Two years ago, I left the Princeton men’s swimming team. I thought I would never come back. It didn’t seem worth the effort. I loved the sport, but I thought I had to let swimming go. I had many other things I wanted to do with my Princeton career and the varsity swim team seemed to be something that was mutually exclusive with all of my other interests. I want to go to medical school, stay involved with my Christian fellowship, and be able to go to class and learn for the love of learning. When I left, I knew it would take a miracle from God for me to ever step onto Denunzio’s pool deck again as a member of Princeton’s Men’s Swimming and Diving Team.
So why did I come back? What changed? A freshman teammate asked me these questions after finding out that I had been off the team for most of my freshman and sophomore year. And the questions made sense. My swimming times are by no means the fastest on the team. In fact, in practice, our fastest guys will go my personal best times during test sets. Walking to the pool for 6:30am morning practices in the snowy, cold mornings of December and January are definitely not at the top of my to-do list. Yet this past September, I walked back onto the team.
A big reason I came back is because I love the sport of swimming. I am fascinated by the grace and power that are encompassed in how a swimmer’s body moves through the water in butterfly. While doing underwater dolphin kicks, the sight of my reflection in the glass-like smooth surface of water is entrancing as I breathe out slowly and kick underwater. I live for the deep sense of fulfillment after pushing through a tough set – breathless and exhausted but having completed the set. There is truly nothing like the sport of swimming and this passion brought me back.
The sport is also one of my greatest teachers. It teaches me how to get back on my feet when I have given my all and it seems that all my effort was a waste, and then it teaches me how to give even more in these times. It teaches me what it means to sacrifice and devote myself to something I believe in and am passionate about. I have also learned about the importance of perspective. Each race and practice is an opportunity to succeed, and how I see my performance at the end of the day is really my choice. If I gave it my all every step of the way, then I really did everything I could and there’s nothing more I can ask of myself. But with the physical and mental exhaustion that comes with being a student-athlete, it’s a daily struggle and work-in-progress to appreciate the journey and not simply focus on the destination. In these times, I am reminded that I swim for someone greater than myself. I believe all of life, including my swimming, studies, and relationships, is a gift that God has given to me to enjoy, and I seek to enjoy it in ways that honor Him and bring Him glory. This is what I mean when I say that I love the sport, but there’s also so much more to who I am and my Princeton experience than this sport.
Furthermore, I love the team and want to give back. It is indeed one of the most varied groups on campus and I would not have met most of my teammates if not for my involvement with the team, but despite our differences, each of my teammates is an amazing brother that has so much to offer to the team and those around them. They have surely enriched my Princeton experience more than they could ever know and I want to do what I can every day to give back to the team. I hope to support and push my teammates in reaching their potential in and out of the pool so that they will accomplish those goals that are seen but also go beyond and achieve the unseen and unimaginable.
After hearing these reasons, the teammate mentioned above told me that I had lofty goals. I agreed. Keeping perspective, maintaining a love for a sport that sometimes can take so much out of me, and wanting to give back are lofty goals. I don’t know what will happen as I commit myself to these goals, but all are pursuits I believe in. By my coach’s provision, the opportunity for me to swim for Princeton has once again opened and I intend to fully take advantage of this blessing and opportunity.