“Be able to be flexible and adaptable. Going to college is a brand new chapter in life. During your first year, you will encounter many new situations, experiences, and opportunities to learn from. Your new team, new school, and classes will not be the exact same as the environment you grew up swimming in, so it is important to be flexible and adaptable to your new surroundings.
Make friends outside of swimming. You spend so many hours with your teammates, between practice, meals, classes, and living with them. Find time to make friends outside of swimming to allow you a space to decompress from the sport and to see new perspectives!”
Allie Matti (Freshman at Hillsdale College)
“My greatest advice to a freshman swimmer is not to get too upset with the changes that come with college. It may be that you aren’t the fastest on the team anymore or your coach’s way of doing things is different than before, but change is good. As long as you go into each season with a positive outlook, nothing can go wrong.
Another is to make sure to get involved outside of swimming. It’s so important to realize that there is more to life than swimming, especially if you don’t think it is possible to go pro. It can be that sometimes you spend all of your time with your teammates, and your shouldn’t totally rely on them for friendships. Reach out to people in your classes, people on different sports teams, or even the girls in your hall. They can turn out to be some of your best friends.”
Bethany Galat (Junior at Texas A&M)
1. There’s a good chance you’ll get worse before you get better. Stay patient, be confident in the changes you’re making (in your training/strokes, schedule changes). The upperclassmen are fantastic leaders because they’ve overcome the struggles of freshman year (they will be able to relate!). Toughing out your struggles on your own isn’t always the toughest thing to do.
2. A growth mindset will overpower talent. College brings in some talented athletes, but one of the greatest way to improve is to humble yourself by always being willing to change (your stroke, habits, relationships, etc.).
3. Sit down and figure out your who and why. Swimming in college can seem demanding for many. but when you understand who you are representing (family/friends, school, etc-your support), and why you are continuing to swim (be cautious to not get hung up on swimming for best times-focusing on the outcome could add negative pressure to some) you will be wanting more, rather than getting burned out.
4. Get to know your competitors- There are swimmers all around the country and world who you will see frequently throughout college. Making these friendships will also refocus your “who” and “why” by growing your love for the sport
Amy Bilquist (Sophomore at University of California-Berkeley)
“I would say one of the most important things I did was make friends with people in other sports, and friends outside of athletics in general. I think it is extremely important to have friends outside your “bubble” because they can be there to provide an “escape” from the sometimes overwhelming experience of being a swimmer in college. It is also so fun to go support your friends in their own sports or study with friends in different classes. Also having other student athletes as friends is really empowering because you can both learn more about each others sports and watch each other’s journeys. I have loved seeing some of my friends go to the NBA, or work their way into their own NCAA tournaments. This group of friends will provide a family for you outside of your actual family, and your swim team family, and overall they will most definitely help you stay sane!”
Annie Spalding (Junior at Purdue University)
– try to go in with no expectations and excited for everything new that is about to come
– be ready to work hard
– make an effort to get to know your teammates early on
– learn to plan your day scheduling in time to nap/lay around
– if you get homesick, don’t panic. It’s normal and happens to everyone!
– don’t be afraid to talk to someone if you are stressed or homesick, odds are someone else feels the same
– have fun and meet people!
– accept that your coaching will be different than it was at home
Leah Smith (Senior at University of Virginia)
“My main advice would be to trust the process. There may be a certain way that you trained or different things that you did in high school that worked for you, but it’s important to go into college with an open mind. I think if you can let yourself be open to trying new things, you can find new ways to get better that you wouldn’t have tried before. I think sometimes swimmers in their freshman year are to afraid to step outside of their comfort zone of what made them successful in the past.”
Erin Daly (Senior at Bryant University)
“Coming into a new swim team, coaching staff, and living environment can be overwhelming. You’re leaving what you’ve known for years and being thrown into a whole new atmosphere. If there’s one thing I would stress to incoming freshman swimmers, it’s to not sweat the small stuff. Fail a test? It’s okay. Your GPA will be just fine. Have a bad meet? There are dozens of other meets coming your way. At the end of the day, you’ll look back at these events and realize they weren’t as big of a deal as you once thought they were. Also, make a strong effort to establish friendships right from the start (especially friendships outside the team). Your teammates will always be there for you, so it’s important to have others to rely on when you need a break from the team.”
Kim Hochstedler (Junior at Carnegie Mellon University)
1. Get familiar with your school’s dining options and your meal plan. College will be the first time you’re totally responsible for your diet and it’s important that you know what you need to fuel your body as a student-athlete
2. Get to know the other athletes at your school. You’re all taking on the challenging role of a student-athlete and you will be sure to connect with these people because of that