“Hi, my name is Holly and I’ve been a competitive swimmer since I was 8 years old.”
For as long as teachers have been using this as an icebreaker, my one fun fact about myself has been my identity as a swimmer. It has been the one thing I held onto throughout school: as a revision break, a social hangout, as a distraction from whatever was going on. When I started out at university, joining UYSWC (University of York Swimming and Water Polo Club), was one of the first things I did, so let me tell you a little bit about how I got to this point.
I started my swimming career as most do and in the first few years after joining my local club, my technique improved rapidly and my times dropped second by second. By age 10, I was qualifying for county and regional level competitions. Since I was training 6 times a week, my circle of friends grew closer and swimming became a social activity as well as fitness. For about 5 consecutive years, I qualified for regionals in a variety of different events, before specialising in butterfly and freestyle sprints when I hit my teens.
It was all going so well, but when I got to 15 things began to slow down. To some extent, this might be an expected trajectory- maybe my body had reached its limits. Suddenly, times that I had previously achieved seemed unattainable, training became more tiresome and my friends began to lose interest and quit. Before I knew it, we had a new coach and my club was turned upside down. Plagued with a shoulder injury and an unbreakable plateau, I eventually decided to leave swimming behind me. The sport I loved had become a chore; but for the year and a half before uni, I missed it like mad. So, when I started at York, I knew I had to give it another chance.
After leaving my home club during A Levels, I was anxious about my fitness and getting back into a strict training plan again- but I had nothing to worry about. The committee, coach and the women’s captain in particular all reignited the passion for the sport I’d loved for so long. UYSWC rebuilt my swimming community that I had lost at home. They became my closest friends at uni: a family. They helped me to rediscover what I had enjoyed about the sport. After suffering so much from injury, I had developed such a mental fear of a certain event that I flat-out refused to swim it. But thanks to my first- year captain, not only was I able to complete the event, but I also swam it at Roses. Being part of a winning Roses team, and knowing that I had contributed to that win in an event I never thought I would swim again, is something I will be forever thankful for.
In my second year, I trained with the women’s water polo team as well. I will be the first to admit that I am not the best water polo player and, due to my timetable, I hardly ever played a match, but I loved training in a completely different style to what I was used to. By training in two sports, my strength and fitness increased dramatically and, as if by magic (and many, many hours in the pool), my personal best times began to drop once more. Despite training less than I used to, the difference in training style and the overall positivity of the club, (compared to at home), has made an immeasurable impact on my swimming and mental attitude. Thanks to UYSWC I have been able to better myself in almost every conceivable way.
From socials to competitions, the club gave me somewhere to belong.