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Curtis Goss is a junior at Indiana University, and below he writes about how his team is different than a fraternity or sorority.
When I talk to some Greek members about being on the swim team at Indiana University, they always say it’s kind of like being in a Greek house. For the sake of conversation, I usually agree, “Yeah, kind of like being in a Greek house.” But the more I think about it, being on my team is not at all like being in a fraternity or a sorority; it’s way better.
First, nothing against Greek houses. They participate in much more community service than we do and ever could because of our practice schedule, and that by itself is a very good thing. It’s also difficult to get into a Greek house, and putting yourself out there and dealing with potential rejection is honorable.
But with all of that said, I would much rather be on my swim team than in any Greek house.
First off, I don’t really get to pick who’s on my team. The only time we will ever reject a recruit we believe can help our team in the pool is if they have an attitude that would damage team chemistry. That’s it. We can’t keep them out because they’re too this or too that. If they have the times, we want them on our team. Period. What this creates is an incredibly diverse group of people. Just on our men’s team, we have guys from 11 different states, 5 different countries, and wide-ranging religious beliefs, all with roughly 18 years of completely different lives up to the point of college. I take pride in the fact that I can carry on a conversation with any one of these guys, that I can hang out one-on-one comfortably with every member of the team. We all know each other’s goals, athletic and otherwise, and we all know each other’s character. It’s very easy to surround yourself with people who are the same as you, and swim teams completely break that mold and c hallenge us to find common ground with a vast range of personalities, which, if I’m not mistaken, is very good practice for reality.
The guys’ team is diverse enough on its own, but we also swim daily with the women’s team. This is like having a fraternity and sorority together for four hours a day, none of which is spent partying. This will test the patience of any guy or girl, because in athletics guys and girls need to be treated differently in order to succeed. It’s just a fact. It’s difficult not to view treatment from coaches as sexist or favoritism and accept that they are following years of science and philosophy on how to obtain the best performances out of each athlete. And this isn’t fair; doing the exact same thing with different treatment isn’t fair. But, as we’ve all heard before, life isn’t fair.
Lastly, we go to battle as a team nearly every day, whether at practices or meets. It is my belief that you can learn almost everything you need to know about a person by watching them in a swim practice. When they choose to go fast, their attitude towards hard work, teammates, and coaches, and even how early they show up to practice, among other things. We are so raw in all of these moments, sometimes for as much as 5 hours in a single day, that everything about a person is exposed. Sometimes a great friend out of the pool annoys you like hell in the pool, or vice versa, and you have to find a way to reconcile that. Sometimes frustrations boil over and a yelling match ensues, but it has to blow over by the next practice. It’s difficult to find common ground with 60 people, but on a swim team it happens, and when it does it’s a beautiful thing.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that Greek houses seem more like organizations. You have the tight-knit group of people you keep around you, but there are people you simply don’t talk to. A swim team, however, is above all else a family. A mildly dysfunctional, obnoxiously large family, but a family nonetheless, and I don’t see how anyone could want to be part of anything else.
Also, no hazing, free clothes, and early registration for classes. That helps.