By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Monday, June 11, 2018
Every Monday, I answer questions from swimmers around the country. If you have a question, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll try to answer either online or inside Splash Magazine.
This year, I swam at the collegiate Division 1 level. However, while I had a great time first semester, I started to feel overwhelmed and pressured by the burden of swimming. As a result of my unhappiness during the last part of the season, I quit about a month ago.
I'm starting to have doubts about whether that was it for me or whether I should try another year. I exceeded all my expectations, having swam all best times this year and realistically, I was only really trying to get through one year without thought of the future. I didn't bond super well with any of the girls on the team and while I've been super happy since I quit, there's always that hole that can't be filled and I'm not sure whether swimming is a part of who I am or whether I should just move on.
Working out isn't the same without swimming but I'm not sure whether I should burden myself with that pressure and the lack of choice in terms of being forced to show up to every practice. Could you give me any advice?
Hopeful College Quitter
It’s okay to quit. It’s okay to take a step back from competitive swimming, especially if you are “super happy” not swimming. It’s okay to hang up your suit and goggles, walk away from the pool, and be content with your experience. You may use your free time to do things that you truly love, find activities you are truly passionate about.
But are you content?
To me, it doesn’t sound like you’re 100% sure of your decision to quit. You sound like you’re relieved not to be swimming every day, but you’re also wondering if you will miss competitive swimming later in life. You seem to be already questioning your decision.
Though it’s impossible to ever know if a huge decision will ever be the right one until you make it, if you’re unsure about quitting, I don’t see any reason why you can’t delay this decision until later this fall, try out swimming once more, tweak a few things in your approach and mindset, and see if you enjoy it more.
I was a lot like you my freshman year of college: It was hard, it took a lot of time, and I felt burned out. So, I quit. But, like you, I questioned that decision. So, I came back. Over time, I learned to love collegiate swimming. College swimming is very hard, physically, but it’s also a new team and new teammates. It can be stressful. Your new teammates can be your best friends, but it does take work and commitment. You have to commit to being a good teammate.
You say that you didn’t bond well with other swimmers on your team. You also write, “I was only really trying to get through one year without thought of the future.” In my experience, when you’re thinking about a destination, you’re looking too much down the road instead of how to get there.
So, my advice is this: First, realize that you can always swim competitively. If you quit today, you should know that there are fantastic masters teams out there and other competitions that offer the satisfaction of goal-setting and overcoming obstacles. College swimming isn’t the end of the competitive swimming world… it’s just the end of one particular chapter. Second, consider why you miss swimming. What did you love about swimming? What hole would be inside you if you never returned? What are you worried about if you quit now? And in a perfect world, what would a perfect college swim team experience be? Spend some time to visualize what you love about swimming, and why you didn’t particularly love your first year of swimming collegiately and see if you can change those things to get back to that passionate mindset.
Since you’re not 100% sure about quitting, my advice is to go back to practice for a month this fall. Try it out once more. The first year of college swimming is the hardest. Don’t focus on the practices, though. Don’t focus on the time commitment. Instead, put work into regaining that love for the sport. Remember why you love it and focus on yourself. Try bonding with your teammates of course — sometimes bonding takes time and effort — but also remember to swim for yourself. If you’re spending that much time staring at the black line every single day, you have to be doing it for yourself. Otherwise, you may regret not quitting sooner.
After a month or so, if you don’t like it, you can always quit. You can always say this October or November, “Yeah, this is not for me.” After giving it one more go though, you’ll 100% be sure of your decision, with no regrets.
I hope this helps.