Shouts from the Stands: D3 Swimming is Not a Seasonal Sport

SwimSwam welcomes reader submissions about all topics aquatic, and if it’s well-written and well-thought, we might just post it under our “Shouts from the Stands” series. We don’t necessarily endorse the content of the Shouts from the Stands posts, and the opinions remain those of their authors. If you have thoughts to share, please send [email protected]

This “Shouts from the Stands” submission comes from Peter Robinson:

This is going to ruffle a lot of feathers, but allow me to explain. (Also keep in mind, this is my experience with D3 swimming, every school and team is different. ex: Kenyon/Emory are vastly different than teams who don’t send entire squads to nationals.)

The NCAA mandates that division 3 sports cannot practice officially as a team outside of their respective seasons. Swimming is no different, and with this rule, we face a dilemma. Our coaches have literally zero power to make us train in the “offseason” (February – August). This is intentional, and by design. In reality, this simply means the pressure to make you train moves from the coach to the team culture.

The quotations around “offseason” bring me to my point: how can those 6 months be considered an offseason? (excluding August, you need some time off, even Olympians take August off.)

If you’re truly serious about your goals in swimming, there is absolutely no way you can take six months off and still expect to achieve them. Sure, most still exercise out of the water in the off season, but you’re not actually training and getting faster in the water. That is only slowing the inevitable. There is only one way to do that, and it is to actively train. Coming into the start of the season out of shape is only putting you weeks or even months behind where you could be if you trained in the “offseason”.

But what about working over the summer? Or academics in spring semester?

Excuses are the only thing barring you from you and your goals. We’re all guilty of it. I had every reason not to train the past 7 months: my only feasible option was a tiny club team 15 minutes off campus late at night, I was going through pledgeship for a fraternity, I was taking much harder classes than first semester, I had to average 37 hours a week in a restaurant over the summer to earn enough money to stay in school, I was the only one from my team training at all, etc. The list can go on and on. But this brings me to my most important point:

The human will is far stronger than any mountain we face. If you want to get something done, you’ll find a way, no matter what. (Perfect example: Emma Schanz) In context, if you’re serious enough about your goals, this “offseason simply does not exist. You’ll train as a (wo)man hellbent on a mission. The word “can’t” is not part of your vocabulary.

I worked 40 long hours in that restaurant every week and still found the time and energy to train full time. I made it through a pledgeship while taking hard science classes and while training, and I still made the Dean’s list.

I did, and will continue to do this for my brothers here. I did this because more than anything, I want to succeed with my brothers. I did this because these men mean the most to me, and I will do everything in my power to help us achieve our goal of winning Conference. The image of Trinity holding that banner and trophy burns every-brightly in my mind.

This culture in Division 3 swimming has to end. Excuses are just that: excuses.

Written by and courtesy of Peter Robinson.



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Not Impressed

Throughout this entire article all it talks about is swimming and no mention of academics. Being a former D-3 coach, I love the current model of Division 3.

Peter do me a favor and read the Division 3 Philosophy before writing an article on all about swimming and complaining that D-3 doesn’t have offseason.

The focus should always be on academics not swimming. Student Athletes aren’t graduating with a degree in swimming but in Biology, Business. and etc. If you don’t like this model that is why we have Division 1 and Division 2!

The culture in Division 3 is great and I know a few Division 1 and 2 Coaches that model their program after Division 3 philosophy.


“What about… academics in the spring semester?”
“….while taking hard science classes… and still made the Dean’s list.”
Student athletes, by definition, can and are expected to do both.


“What about…. your internship, research study, student teaching, clinical, etc”

No student athletes aren’t expected to do both during the off season. Division III place the highest priority on the overall quality of the educational experience.


The initiative described in this submission (while not for everyone) is outstanding and should be applauded. Disappointing that former “coach” not impressed or any red blooded American can look at this and point out negatives. The submission literally screams, “where there is a will there is a way.”

Swimmer A

I’m four years removed from Division 3 swimming. I can say with confidence that I worked harder than anyone on my team. I came into every pre-season in the best shape I could, and got frustrated when others didn’t prepare or didn’t take the off-season (and regular season) seriously…. looking back on it though, it was not my right to make them care about the season. Ultimately, you-yourself decide how important something is to you. Maybe they had other goals outside of the sport, maybe they just wanted to have fun. Regardless, it was their choice, not mine. The biggest thing to remember is: You are not a better person for working harder or caring more about swimming. And they… Read more »


excellent last three sentences Swimmer A.


D3 is the place where a lot of people can still realistically play more than one sport. I used to throw for the track team in the spring to stay in good physical shape while giving myself a break from the pool. (and also managed 50 hour work weeks and 15 hours of club swim time in the summer.) One of our best divers who scored at National every year couldn’t really join the team for the first few meets of the fall because he was a starting linebacker on a darn good football team that regularly made the playoffs. Fun to watch him bounce the 1M board into the water on the jump of a front approach- he so… Read more »

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