Since my sophomore year of high school (1999-2000), competitive swimming has played a central role in my life. That’s 22 years ago…YIKES!!!
While many have been involved in the sport longer than I have, and would doubtless have many more and far deeper insights, I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned over that two-decade period, as there is no doubt that as I have grown as a swimmer, it has contributed to my growth as a human being.
I could very easily dive deeper into some of these concepts in future articles, and indeed I may!
Building discipline and challenging one’s own barriers are concepts certainly not unique to our sport – any physical endeavor presents its own set of trials, so what makes swimming stand out?
In many ways, our sport develops the virtue of patience and a willingness to stick with a long and oftentimes boring routine for an extended period of time. After all, we spend a sizeable portion of our waking hours staring at a line on the bottom of a pool.
Coming from a person with the attention span of a gnat, that is certainly not an easy thing to do. It’s a barrier and a personal issue that I’ve had to learn to overcome over the years, and I’m certainly not alone.
Consider Michael Phelps, the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) himself, who was diagnosed with ADHD as a young child and told by his doctor that he would never be able to focus on anything.
I need not go into any further explanation. He confronted his own personal barriers, defied what the “experts” told him, and launched himself into the stratosphere.
Learning to become a master of the repetitive will carry over into other avenues of your life, whether you’re a student taking endless, boring classes, or an everyday worker punching the clock in and doing the same thing over and over again, day in and day out.
Another benefit of our sport is that it fosters an Appreciation for the Process.
If you truly wish to succeed in our sport (or any sport, for that matter), you must understand the importance of each of its aspects, from training to the habits necessary for a long and fruitful career, whether you’re a high school or college age swimmer intent on maximum success over the course of your career, or a Masters swimmer who wishes to extend their swimming years for many decades.
The pursuit of your goals involve periods of work and recovery, not to mention a trust in your coach and anyone else helping you on your journey.
Do this long enough, repeat this process enough times, and you’ll begin to see your dedication and work ethic spill over into your job and other areas of your life.
Thirdly, dedicating yourself to success in swimming – whether you’re a serious competitor or simply involved for the social and exercise aspects of being part of a Masters program – grants a unique and wonderful perspective. Taking time out of your day, be it in the morning, afternoon, or evening, to show up at the pool and put in some serious effort, can make many difficulties that non-swimmers experience seem trivial by comparison.
Going through a tough set in practice fosters both humility and confidence in oneself, qualities that can and will play a central role in any other endeavor. Should you encounter some inconvenience at work or wherever, it’s so much easier to shrug it off, while others gripe and complain and feel sorry for themselves.
In my own case, I prefer to train upon waking, and upon finishing, I know that, barring some emergency, nothing my day throws at me will be as difficult as what I chose to do in training.
I could go on and on, gushing over the benefits our sport has to offer, and count myself blessed to have had the opportunities to reap them, and hope that you feel the same way!