Varsity swimming is special in many different ways, the team environment is electrifying, swim meets are only a couple of hours long, but most of all the community that you become a part of is special. My experience in club swimming was a good one, I made a lot of friends, I had good coaches, and I enjoyed myself. But swimming in university is a completely different ball game. There are no more age groups, you are swimming with some of the best swimmers in Canada, you get less sleep than you should, there’s buckets more stress than high school, but despite all of this, the most impactful thing that university sports has taught and given to me is a family.
Yeah yeah, I know how corny that sounds, but it is completely true. The people on your team become your family, especially if you are an out of province/state swimmer. You are 100’s of kilometres away from your love-ones, knowing close to no one and thrust into this new environment, where you are practically living with these people right away and expected to perform. This shared environment that almost all the athletes have provides you with the foundation to build a culture of family and togetherness. I can safely say that the people that I have met this year will be my friends for life. The shared ups and downs that sport provides you with is the strongest bonding glue in the world. You instantly make friends and in no time you feel like you have a true family. Everyone cares for each other and looks out for one another. If you’re not a practice they don’t berate you because you weren’t there, they see if you are OK. Everyone genuinely cares about your well being, and I feel like I could turn to anyone on the team if I was struggling or needed guidance.
The caring and love that is there within the team are so different than anything I have experienced before, and most definitely made my first year at university a special one. I’m not exaggerating when I say that you become friends with, each and every one of the people on the team, including the coaches. You become such a cohesive unit that within a week into the school year, the rookie group knew everything about one another. Every moment that you aren’t either in class or sleeping is spent with team members. Even with the upper years, many of them live in houses together, and most weekends have get-to-gethers where anyone on the team is invited to come. The upper years lead by example in this regard. They foster this sense of community the most, be it the captains, or just the swimmers that want to see the team get better. They pass down this sense of family and togetherness that is hard to ignore.
Next year I myself am planning to move-in with 5 other swimmers off campus, and I could not be more excited. The bond that you form with these people is unexplainable. If anyone has the opportunity to compete in any varsity sport I highly encourage you to as it will differently change how you view family and your friends. The people that you meet and compete with will no doubt become life-long friends, and you will have the time of your life.
In light of the COVID-19 Pandemic, I think that I need to expand on how this affects my team family, now that half of the members are no longer in Ottawa, including me. About half of the swimmers went home once the uOttawa went online and closed campus for the rest of the year, which was halfway through March. With half of the team no longer in Ottawa it has definitely changed the dynamic of the group, and the togetherness we shared. But our group has gotten around that fact by having at least one group skype call a week. We still talk and communicate just not the way we would prefer. Many of us were really excited about starting school again in the fall. But, as things keep changing and uOttawa now announcing that they will be offering online classes next year, we possibly won’t see our extended family for a whole year. Distance is hard! Next year will be hard! But if you have the chance to in the 2021-22 year to compete for varsity - do it! Swim Fast! Swim Hard!
I’ll see you in the next one :)