Charlie Houchin: Living His Swim Dream
By Mike Watkins//Correspondent
Charlie Houchin is the first to admit he’s living his dream, particularly when it comes to swimming.
He understands he’s experiencing a life that few get the opportunity to live, but he also knows he’s accomplished it through hard work, sacrifice and dedication – and the company that he keeps doesn’t hurt as motivation, either.
“I’m fortunate to get to do this,” Houchin said. “I find joy in being around greatness and being able to affect positive change. Being around great athletes provides that opportunity.
That’s precisely what Houchin has been able to do for the past few years as one of the world’s elite freestyle swimmers.
In addition to winning two gold medals at the 2011 Pan American Games, he’s been a staple on the last few U.S. National Teams and won relay gold as a member of the 2011 and 2013 U.S. World Championships and 2012 Olympics 800 freestyle relay teams. He also swam for the United States at the 2010 Pan Pacific Games.
Suffice it to say that Houchin finds himself among the lucky ones in swimming and in sport.
Memories that stand out to him include spending the afternoon walking down the river that cuts through town with a teammate during the 2012 Olympic training camp in France.
Before the 2013 World Championships, he fondly remembers having coffee with a newer friend during camp in Vitoria, Spain, and enjoying a discussion unrelated to the competition.
For him, challenging and being challenged by others who share similar experiences is the best part about being a member of “the teams.”
“Making any National Team is about getting to be around greatness—and I specifically mean the athletes,” Houchin said. “What a unique situation full of opportunity! The camps leading up to a competition are the best part. I enjoy getting to know other athletes in a one-on-one kind of way. At camp, there’s always a lot of opportunity for that. “
In his ongoing commitment to swimming for a living, he said he’s enjoying the privilege of training with fellow National Team swimmers and Olympians Chloe Sutton, Alex Meyer and Ashley Twichell under Coach John Payne as part of the SEAL Innovation Team in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area.
“I’m in the middle of a very fun chapter of my life,” he said. “My daily process consists of two things: Being the best freestyler and teammate I can be in the water representing the SEAL Innovation Team and leading a team of incredibly passionate people at HydroXphere and serving the summer swimming community with our product, Meet Central.”
HydroXphere is the result of Houchin’s business plan he created in April of 2010 as a project for one of his Sport Management classes while studying and swimming at the University of Michigan. Its intent is to improve summer swim meets for volunteers, parents and swimmers.
Houchin said he believes the strength of swimming is in its participation by millions of young summer swimmers. He also believes an investment toward these swimmers and their neighborhood communities comes first and foremost. He used his money from winning Olympic gold to build a prototype of HydroXphere’s comprehensive summer swim meet system.
Along with doing what’s necessary to ensure the success of HydroXphere, Houchin has realized, through time and experience, that he also needs to do certain things to keep things fresh and exciting as an international competitor.
“As this chapter has revealed itself over the past few years – HydroXphere plus being a professional swimmer – it has become clear that doing the ‘swimming part’ the same way for any two different seasons would be very stagnant,” Houchin said.
“Because of my interests outside swimming and because of the fantastic people who have been a part of the swimming journey with me, I’ve been fortunate to always have a very dynamic relationship with improving as an athlete.”
Competing at the pinnacle of his sport, Houchin speaks philosophically about what it all means, especially in the greater scheme of life.
He said he had some ideas of what it might be like, but like all things, it’s been the uncertainty that throws him off course.
“That future uncertainty, that outcome — the result, the time, the valuation — has an incredible power over the present, if you let it,” Houchin said. “It can destroy a great process — sometimes before it even starts.”
Still, with the start of the 2014 Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships just a day away, he said he feels strong, confident and fast and is ready to enjoy the experience.
“The process is clear, and the uncertainty is waiting—I love to embrace that!” Houchin said of Nationals. “I love that each season takes on a different personality based on the chapter in my life and the lives of those who are a part of it. This year has been very unique, but it’s the same story. I’m just enjoying and trusting the process and embracing the uncertainty!”