Summer league swimming is the time and place where it all begins: where practice is fun, competition is friendly, and times don’t really matter. A key theme to that statement is enjoyment; a theme which too often disappears quickly in a swimmer’s career as swimming transitions from a fun sport to a thankless grind.
As young swimmers progress from park district or summer league swimming into year round training, the novelty of the sport quickly wears off. If these young athletes haven’t yet developed a fiery passion for the sport, the training can become monotonous and overwhelming. Staring at the black line for 2+ hours a day is no easy task, especially when it’s something your parents “forced you to do.” Thus, while these age groupers are pressured by their parents to attend year-round practices, their passion for the sport “burns out,” and they can become disinterested, making practices miserable.
This “burn-out” phenomenon is more prevalent than one may think and by no means suggests that the swimmer is not dedicated or lazy. They were simply focused in on their sport too early or did not have the opportunity to explore the vast world of sports. Whether it be a phase or simply a lost love for the sport, the swimmer needs a break. Additionally, playing other sports can develop skills which translate well into swimming.
This is exactly what happened to me… As I began to strongly dislike the sport of swimming at age 10 – even though I continued to win most races in the age group scene – four years of year-round swimming already seemed like too much. My teammates and coaches were shocked, but I simply couldn’t do it anymore. I took three years off and played basketball and had no plans to return the sport. However, as time passed, I decided to give swimming a shot again, returning with a renewed focus and enthusiasm. Seven years later, I am still doing what I love at the Division 1 level and would not be here if I hadn’t had that break.