Credit: Michigan Photography
On March 12, 2020, I was almost done with an IM threshold set, when the coaches called my teammates and I over to the stands to have a meeting. We all knew that it was going to be about the NCAA Championships, slated to take place in just two short weeks. As the news was revealed that the Championships, along with the rest of the season were cancelled, there were varied emotions among the team. Some cried, while others, like myself, sat in shock.
How could this happen, we all wondered. Although the writing had already been on the wall, with the NBA just having postponed their season, it had always seemed as if the NCAA Championship were just too big to fail.
With the past year being my senior year, it was an abrupt and unceremonious way to finish. My teammates and I had put so much effort into training, and to not be able to see the results of our hard work made the entire season feel useless. However, as I haven’t had much to do recently, I have been given the opportunity to reflect on the past few years, and I have realized that I would never change a thing about it.
The Journey is More Important than the Destination
There is a common saying: “the journey is more important than the destination.” Though this may not always be the case (I would have loved to swim at NCAAs), it’s still worth acknowledging that the journey is important. In my journey, I have made life-long friends, developed mental toughness, and learned how to deal with failure and how to achieve success. My journey as a swimmer is where I have experienced all of my personal growth, and it defines me as I am today. You cannot appreciate what you achieve at your destination without going through the journey.
In this aspect, COVID-19 is just like any other setback you might face throughout your athletic journey. You might miss some meets and some practices just like you would with an injury or sickness. You might feel like you haven’t achieved anything just like if you don’t get best times at a meet. But in this, we can all learn the value in dealing with these setbacks. Try to appreciate your journey. Have fun being with your friends, set small goals every practice and try to reach them, or race someone. Wherever your destination is, you can’t get there without your journey.
As I continue my own journey toward Olympic Trials next summer, I have been trying to maintain my fitness while also working on developing good habits. To stay in shape without a pool, I try to bike or run every day. I know that as long as I can keep my cardio up, I will have no problem when I can finally swim again. I missed being with my friends, so to keep it fun while working out by myself, I make challenges that I try to accomplish. After only doing 10 to 20 miles of biking each day, my sister and I set a goal to reach 100 miles in one day. Though it was difficult, it was fun, rewarding, and a great work out. I have also been trying to get more sleep and eat healthier, as these are easy ways to see big improvements in training and competition.
Many of us lost the opportunity to compete or train because of COVID-19. We spend countless hours in the pool, and to suddenly have nothing to work towards is something that can be difficult to deal with, and it’s something even the best athletes struggle with. However, we can take this in stride, and try to make a positive out of it. Now is the best time to get back to training. Now is when you can really make gains on your competitors and make a plan to come back better than ever. It might be hard to think about swimming when so many things are uncertain but try to learn to appreciate the journey.
The next time you get into the pool, you’ll be unstoppable! And we have 5 tips to get back into shape here!
About Tommy Cope
Tommy is a graduate of the University of Michigan, where he specialized in breaststroke and IM events. He was the team captain his senior year.
He is an All-American in the 100 and 200 breaststroke, the 200 and 400 IM, and the 400 and 800 free relay. Tommy is also the Michigan school record holder in the 200 yard breaststroke. He is currently continuing his training at Michigan, with his eyes set on Tokyo.
Beyond swimming, Tommy is pursuing a master’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from The University of Michigan. He was named recipient of the 2020 Big Ten Medal of Honor, which is awarded to one male and one female athlete at The University of Michigan demonstrating excellence on and off the field.