While the vast majority of student-athletes that swim collegiately do not go on to be professionals in the sport, they often take away a lot more from the experience for the rest of their lives, including successful careers and lifelong friendships.
Case in point, Jen Psaki, who was announced as the new White House Press Secretary by United States President-elect Joe Biden on Sunday.
Psaki, who has worked in politics for 19 years and also served as the press secretary in Barack Obama‘s 2012 re-election campaign, swam collegiately for two years at the College of William & Mary, and reflects fondly on the experience for reasons that have nothing to do with what happened competitively inside the pool.
Speaking with Flat Hat News, William & Mary’s student newspaper, back in 2015 when she was appointed White House Communications Director for the final year of the Obama administration, Psaki discussed how she quickly formed tight bonds with her swimming teammates.
“You know the swim team became an early family for me, and I think for many of us, when I first got to campus,” said Psaki, who graduated in 2000. “I remember meeting people who I immediately had something in common with because we all had grown up through this sport and loved this sport.”
Along with Psaki, several William & Mary alumni have gone on to have very successful careers, including three U.S. Presidents and 13 U.S. cabinet members, many of whom competed in Olympic/non-revenue sports.
The school announced it was cutting seven athletics programs, including both men’s and women’s swimming & diving, back in early September, but both have since been reinstated.
Though she only swam for two years, Psaki says she remains close with several members of the swim team to this day.
“I still remember the first meeting we had where I met some of the other swimmers,” said Psaki. “Some of the swimmers who were freshmen with me are my closest friends still today. So even though I only swam freshman and sophomore year, I think that the greatest value I gained from it were the people I met through the experience.”
Psaki’s best times (SCY) included 11:16.16 in the 1000 freestyle, 2:10.24 in the 200 backstroke, and 2:16.56 in the 200 individual medley. She was also 16th in the 200 back at the Colonial Athletic Association Championships as a sophomore, and had a victory in the same event at a dual meet against Georgetown in her freshman year.