Senior tears: Turning in your ‘athlete’ card

March 4, 2016

As a second semester senior editor on The Brandeis Hoot, I get to write an opinion piece at the end of the year reflecting on my time at the newspaper and how it has helped me to grow as a person. This is not that piece, yet. However, it is me using the paper to reflect on something that has, amazingly, taken up even more of my time the past four years: Brandeis University Swim and Dive Team (BUSDT).

As a senior in high school, Brandeis was my top choice for schools. I liked the academics and everything fine, but it was the swim team that really drew me in. I knew I wanted to continue competitive swimming in college and was looking to commit. And despite the terrible financial aid package we received, I believed that Brandeis was my destiny, especially after learning that the renovated pool had reopened on my birthday. It was obviously a sign.

I have spent every birthday since then at Linsey Pool for at least a few hours. I have done four “birthday swims”—a 50 yard butterfly swim with the rest of the team creating tidal waves around you with their kickboards. I remember one year when practice went longer than expected and instead of having a birthday dinner with my friends, I had to run up campus in the snow, grab a to-go box, and head straight back down to the pool for my lifeguard shift.

Being a collegiate athlete is not easy, and I would argue with all 16 pages of this newspaper if I could that swimming is the most difficult varsity sport at Brandeis. And people like to tell you that you won’t remember the hard times. You’ll just remember all the friendships and the laughs! But I don’t think that is true with swimming. I’m going to remember that lonely birthday dinner. I’m going to remember the time I was tethered in place with a snorkel and told to sprint for 20 minutes straight, and cried my goggles full of water. I’ll remember packing up my bags the day after Christmas to come back to campus for practice. But to say I survived (and enjoyed?) that experience with my teammates is something that I am immensely proud of.

I’ve been spending most of my free time at a pool for about 15 years now. Since high school, swimming has taken up more time per week than the part-time jobs most of my friends had. I worked my own jobs around the pool—lifeguarding, teaching swim lessons—so that it would be easier to get to swim practice. And now, with my collegiate swim career officially over, I find myself with an extra 25 hours per week to fill.

It’s a weird thing to do something your whole life and then all of a sudden have it be over. I still haven’t wrapped my head around the idea that I’m supposed to work out now just because it’s good for me. No more cut times to make or points to score or tapers to train for. No more incentive to wake up before sunrise other than the junk food I no longer feel justified to eat whenever I please. Anything I do, I’ve got to just do for me. So far, I haven’t done anything.

I’m not sure what to do next. I know swimmers that have graduated and gotten super into running marathons. I know others who have gotten super into their jobs, and a few who really enjoy just sitting on the couch. With a few months left before I graduate, I feel like the end of my swim career is a test run for adult life. How will I do without the structure of a team? Can I stay fit on my own?

I would say that everyone should try to compete in varsity athletics to gain the same great experiences, but I don’t think that’s true. It is not for everyone, but there is something for everyone—I urge any young underclassmen who haven’t already to join a club that you think you could stick with for four years. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a collegiate athlete at Brandeis. The leadership skills I’ve gained will help me in the real world more than most of my English classes, and the friends I’ve made will be friends for life.

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