Quitting Club Swimming

Ellie Dessart, Co-Editor

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For some people, quitting an extracurricular is unthinkable. For many, quitting during Junior year of high school is beyond imaginable. I’ve always considered myself a swimmer. I started competing relatively late at 10 years old, but my natural abilities helped me catch up to those whose swimming careers began at 2 years old in the “Mommy and Me” classes. At the age of 13, I took a year off to pursue dance but ultimately came back to the water.

There’s something about the pool that fascinates me. It’s strange; you’d think you’d feel exposed and vulnerable when you’re in the water, the nearest to naked in front of strangers you’ll probably get. But you feel free, floating around with just yourself and your thoughts.

Most swimmers have a love-hate relationship with the sport. The feeling of pride after pushing through a tough practice and the excitement of seeing a personal best flash across the time pad make swimming so rewarding. But it is, nonetheless, physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding. For most people, a few seconds are trivial. Hundredths of a second? Not worth thinking about. But for swimmers, every millisecond counts. It’s the difference between first and second place, making finals or just missing the last spot, qualifying for a championship meet or not. In the effort to push our bodies against the forces holding us back, we become critical of ourselves. Every stroke counts. Every turn. The more you breathe, the slower you go. Even the slightest hesitation at the start could ruin the chance of a successful race.

This past year, after competing with the high school, I trained seven days a week for two hours a day on an intense club team. Swimming consumed my schedule and eventually, it started to consume me. The pressure and competitiveness became too much. I questioned whether or not I truly belonged at a place where many committed to D1 schools before reaching Senior year, or, in some instances, went on to become Olympians. I dreaded going to practice and began skipping crucial training sessions.

I knew in the back of my mind that I was done with swimming, but I couldn’t admit it. People have always commented on how “good” I am and everyone knew me as “the swimmer.” The title became my entire identity, and without it, I wondered if I had anything left. I feared people would then see me as “the quitter.” In a year where grades and extracurriculars are more important than ever, it’s terrifying to think dropping the activity from my college applications could rip apart my entire future.

Despite quitting my club team, I plan on still swimming for Bronxville’s Varsity team during the Fall. I no longer let the activity consume me, but I can’t imagine completely leaving behind a sport that, sure, has put me through so much pain, but has also given me so much.

In the end, I realized I have so much more to offer outside the realms of swimming. It’s unfortunate how we go through high school clutching onto activities we think define us, hesitating to let go, even when we know it’s time because we’re so afraid of losing our identities and destroying everything we’ve worked for. It’s unfortunate how we assume we already have to figure ourselves out entirely at the age of 15, 16, or 17. I learned that I’m more than the sport I dedicated so much time to. I’m more than just a title. Before entering high school, I wish someone had told me that it’s okay to question your identity and it’s okay to not know for sure who you are or what your purpose is. In high school, sure, you’ll learn how to balance academics with other activities while building your social life. But at the end of the day, the most you’ll learn is about yourself– and that’s both beautiful and liberating. 

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