Picking up your towel, team shirt and shorts you walk across the cold pool deck towards your coach, the lights of the outdoor pool shining down from the night sky.
You’re soaking in these moments, because you know they will be the last you will experience as a competitive swimmer. The sound of the referee’s whistle, the cheers, the everlasting scent of chlorine.
Even though there have been moments you have very much looked forward to this point–leaving the sport behind–now you aren’t so sure. A bittersweet sense of conflict fills your belly.
Now more than ever you understand that swimming is about more than the early morning workouts. The endless distance sets. The bags of gear littered across the lane.
It’s the friendships you developed over the years.
The bonds that you created in-between the lane lines during all of those practices, the training camps, the long meets where you stuck around to count laps for your teammate who was in the last heat of the last race of the longest event.
It was the shoulders you leaned on during the long bus rides home after a bad meet. It was the same shoulders you wrapped your arms around after the big meets.
It’s the limits you pushed through.
Some of those moments came willingly; you made a decision to push yourself just a little bit more, for just a little bit longer, to see if you could.
Other moments of triumph you resisted; coach scrawled up a set so tough, so challenging you couldn’t even fathom completing it. After mentally going through all the excuses you could unfurl to get out of practice—your shoulder suddenly felt like it may think about acting up—and after being barked at a few times by coach, you hesitantly did the work.
In both cases, you learned your limits…and swam through them.
It’s the commitment and focus on a goal.
While you’ve heard it many times, that swimming is a conduit for how we perform in the rest of life, you will learn to really experience it in the real world.
Skills such as goal setting, making a plan, addressing weaknesses and focusing on strengths apply directly to whatever it is you have next.
It’s leaving without regrets.
Inevitably, no matter how we leave the sport, whether by injury or by choice, there will come a time where you think “what if?” What if I had really applied myself? What if I had swam that extra year? What if I had really made a run for Trials?
These thoughts are natural, and at the end of the day, can only be mitigating by making the most of the precious moments we spend with the company of the black line.
While many will continue the life of a competitive swimmer in college and beyond, for you and this particular moment it’s where you begin to adjust to a life without competitive swimming.
A life without the limitless eating. A life without awkward swimsuit tans. And a life without eyes and cheeks that are indented from prolonged google usage.
Sure, the thought of not having to wake up at 5am and set up the pool is something you are very much looking forward to, but something inside tells you that no matter how late you get to sleep in, no matter how much more time you have for other pursuits, nothing will quite replace the
And so, in those final few moments as you approach your coach, for the final time, you look across the glistening pool, see some of your teammates, smile, and hope that for those still to come they understand how lucky they are to be getting up early tomorrow.