I believe I can speak for the majority of collegiate athletes when I say that the college recruiting process is one of the most exciting but also stressful times in our lives. While you get to chat with coaches and swimmers from schools you’ve dreamed of attending since you were a kid, you still have that weight of deciding for where you will study and swim for the next four years of your life. Personally, as my senior year approached and I was starting to plan my recruiting trips, I had no sense of where I wanted to attend school. After a lot of thought and conversation with my parents and club coach, I came to the ultimate decision for me to take a gap year after I graduate high school to give myself more time before college to develop more as a person, along with taking more time to make my college decision. Along with these concepts, I learned a few lessons throughout my gap year that helped shape me into the person I am today.
This is arguably the most important lesson I learned over the year. Since I was not fully committed with school and had a good amount of free time outside of the pool, it would start to get tough to wakeup early on mornings when I had to lift by myself, since my club coach did not have a lifting regimen for the rest of the senior group. However, I learned that if I wanted to achieve my goals and enhance my swimming career as I entered college, I needed to use the inner motivation I had to make a daily or weekly routine that would push me to get better. This lesson has also had a lasting effect on me, especially during this time regarding the state of COVID-19 and pool closures, as I have a daily routine of when I work out, eat, do online classwork, etc.
Keep Yourself Busy
People would always tell me, “You must get so bored doing nothing but training”. Well, my experience was nothing like that. In August, which can sometimes be known as “the dead period of swimming”, I planned out what I was going to do besides swimming throughout my day. Whether I was working on online classes, teaching lessons to younger swimmers on my club team, or even selling my old clothes and accessories on eBay, I was always keeping myself occupied and I never really got bored. Keeping busy kept me on a nice routine and made the transition to college easier since I was used to doing stuff during the day.
Take Advantage of Family Time
This concept can be overlooked by most high school seniors as they usually have a lot of stuff going on like college applications, recruiting trips, swimming trips, and preparing for graduation. Since I chose to stay home another year before college, I made sure to cherish every moment I got with my family as this was most likely going to be the longest time I would be home until at least after college. Since I was able to recognize this before I left, I was able to spend time with my family that I could not have spent with them if I was in school full-time.
Set Different Kinds of Goals
Your gap year might feel long in the middle months of the school year, especially as you get closer to summer. One way to stay on track is to set goals in many different categories. Swimming goals are an obvious one in this scenario, but swimming should not be the only thing you’re focused on throughout the year. Some goals you could set in other aspects of your life could be what grades you receive for some online classes, how much you can limit your time on electronic devices, etc. There are endless options that you can work to improve within yourself.
The ultimate main point of a gap year is to enhance yourself. Other than swimming, you should take advantage of your time to do stuff that you enjoy. If you are doing things that aren’t benefitting you or making you happy, the year off will feel a lot longer than a year. Find things you can do other than swimming that makes you happy, especially things you could not have done while in school.
If you’re considering taking a gap year before college, I hope these lessons can lean you in the right direction in making your decision. Even if this is your first time thinking at the experience, it might be an option to seriously consider. Even if you take a year off, you will be at college for the same amount of time as your peers who you graduate with. Our lives as swimmers can get pretty hectic around the college recruiting process, so sometimes it can be relieving to the mind and the body to step back, take some time, and do the things that interest you most.