In this article, we would like to take you on a journey into the life of a swim & dive athlete throughout a year in the US. You will get to know what it’s like during in-season activities, including training sessions and competitions. We will cover all the details in this article.
Raf Hendriks, a Slamstox swim & dive intern, has been swimming and studying at Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota for 3 years. He shares his story as a student athlete with us. A swim & dive team in America typically consists of around 20-40 boys and 20-40 girls. This creates an incredible atmosphere during training sessions and competitions. Despite the intense training workload, you will never feel like you’re doing it alone in America! Want to know more about a year as a college swim & dive athlete? Keep reading below!
The first semester
Upon arrival in America, the first few weeks are always very busy. School and training sessions resume after a long summer break that lasts from early May until late August. During these initial weeks, you also get to know your new teammates and fellow students. Many sports teams organize one or more team-building weekends to foster better connections among teammates. After all, these are the athletes you’ll be playing and training with. The first week of school is usually relatively relaxed, focusing on the course content for the semester. Swim training begins, and in the first few weeks, we are particularly focused on content and technique.
In these first few months, I’m typically at the pool or in the weight room almost every weekday from 6 to 8 in the morning. After training, it’s time for breakfast, sometimes followed by a short nap, and then it’s off to school. After school, I swim again from 2 to 4 in the afternoon. After the second training session of the day, I do some homework, take some rest, and have dinner with my teammates. Then, there’s usually some time in the evening for leisure activities or more homework, of course. During these initial months, weekends are dedicated to competitions. Our first meet in October is always an intra-squad meet. Our team is divided into two different mixed teams that compete against each other. After this meet, we have a competition almost every week or every other week against one or more universities. This continues until mid-November when it’s time to rest and prepare for our mid-season meet in early December. We put on our racing suits for this meet and aim to achieve good times that could potentially qualify us for the NCAA Championships in March.
After this meet, we also wrap up the first semester at school, and it’s time to go home. Our “winter break” lasts from mid-December to mid-January. While school doesn’t start until mid-January, our swim team returns to campus before the new calendar year begins. That’s because it’s time for our annual training camp in Puerto Rico. For me, this is one of the most enjoyable weeks of the year.
The second semester
The second semester begins for us around mid-January. Once we return from sunny Puerto Rico, both training and classes resume on campus. We are now in the final month before our Conference Championships, which take place in February. During this phase of the season, the focus is primarily on fine-tuning and attention to detail. The bulk of the training volume was completed in the first semester. We have a few remaining dual meets on weekends, and on other Saturdays, we have training sessions. Sundays are free for leisure activities and recovery. As we approach our conference meets, which are often the most important competitions of the year for many swimmers, we start to taper and rest. Performance is crucial, and expectations are high. After our conference meet, it’s time for the NCAA Championships, which take place in March. Personally, this is the pinnacle of the year for me. We travel by plane to these championships, and everything becomes even more professional. At this event, schools from across the country compete for the national championship title.
After an amazing competition, the swim season in America comes to an end. We return to campus, and it’s time to finish the academic year on a high note. During the “off-season,” the training intensity decreases significantly. There’s less time spent in the pool and more time dedicated to strength training in the weight room. There’s also a lot more free time available. We often engage in various activities with teammates, such as weekend trips or having dinner at our coach’s home. The focus now shifts from sports to academics. We complete the school year in early May, and then it’s time for a long summer vacation once again.
If you want to know more about swimming and studying, or if you can already envision yourself in this scenario, just like our very own Raf Hendriks, feel free to contact us quickly and without obligation. We will be happy to assist you further