Competing on the swim team is one of the favorite parts of my life as a Grinnellian. The swim team is one of the largest teams on campus, and it is great to be a member of an incredibly diverse and interesting team. We really are one big family.
Collegiate athletics is a huge time commitment, and the commitment increases significantly for an athlete with a disability. During the swim season, from mid-October to mid-February, we practice two hours a day Monday through Friday, often with practice or a meet on Saturdays. It takes me longer to get to and from practice. I am often the last one in the locker room and the last member of the team to arrive at dinner after practice. It takes me longer to shower and dress following practice. While my teammates are able to rush after practice and get to their homework, that is not an option for me.
That being said, I do not regret my decision to be a collegiate swimmer. Sacrifice and discipline are part of being an athlete, and they are essential to being a disabled athlete. Yes, sometimes I wish I had more free time. But swimming is my favorite activity; it is how I keep my body strong, functioning, and healthy. I have to sacrifice a lot for swimming, but I'm getting so much more back from it.
I've found that the balance of school and swimming essential to my success. Swimming clears my mind and makes it easier for me to focus on my schoolwork. Swimming makes me fit, healthy, and, above all, happy. Like any college student, I work to find the best balance between school, athletics, social life, and sleep. Swimming helps me with this, because it limits the amount of free time that I have. If I don't schedule my time wisely during swim season, my work simply will not get done. Since I am often tired from practices, I never want to sacrifice my sleep. Scheduling my time wisely and learning to stay disciplined are important skills I've learned as a result of being an athlete.
When the team travels to compete, I ride the bus with the team, and the compartment underneath the bus is large enough to store my wheelchair. If we stay overnight, I room with my teammates just like the rest of the team, in an accessible hotel room.