(photos by Kate Walkup)
- Alexis Matthiesen-Johnson
The day after I turned 13, I swam in my first USA Swimming sanctioned meet. Just over a month ago, I climbed out of the pool at Federal Way after completing the 1650-yard freestyle, the last race of my competitive swimming career.
In that moment I felt a mix of emotions, on the surface was relief – to finally be done with a grueling 19-and-a-half-minute race to round out a four day long meet; I also felt sadness – to officially be a “swammer” as we retired swimmers like to call ourselves.
Despite being done with my competitive swimming career, I know that sports will continue to be a significant component of my life as I continue on to pursue a graduate degree and career in the field of sport psychology.
Looking back, if someone would’ve told that little 13-year-old girl, who was scared to line up for her first 100-yard race, that she would one day swim at the collegiate level, competing in races over ten times the distance, she wouldn’t have believed them.
Now, reflecting on my many years of swimming experience, I realize all the lessons the sport has taught me:
a. Discipline – in waking up at 5am to trudge to the pool in the cold and dark, five mornings a week.
b. Grit – in pushing through the difficult sets and practices, knowing that I’m getting better with every yard.
c. Resilience – getting back in the pool after a difficult race, and learning to use every
disappointment as an opportunity for growth.
d. Teamwork – encouraging and supporting my teammates every day, knowing we can still work together in an individual sport.
So, what’s next?
Just because competitive swimming is over for me, it doesn’t mean that these lessons disappear. Whether I continue to stay active through running, weightlifting, or something else entirely, the skills I’ve gained from swimming will stay with me. I also know that everything I’ve learned from swimming can transfer to school, life, and a career. So to anyone that has just finished their competitive sports career, know that the lessons and memories from your experience will last a lifetime and will benefit you in whatever you pursue next. And if you’re still in your sport – enjoy every last minute of it, especially those early mornings.