Competitive swimming is less of a sport and more of a lifestyle.
It’s not terribly hard to discern the dedication the sport takes, even from an outsider’s standpoint: early morning dryland and weight-lifting, the actual afternoon swimming and the lingering scent of chlorine around the athletes as they all seat themselves at the same table every day and shovel upwards of four-to-five thousand carbs into their bottomless stomachs. It’s terrible, time-consuming and tiring, but we stick with it regardless.
As someone who has swum since the age of six, it only seemed natural to take it to the next level and swim varsity at whatever school I ended up at. So I made the decision to come here and swim, signed some papers and spent the next few months telling people I was varsity swimming for a Division III program.
“But Sarah,” concerned parents and peers alike would nervously pipe in, “What’s the point? Why would you devote so much time to a sport that is just distracting you from hitting the books? You aren’t going pro, so what’s the motivation?”
It’s not a question unique to Division III swimming—the entirety of Division III collegiate athletics are typically denoted as “nerd sports” with little to no glory. Where’s the appeal of playing a sport if you’re not going to the Olympics? Shouldn’t you be job-hunting instead of running races and scoring touchdowns?
Trust me—we know.
We know that very few of us are going to continue our sports past college, and even fewer of us are going to make money from doing so. We know that the hours we spend sweating could be spent studying.
But playing sports isn’t all about getting sponsors and setting world records.
Division III sports are about making friends—something about nearly dying during a practice together tends to bring people together.
Division III sports are about setting goals for yourself and seeing just how far you’re willing to go to achieve them—there’s no feeling quite like making that shot or getting that qualifying time, especially after you know the endless hours that went into that single moment.
Division III sports are about stepping away from a society driven by the job market. When everyone is always concerned with what you’ll be doing in four years and how you plan to get there, it’s therapeutic to think only of how you’re going to get through this practice.
So maybe the benefits are, for the most part, short term. But life is about more than prepping for your next test or building your resume four years in advance.
You won’t ever see me swimming on TV, but I’m going to have a good time making friends and memories before the world hits me full-force. Sure, it lacks the prestige and perks of its Division I counterparts, but that’s not what we’re here for. We’re here for the love of the sport.
And hey, abs are an added benefit.
Sarah Taekman is a first-year student planning to major in biology.