Take it from me

    The life lessons swimming has to offer

    More stories from Thomas Hensen


    Photo by SUBMITTED

    When I was in middle school and high school, I was the biggest slacker when it came to swimming. I was the kid at the opposite end of the pool from my coach, avoiding him and either pretending to fix my goggles or unnecessarily stretching.

    I was the kid who would always pull on the lane lines (for you non-swimmers, that’s cheating), goof around with my friends and turn around in the middle of the pool during the hardest sets.

    But then my senior year came around and I found out what a little hard work can do. I dropped loads of time at my last meet of the season and it motivated me to swim in college. Little did I know just how affected I would be by this decision.

    Now, I didn’t really succeed at this college thing the first time. Or the second time. And I’m barely getting by the third time. But the things I learned from those experiences and the people I met along the way forever changed who I am.

    I won’t try to list every single thing this sport has taught me, because I would never exhaust that list, but let me tell you three of the most important lessons swimming taught me.

    I learned that a lot of things in life, much like going to practice, are so much more enjoyable when you stop looking at those as things you have to do, but rather opportunities. Every day I went to practice was a new opportunity to improve myself as a swimmer. Once I started looking forward to practice I noticed my work ethic followed suit. Your attitude can dictate so much about how you train and perform.

    I learned we are capable of so much more than what our minds allow us to deem possible. Be realistic, but don’t ever limit yourself, and certainly don’t let others do it for you. Trust you know what’s best for you and do it to the best of your ability.

    I also learned these two things don’t matter if you don’t love what you do. I can honestly say, despite hating swimming at so many points in my life, I loved competing as a college swimmer. As long as you love what you do, you can’t be unhappy doing what it is that you do. So do what you love.

    There isn’t much luck involved in swimming. For the most part, you really get out what you put into it. I couldn’t ask for a better sport to teach me about humility, hard work and perseverance.

    As hard as it was to say goodbye to a sport I’ve been competing in for over 16 years, I’m eternally grateful I can look back without any regrets, only valuable life lessons and amazing memories.