I’ve been busy lately. It hasn’t been on purpose, but sometimes life picks up. I’m in physical therapy school which is busy. I started a new job as a graduate assistant in the midst of that. So, I’ve been busy. Swimming, what was once the forefront of nearly every thought, has drifted out of my priorities.

It’s funny how things change in the matter of a few years. This time two years ago I was gearing up for my last conference meet as a collegiate swimmer. While I still had classes to finish up, I was already accepted into grad school, so swimming was my priority. Every second of every day was geared towards reaching my goals of dropping those final tenths of a second to finally make it to Nationals. From the moment I woke up in the morning, to as I was falling asleep visualizing my perfect race, my thoughts were directed towards my swimming goals.

But, lately, I’ve been busy.

The funny thing is that while I don’t get to make it to the pool as much as I would like, swimming is still something that drives my goals. I no longer spend my days with wet hair, and smelling like chlorine, yet the sport of swimming continues to shape who I am.

My goals have shifted from dropping time, to becoming a part of the support system that helps set up athletes to achieve their wildest dreams.

It takes a lot to be a swimmer. I saw a video a few days ago that Caeleb Dressel posted. It’s the one of him doing a bunch of back-to-back flip turns in between the bulkhead.

In that one little video, you can tell many things the sport of swimming requires like power, speed, technique, amongst other things.

Swimming also requires a solid group of people backing you up and cheering you on. This is where I think I fit in now. I’m not the swimmer anymore, but I am on my way to a degree that will let me play a role in rehabbing (or prehabbing) athletes so that they can keep working towards those crazy big dreams when something like an injury might stand in their way.

So, yeah, I’ve been busy.

It’s really easy to get sucked into the monotony of day-to-day life. Whether you’re in school like me, working, still an athlete, or some combination of the above, it can be hard to remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. When I stepped onto a pool deck for practice for the first time at 8 years old, I would have never imagined that swimming would shape who I would become, and would continue to do so after I “retired” from the sport. When I get too busy and caught up in the now, I lose sight of the whys. Seeing that little Instagram video a few days ago shockingly helped me remember the whys. It reminded me how much I love (and miss) the sport, and that the reason I chose a grad school path is so that I can play a little role in the sport of swimming again one day.

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1 year ago

Nice article. I’m in my late 20s now so I’ve been away from any serious competition for a number of years, but it’s still abundantly clear to me how much swimming has shaped my life. Creating lofty goals in the pool gave me my first clear sense of purpose at a relatively young age. Once you realize what it’s like to wake up with a purpose for your day, it’s hard to go back.

About Mary Northcutt

Mary Northcutt

Mary is a former 6-time All-American swimmer at Carson-Newman University. She technically was a 50-freestyler, but her favorite events were relays. She wrapped up her swimming career at the 2020 Division II National Championships in March. Since then, she has recently started her first year of Physical Therapy school at …

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