College and club swimming… It’s all the same, right? I mean, you’re still swimming with a team, working hard, and doing fly until your shoulders are dead, what could be so different? A lot, actually, and it all comes to light after a few years into my college career.
Club swimming is about improvement; a consistent, individual dedication to one’s self that can lead them to bigger and better things. That might be as big as a national title or a best time, but when we break down swimming on the club level, it’s pretty individual. This is especially true when you are in high school and you are likely trying to get recruited for a college program; each race could be another chance to prove yourself to some coach out there.
I can testify to this on a very individual level. I swam club swimming for ten years before college and always felt the individual aspect when I raced. Even in situations where I was scoring for my team and cared very deeply about that, in the back of my mind, I always remembered that if I swam fast it could be a great time to tell coaches about.
College is very different from that. There is no future beyond college swimming save for those very few stud athletes that go pro. For four years, your main goal is to do everything you can for the team. It is a pretty eye-opening and indescribable experience to live through. To be able to look to the side of the pool before a race and see the people you are doing this for is remarkable.
The greatest part is that college and club swimming are intertwined. Without the dedication and accountability to yourself that club swimming requires, you probably won’t make it far in the sport of college swimming. However, when you arrive in college with those attributes in hand, it becomes much easier to use them to work hard when doing so directly represents your University and teammates.