• Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

My Struggle Adapting to University Sports: How switching from swimming to rowing let me rediscover my passion for sports

ByAoife Brooks

Feb 17, 2024

For many students, moving to university provides an opportunity to try new things and expand their horizons, whether that be academically, joining new societies in their academic field or trying a new sport. But for many others, universities enable young athletes to join performance teams, pursuing excellence both nationally (at competitions like BUCS as well as British and home nation national competitions) and internationally.  

Edinburgh’s performance sport programmes provide world-class facilities, with the centre of Edinburgh sport being the Pleasance Sports Complex, equipped with the Performance Gym (the home of Edinburgh sports performance), the specialist rowing gym, a 25-metre six-lane swimming pool, squash courts, and a sports hall that caters to a wide variety of sports. Alongside the facilities, which are world-class, the University of Edinburgh has a vast network of specialist coaches, physiotherapists, and psychologists who are the central components of Edinburgh’s success across several sports. All these things attract budding young athletes. Many continue their childhood sports through graduation, but a brave few take a risk and transition away from a sport that has been such a central component of their lives to try something new. 

When I started at Edinburgh in 2022, I had come off the back of the most successful season of my swimming career, having qualified for the Winter Nationals in 2021 and the British Championships in the spring of 2022. This set me up well to leave my home club, Hackney Aquatics, which had served me so well for so many years. However, I struggled to adapt to the pace of senior swimming at university level, and while I did improve in the latter half of my first season at Edinburgh, I felt my patience with the sport waning. I struggled to adapt to a new and very different style of training compared to my previous club, finding that I was often having to prioritise my training over my university education, a decision I was not able to support. In July, after a difficult few competitions and interrupted training due to my academic commitments, I decided to hang up my goggles for the final time. 

It was not an easy decision and it was one that I struggled with for many months. I could see my days of swimming were behind me and I knew the best thing I could do to get the most out of my remaining three years at Edinburgh was to try something else. Surrounded by the encouragement of friends, I decided to be a coxswain or cox for Edinburgh University Boat Club’s novice programme. 

Starting a new sport has meant starting from zero and, to a certain extent, showing that you can indeed teach a dog new tricks. Coxing is far more technical than swimming and requires a fair amount of concentration to get it right but at no point have I regretted the choice. I’m back doing sports again, for the love of doing physical activity rather than doing hours of something I wasn’t invested in to achieve a certain outcome that wasn’t promised.

Illustration via Lucy Keegan