Truth and lies my club swim coach told me about swimming

Let me start by saying that swimming is one of the best sports anyone can play. There are a lot of benefits to swimming (competitively or not) both in high school and college. However, getting into the grind of swimming can be challenging. Throughout these years, my coach would give me many reasons why swimming is the best. Unfortunately, some things my coach told me didn’t add up once I began to talk to more people. Now that I am no longer a competitive swimmer, I can finally re-evaluate what he told me all those years ago.

“Swimming teaches dedication and commitment.”

LIE: Honestly, I wouldn’t ever hire a swimmer on the fact they were a swimmer alone. I thought a lot about this, and in the end, I think it’s hard to gauge character or commitment through varsity swimming. It’s hard to tell when people swim because they are always just fast (and like to win), irrationally scared of their coaches, or if they spent hours actually getting faster and better. Some swimmers I knew (D1, mind you) skipped or didn’t try in practice but still won every race that they swam. I think dedication and commitment come when you make the conscious decision to commit to swimming and other things in your life.
Better truth: “Swimming gives you the opportunity for you to learn what true commitment and dedication means.”

“Swimming is a lifelong sport.”

TRUTH: I still swim. Although I do it (a lot) less frequently, swimming is still the exercise method I prefer. It’s a full-body workout that takes less than 30 minutes to complete. At the pool where I swim, I consistently see people in the 30s-70s jump into the water. My physics teacher from high school swam until she retired from teaching (and even broke some master’s records in the process!).

“You can swim D1 if you put in the work.”

TRUTH(-): I think if anyone wanted to go to a D1 school, they could swim as part of the college team. However, I think there will be a significant tradeoff in education and future opportunities if swimmers are blindly following the D1 path. I found D3 swimming to be more reasonable and manageable in terms of commitment and gave me time to make friends outside of swimming.

“You’ll have a solid recommendation letter for the future”

TRUTH: Coaches do give some of the best recommendation letters when it comes to college/jobs. They see so much about your work ethic and also know your best traits.

“You can/should use swimming (and likely letters) to get into college.”

TRUTH(-): Many of my friends ‘committed’ to colleges even before senior year started. It’s fantastic that many can attend Ivy League and other amazing universities because of that and not stress about college applications. Many of the college coaches will write likely letters which guarantee admission to these top-tier schools. However, I feel like locking yourself down before you can learn about the other colleges is shooting yourself in the foot in the future. While it’s true they can get to a good school, will they be able to get an education as well?

“Swimming prepares you for real-life.”

LIE: I don’t think any athletic or pre-professional club/activity will prepare you for real life. Real-life is when you spend an entire weekend running errands. It’s when things stop working out, and you need to solve it by yourself. I think that is learned by doing and failing, not participating in a group sport.

“You’re not missing out not going to [Halloween, Homecoming, Music Festivals, Vacations] — go to [practice, the meet].”

LIE: I missed so many events because of swimming. I had to go to practice instead and couldn’t even leave early on those days. In retrospect, there are events that I will never be able to experience because I spent that time in practice. A missed meet or practice once and a while is worth it without compromising your goals in swimming.

“You’ll make your best friends through swimming.”

TRUTH(-): I find this always to be quite funny. You will always find friends when you spend enough time with people who do the same activity. The fact we spend so much time as swimmers together just make those friendships last even longer. I feel like if you dedicate enough time to your activities, you will find your best friends.

“Swimmers are the smartest athletes.”

TRUTH(-). I feel like there are many more swimmers who are on top of their classes than other sports. It’s also probably because you have to either learn to manage to have very little time in high school, or you end up quitting swimming.

In summary, I guess my swim coach told me many things to motivate me, and most of them turned out to be true. I probably would still say the same things as well.

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