The past few days have been extremely challenging.
This past Thursday, my athletic department, the one that I helped to represent over the last 4 years, decided to make the horrible decision to cut 7 athletic teams including the men’s and women’s swim team.
In light of this decision, I wanted to talk about my experience swimming for William and Mary.
In March of 2015 I received my first recruiting letter from our former assistant Chris. Prior to that I hadn’t really heard of wm. Didn’t know where it was, thought it was a small D3 school in the northeast. Turns out I was completely wrong.
Over the next view months, I began to build a relationship with the coaches. I left for my recruiting sept 17th 2015, and the biggest thing I took away from that trip was just how close the team was. The next 3 trips I went on couldn’t even compare to wm in that department, and that’s ultimately what sold me on the team and school. Despite the pool being not ideal, I knew that everything else that I would experience would make up for that and I was right.
The first day I walked onto campus for move-in day, I was nervous and stressed. I was sad about the people I was leaving behind in Cleveland and was ultimately having a hard time with the unbearable heat during move in day, something the Cleveland summer hadn’t prepared me for. But as we were moving in, the team one by one stop by to say hello. I hadn’t even been on campus for an hour and I was already starting to feel at home. Over the next 5 days during orientation, they continued to be there for us. Having the leadership, kindness, and support of the older classmen meant the world to me, especially when I had no idea what I was doing. They truly made me feel like I was home.
On the first day of class, I remember coach telling us that the upperclassmen were not going to be at convocation. I believed him, but untimely was so shocked, happy, and excited to see them with all their loud cheering. 3 days later we had our first Saturday practice, and everyone’s collective energy amazed me. That was something I missed during my recruiting trip, and I’ll never forget how loudly everyone cheered during the freshman vs upperclassmen relays. At that moment I knew I had made the right decision, and the team would change my whole view on the sport. They brough a new type of fun to swimming for me, something I felt like I had never experienced before.
And the rest of my freshman year is history. I dealt with a lot of ups and downs that year and honestly all 4 years, but the team continued to be there for me. They never left my side when I needed to take a step back for a year, and continued to be excited for me as I tried to get back into it last fall. The team never gave up on me, and in return I never gave up on them.
The 100 or so men and women I have swam with over the last 4 years have fundamentally changed my life. They taught me that swimming is not an individual sport. I learned the best practices are the ones where you are having fun and cheering each other on, not the ones where only you do well. I learned that meets are meant for towel cheers, window banging, and cheers after every single race. I learned that it didn’t matter how you did, but how everyone together did. I learned that post meet meetings where meant to celebrate everyone’s success, no matter what the score was. I learned that ultimately the most important part of tribe swimming was the people and the relationships we built. That it didn’t matter how we did at each meet or at the end of the year, what mattered was how we treated each other and that the swimming part would follow. The coaches cared deeply about us as people, and that fundamentally rippled throughout the entire team.
Looking back on tribe swimming, the memories of support are the ones that stick out in my head the most. Yes, winning CAA’s was amazing, but seeing everyone explode with excitement when colin qualify for NCAA was more amazing. It’s the support I felt in the 2:01 set when I was dying, it was the seeing all the women of sprint group yelling my name during every practice, it was the way everyone came together for recruiting trips, and it was the way we didn’t turn away from a challenge.
I’ll never forget training trip during my freshman year, coach talking about how this trip wasn’t meant to train us into the ground. That’s how I felt all my winter trainings had been before, so I felt like I couldn’t believe him. But coach was completely right. While it was challenging, I never felt like a practice was too challenging, which meant I had more energy to succeed at every practice, not just the first few. I remember one of those morning, coach thought the sprint group looked sluggish in the pool. So, he pulled everyone out of the water to stretch and talk to each other for 20 or so minutes. That level of understanding was something I felt like I had never experienced before. Over the next 4 years, that was something I felt often.
I will never forget the impact that tribe swimming has had on me as a person. The athletic departments decision to take that away from all the swimmers that have come after me is something that I am disgusted by. How could you take away a team that succeeds in the classroom, the pool, and the community? A team that absolutely bleeds tradition and tribe pride, something that perfectly mirrors the values of the school.
Tribe swimming is the essence of one tribe one family, and I will not stop fighting until my team is brought back, again.