Sara Smith was born in Ellicott City, Maryland. Now attending the University of North Carolina Wilmington in Wilmington, North Carolina, she has a major in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing Strategy, a minor in Journalism and is en route to obtain a Certificate in Professional Writing. She is also a swimmer at UNCW, an inspiration for most of her writing. Upon graduation, she hopes to work in the finance industry in a new city, and maybe even a new country. While finance is her goal, writing is her favorite hobby, and she hopes to continue writing features in the future.
When I hear the word “athlete,” the first thing that comes to my mind is pain. I think of the amount of effort it takes to get off the couch, go to practice and expend the last of my day’s energy in a workout. I think of the late nights spent doing the homework I had to put off until after practice, the nerves that come right before a competition and, of course, the inevitable early morning practices. But after the initial moment of recognizing the negatives of a sport, I remember the reasons that kept me involved with my sport all these years.
My name is Sara Smith, and I am a senior at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. I am also a swimmer, and have been for the last 17 years of my life. In the midst of my senior year in high school, I came dangerously close to quitting the sport that made up 90 percent of my life for so long, but now I am incredibly thankful that I chose to stick with it and finish my career through college. As my college career comes to a close in the next few months, I’d like to pass on my experience and advice to anyone battling the decision of whether or not to continue their sport to a collegiate level.
The first aspect of my life that was affected by swimming was my social life. When you enter college as a student athlete, you automatically have a group of people to connect with. While you are still free to meet people and make friends that are not athletes, your teammates are people that already have an understanding of a big part of your life. They understand what you’ve endured, both physically and mentally, to get to the college level of athletics. They understand when you are too tired to make plans and when you’re hungry enough to clear an entire pizza, and more importantly, they will do these things with you. Your teammates are your siblings; they’ve seen you at your worst, meanest and absolute ugliest, and at the end of the day will still be there for you.
The next aspect that benefited from swimming was academics. Believe it or not, most professors have the utmost respect for student athletes; they find that we work even harder than regular students in the classroom. This is because academia requires the same effort, discipline and time management as a sport does, and these come naturally to an athlete. While some professors may not be so helpful when we have to miss a class or exam because of a meet, more often than not they are cooperative and more than willing to help. Several of my professors have actually asked me how my season was going in the middle of class and spoke highly of the previous athletes they’ve taught. So long as you make it clear you are doing your best work in their class as well as your sport, they are more than likely impressed by your dedication.
Finally, athletics look great on a resume. I’ve noticed that some companies genuinely don’t care whether an applicant was an athlete, but it is significantly more common that they will. Interviewers know that an applicant with an athletic background has experience with time management, teamwork, dedication and plenty of other important qualities that cannot be learned elsewhere (at least not in the same way) that will be viable to the success of their company. I’ve now been a team captain for two years, and this leadership experience has been even more helpful in my career search process.
Collegiate athletics may be intimidating, but they are incredibly rewarding. The thought that I almost gave up swimming before college in unsettling, because I would not have had these experiences that made me who I am today and who I will be in the future. Because I learned to enjoy my sport, I learned to enjoy everything that I do. My competitive drive will lead me to be successful in my endeavors, and that is something I owe entirely to collegiate swimming.