Advice to the Incoming Freshmen

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Photo Courtesy: Missouri State Athletics

By Madilyn Sindelar, Swimming World College Intern.

After a long day of moving into your dorm room – ensuring each picture frame is straight, clothes are properly organized, and food and supplies are stockpiled – you hug your parents goodbye for the last time. The door shuts and you turn to your new roommate, then suddenly, it hits you. You are finally a college freshman! After 18 long years of dreaming about swimming and attending the perfect college has led up to this moment: Your freshman year of college.

While bonding with new teammates and attending orientation and required meetings will blur by, it’s important to remember that you picked your new home for a reason. Here are Swimming World’s words of advice to incoming freshmen.

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Post-race team celebration. Photo Courtesy: Andrea Vandermay

Meet new people and establish connections.

Your first day of collegiate practice is nerve-racking as you prepare to dive into your new home pool. As you adjust your cap and tighten your goggles, relax and remember that you’re not alone. Every other freshman is nervous about proving themselves to their teammates, and returners are eager to see their new teammates in the water.

While navigating your place on your new team may seem difficult at first, just remember that you are at your school for a reason. Look up to the returning swimmers who have survived freshman year. They want you to succeed and have advice on how to do so.

Outside of swimming, don’t be afraid to go out of your way to meet new people. Talking to people in your hall, on other sports teams or joining a club are all great ways to widen your circle. Having a large social outlet helps you feel connected and makes homesickness easier to overcome.

It is also important to coordinate with professors when you will be absent due to a meet. During the first week of classes, your coach will typically give you a travel letter with meeting dates and times. This letter alerts professors to when you will be gone so you will be excused of an absence. The travel letter is also a great way to establish a connection with professors. By introducing yourself and handing them the letter, you will establish a connection that will be beneficial later on.

Words of advice from current college swimmers.

“Keep an open mind and know that your coach wants you just as much as you want him [or her],” University of South Dakota rising sophomore Meghan Atwell said. 

Knowing that you were offered a roster spot by your coach and have a group of welcoming teammates will make times of self-doubt easier. Set a meeting time with the coach so that you can get to know each other better. Sometimes on a large team, it can be difficult to feel known individually by the head coach. It’s always a good idea to establish open communication at the get-go.

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Head coach Dan Gelderloos of Calvin College encourages athlete Sydney Boyer. Photo Courtesy: Dan Vos

You also want to show your team that you care about more than just your own goals and accomplishments. “Cheering and supporting your team is vital. Your teammates are your rocks and help push you through practices. You need each other to get better. So hype each other up whether it’s in practice or at a meet. It’ll make you a great teammate and push everyone to their best performance,” West Virginia Wesleyan rising sophomore Morgan Choffin said.

Your new family is your teammates, and relying on them will make those tough practices and schedules more manageable. When you have your team to count on, collegiate racing becomes even more exciting. Their support is crucial particularly during high-pressure races, as they give you confidence and help you relax.

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Denison University fans cheer on their swimmers at NCAAs. Photo Courtesy: Linda Striggo

Outside of the pool and in the classroom, team support is just as important. At study tables and in class, it’s crucial to be able to manage your schedule and maintain a high GPA. With swim meets occurring during both semesters, there is not much room to slack off and fall behind. Staying disciplined and on-task is crucial for success.

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Photo Courtesy: Pexels

You also have built-in tutors and mentors who have walked in your shoes. Take advantage of their advice. “Manage your time wisely, and don’t be afraid to ask your teammates for help in or out of the pool,” Marc Bennett from West Virginia Wesleyan adds.

Remember your “why” for choosing your university.

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The NC State women cheer before a meet. Photo Courtesy: NC State Athletics

Whether it’s inside or outside of the pool, college is a fresh start and an exciting time. You will learn more about yourself as a student-athlete than ever before, as the stakes are higher with performance in the pool and classroom. As you navigate through classes and friendships, always remember why you picked your school. Was it the school spirit, facilities, coaches or team? Or was it the people you met on your recruiting trip who are becoming your new teammates? Did you enjoy the professors and faculty when you sat in on a class? Recenter on your why, and it’ll be much easier to move forward with purpose and intention.

College swimming will bring you so many amazing opportunities and friendships that you will always cherish. Most importantly, remember you are finally living your dream as a collegiate swimmer!

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

6 comments

  1. Jacqui Draper

    Tara Draper. Love you and hope you have the best time ever!! So proud of you

    • Tara Draper

      Jacqui Draper I found this first but thanks 🤣
      Love you too

    • Jacqui Draper

      Tara Draper well you did tag or share so how was i meant to know!!! hahahaha

    • Tara Draper

      Jacqui Draper I sent it to my freshies chat come on up your game 😛