Courtesy of Eleanor Sills
My freshman year in college, I went a best time in two of my best events at my first conference meet. I met a team full of the most amazing women I know. I had an extremely supportive coaching staff. I loved the academic side of school. But, what sticks out to me the most when I came home for the summer after my freshman year was a conversation I had with my parents.
I had missed practice with my club team that morning. I was tired. I didn’t want to wake up. It was my first summer where I wasn’t required to be anywhere (Ok- to be fair my club coach still held me accountable and would ask me where I was when I missed practices during the summer season at home). I don’t think I missed practice in high school unless I was really sick, so my parents knew something was going on. I sat them down and I told them what was on my mind.
“I want to quit swimming.” There, I said it. I got it off my chest and as good as that felt, the look of disappointment on both of their faces did not feel as good. This wasn’t the first time I wanted to quit. When I was 16, I went through a little bit of a slump. I wasn’t happy. Again, I was lucky enough to have a coach who cared enough to push me to stick with it. The promise of college swimming was on the horizon at the time. There was an end goal.
This time it was different. There was no end goal. Well, there was, but at the time, thinking about swimming all four years at a division one program wasn’t on my mind. I was burnt out. The grueling 20 hours a week that was required of me was exhausting. I wanted to finally have the normal life that everyone else around me seemed to have.
After I declared I wanted to quit swimming, I had a change of heart. Thinking that maybe being at home in a less demanding environment would help revive my love for the sport, I decided to stick it out through the summer. And, boy, am I glad I stuck with it.
The next season, my college coach had us do an exercise where we came up with words of affirmation. Some of my teammates words of affirmation consisted of, “I will finish”, and “I am invictus”. A very close friend of mine and I had discussed my desire to quit, and between us, we had come up with a motivational word. What a better time than now to employ it. When it was my turn to share my words of affirmation, I said, “I am indomitable.” Indomitable: unable to accept defeat.
This word motivated me throughout the season. When my coach put up a ridiculous lactate set, I would tell myself: indomitable, indomitable, indomitable. At conference that season, I accomplished a goal I had since I was a senior in high school; I finally broke 2:00 in my 200 fly. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier after a 200 fly in my life… ok, I know I’ve never been happier after a 200 fly.
While that accomplishment felt incredible, it wasn’t until these past three months that I’ve really come to realize how grateful I am that I stuck it out those four years of college swimming.
In August, I began law school at Florida State University. If you’ve heard anything about law school it’s probably that it’s hard and you have no time. However, shortly after beginning classes I realized that my time management skills were, single-handedly, the most helpful skills I have. I’m able to get my work done and still have somewhat of a life.
As finals approach, I know I’m doing everything I can to study for my exams. I know I’m putting my best effort. I also know that if I don’t get that sought after “A” on my exams, that it’s ok. Swimming taught me that sometimes things don’t go your way, and that’s ok. You just have to get back up, brush the dirt off, and be indomitable. I am looking forward to the other life lessons I will realize that swimming taught me. As for now, I am incredibly grateful that I never gave up on a sport that teaches you so much more than how to swim; swimming is a sport that teaches you skills for life.
About Eleanor Sills
Eleanor Sills is from Suwanee, GA. Former Tulane swimmer turned law student. Carrying the life lessons that swimming takes with her everywhere.