Bulldog Bites

News and Views from the University of Redlands

From college athlete to everyday student

Students walking through Hunsaker Plaza

Many students have found themselves in the same predicament I did, transitioning from being a college athlete to an everyday student. Like many athletes, one of the main reasons I came to the University of Redlands was to be student-athlete and to continue my sport at the collegiate level. I had been a competitive swimmer for most of my life and became intrigued by the swim team at Redlands. I grew up in the cold and rainy state of Washington and had been dreaming of going to school somewhere far away and sunny for a long time—Redlands seemed like a perfect fit for my athletic and academic pursuits.

After two great years swimming for Redlands, I found myself looking to do something else. I had been swimming since the age of seven, so it was a big decision for me to retire from the sport. One of the hardest parts about transitioning from a college athlete to an everyday student was to figure out my new identity. Once I was no longer an athlete, how could I respond to questions about what I did or who I was? Finding answers was challenging, but I was able to expand my horizons to new activities, which were fulfilling in new ways.

One of my big worries was how I could continue to stay in shape. While swimming I never had to worry about staying in shape or what I ate because of all the calories I was burning. To make up for not swimming, I forced myself to go to the gym regularly, and it worked pretty well. It was hard, though, to find motivation when I was not working towards something, especially coming from a sport with very structured training schedules. I decided I needed a goal to keep me motivated, so I decided to compete in my first triathlon.

This goal helped structure my training and motivated me to get into the best shape possible. I finished my first triathlon and immediately wanted to do many more. It was intimidating to try a new sport I didn’t know much about (except the swimming part), but it was rewarding and the natural high of a triathlon cannot be beaten. I was also exposed to a whole new community of athletes and its subculture, which had the intensity and commitment you’d expect of a collegiate sport. My sense of displacement was greatly reduced by finding a group of people who shared the same competitive fire as me.

Another of my worries about transitioning from college athlete to everyday student was how I would fill the time I used to devote to swimming. Working out and training for the triathlon filled part, but not all, of the 20 hours a week I used to spend at swim practices, competitions, and meetings. I decided to use the new free time to get more involved on campus.

As a junior, I explored Greek life and ended up joining the Pi Chi fraternity. I made a lot of great new friends and was introduced to a terrific network of current students and alumni to support me academically and with my career development. One of the best things about Pi Chi is the commitment to community service. We engaged in many service activities, such as planting trees, holding food and clothing drives, cleaning up garbage, and even supporting the widow of an alumnus by cleaning up her home. Joining Greek life helped me grow in new ways, and I highly recommend it to meet new people and be a part of a network and community.

The most unexpected interest I developed after my swimming career was gardening. I had never gardened in my life, and I did not think it would be something I would find enjoyable. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when I took Urban Gardening with Professor Tim Rogers. With the stresses of school and the fast-paced society we live in, there is something calming and peaceful about putting technology and your problems aside to go outside and work with your hands. It is a great stress reliever, and the food you grow yourself tastes better than anything else.

Participating in collegiate sports is a wonderful privilege and fulfilling in so many ways; it is the culmination of a lifelong commitment to a sport, with so many lessons and highlights. It was hard to hang up my goggles and swim cap. But I learned there is much more to try and experience at the University of Redlands. I greatly enjoyed my time at Redlands, both in and out of the pool. It is a truly a wonderful place to go to school for anyone from the intense athlete to the creative musician.

My advice to current students is to go out and challenge yourself and do not allow something you do or used to do define you as a person. Use your time and opportunity at Redlands to expand your horizons now, so you’ll be more ready than ever to embrace a lifetime of transitions when you leave.

To learn more about different aspects of the University of Redlands college experience, see intercollegiate Athletics, Recreation (including intramural sports and outdoor programs), Greek life, and programs of study.