Through a mate, I was introduced to the sport of swimming in my early teens, during the economic and political crisis of the 1980s. By the time I was a college freshman, Swimming Australia beckoned and before my first day I was already hooked. Ever since, I’ve had a love affair with this unique sport of swimming. The opportunity for swimmers to wear costumes that tie the shoulders and pull back the skirt, what I recall as the swimmers wiggling around the pool with their trunks pulled to the knees, was life changing. It made a world of difference to the way I was approached as a potential swimmer. A world apart from American colleges, Australian colleges view sports as a business and try to capitalize on any opportunity to get competitive athletes into their university.
“We want to sell student tickets to your first meet,” comments one swashbuckling Australian mentor Swimming Australia sets high standards for its swimmers. Performer level requires workouts stretching from aerobic activity to dance cardio movements, some exercise or dancing. A basic Olympic training-level swimmer is a middle-aged male, fit and flexible, capable of swimming between 2 and 4 miles a day. “Mateship” is the focus. I am seated in a two-row row that groups me along with a pair of swimmers slightly larger than me. On the pool deck, my first day, we were given a highly detailed outline of events to swim in the upcoming first day. There was a chaperone present to sit in between us, oversee everything and monitor the lack of aggression and brattiness.
I was told by my coach that if I wasn’t completely emotionally and physically ready, I would not be racing On the first day, I was not quite ready. It took a while for my freestyle stroke to break into a rhythm, my and my coach both felt my nordic walk in the transition time between yards hadn’t been steady and that I could improve. On my first race, I slid the lead from less than 20-seconds to only three-feet in three heart-breaking meters, causing my coach to sit me in the middle lane for the subsequent race. I really just wanted the contact with someone, someone close to my body and wanting to look in their eyes, hearing their voice, so that I could ask for their feedback on why I did so poorly and make a change.
Neither I nor my coach knew what swimmers training at the same level would do in that situation It’s what they teach you at college, but it’s nowhere near as aggressive. It’s a totally different world. It’s a lesson learnt in the water that would ultimately turn me into a professional diver. For something that actually looked quite simple in practice, being able to track your speed, your technique, your place, your momentum, is challenging. Watch below for Swimming Australia’s take on an exhilarating test. One of the techniques I learned during my period of coaching in Australia was nordic skiing techniques. I took my diving trunks down to my knee and the only way to practise it was to go into a pool half-empty and dive from 10 feet into 10 feet.
Today, I can dive into a pool with my shorts cut off, and I truly feel like I’m at my best, but my two-and-a-half hours a day in the water taught me not to neglect my own practice It was the greatest workout I could ever have asked for and I was hooked. After I finished my two-year course at Swimming Australia, I moved to America and started to train in college at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Many aspects of Australian culture bore witness to this transition. A part of moving to America, even if it is a far-away corner of the continent, is discovering that you need to give up certain things in order to embrace your new surroundings.
Training at an American university became a sport that was heavily reliant on American culture College coaches were knowledgeable about how to manage and teach the material to young Americans, and it was understood that college sports had to be “Americanized” in order to be successful. I still got to work out, but in shorter bursts, every other day, sometimes twice a day with extra practice on the weekends. This taught me to breathe deeply and be focused when I had a practice, to avoid exhaustion and boredom and to not be easily distracted by stressors, or things that.