Five Favorite Unexpected Swim Team Experiences from a Gold Medalist

Swimming competitively is hard work – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. We asked Rachel Bootsma, a FOSS alumna, Olympic gold-medal winner and national college backstroke champion when she swam for the University of California – Berkeley, for some of the things outside the pool that were unexpected sources of joy and fun during her swimming career.

1. DANCE CLASS: “As part of our training we would do a dance class twice a week. For the first half of the season it would be zumba-type dancing to get in some good cardio and movement. The second half of the season we would learn a choreographed dance and we would perform it for each other, coaches, and have “dance battles.” It always got very competitive and silly!”

2. BEACH TIME: “As part of our training we would do ocean training at beaches all over California and even in Hawaii! One time after a session was done some of us decided to play “tag” and were chasing each other all over the beach and in the water. Someone thought it was a good idea to tag someone underwater and my teammates thought it was a shark! We got a great workout chasing each other around.”

3. TRAINING WITH TURTLES: “One time in Hawaii we were swimming and we saw sea turtles! We also got a lot of time to explore the island and bond as teammates. We would do all sorts of activities: hiking, snorkeling, stand up paddle boarding, surfing, and countless other things. My favorite part of Hawaii was always the “shave ice” treat that we would get after our second practice of the day. It was bigger than my head!”

4. SEEING THE WORLD: “I was fortunate to travel all over the world because of swimming. I would go places with some of my best friends and get to explore. One time I was in Australia for Pan Pacific Championships and on a day off we got to go to a koala sanctuary. We all got to hold koalas and feed kangaroos. Even though it was pouring rain, holding a koala was one of my top five moments of my life!”

5. FRIENDSHIPS: “My favorite part about training is the hilarious/motivational/encouraging conversations I’ve had over the years with my teammates. Whether it’s before, in the middle, or after a hard practice, swimming has a way of bringing people together. I have had countless meaningful conversations with some of my teammates. My favorite is hearing someone behind me in the lane cheer for me during a set. Knowing I am swimming for something bigger than myself makes the tough practices just a little easier.”

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