There are a couple of moments that are truly life changing in the life of a human being. Believe it or not all those moments for me so far have come from a sport: swimming!
What did I truly learn from the sport that gave me so much? How did it really change my life?
I could talk about my Olympic experience, medals, being an all American, and a Portuguese record holder, but I really want to focus on the moment that I’m at: the post career.
What really sticks with you after you are done swimming? I leave you with six key reflections:
- A broader perspective of life.
All the traveling I did, the people I met and the different backgrounds I encountered gave me a better understanding of the world we live in. Not everything is roses out there and everyone, regardless of color, nationality and economic status has their own struggles. Sports are supposed to bring us together and not separate us. I am also a firm believer that sport should not be an avenue to market belief systems of any kind (like religion or politics), as that only brings separation.
- The opportunity to give back
I was lucky enough to attend a class in college that “focused on people’s abilities rather than on people’s disabilities.” Probably one of the few classes that taught me anything meaningful! Through that class I became friends with the professor, BJ Levis, and was fortunate enough to work with her with special needs populations. The fact that I was an athlete gave me a status and opportunity to really impact the lives of a lot of people! I had the chance to work with wounded warriors, people with mental and physical disabilities, and more. Seeing and becoming friends with some of our participants made my problems seem so insignificant! We tend to feel pity and think that our lives are so hard. Well, I challenge you to volunteer and see how silly many of our problems really can be…
- An unprecedented work ethic
Swimmers tend to brag and feel special about their crazy work load. Well, it pays off! I can assure you that all those hours in a pool and the hard work that you put into your sport will transfer into the work place. This is one of the thing I am most thankful about the sport of swimming! Twelve hour work day? Peachy! I mean have you ever done 13×400 IM?
- College swimming is a business
Again, this might just be my experience. But it became hard for me to practice and have guidance after my college career was over. If you want to swim after college beware of the difficulties! You become less important, and even though I was trying to train for my second Olympics it was very hard. I became a lot more important when a coaching spot on the Portuguese national team was up for grabs. So, yes, college swimming is a business and if you have nothing to offer to the program, nobody is going to hand you a participation trophy. You will eventually become important again when donation time comes around though. Again, that is my experience. There are many benefits of a great collegiate swimming program but understand that it is not all about you!
- The memories
Records get broken, people move on and eventually your impact in the sport you love fades away a bit. One thing you can’t erase are the memories. The silly, fun stories and situations. The places and things you saw, those are mementos that stick with you forever!
- Thick skin
The ability to bounce back and get back to it! The one more rep mentality! That will stick with you forever. Swimmers don’t quit even when your arms are heavy and your lungs are on fire! Another quality that you will take to the work place and make you one hell of an employee.