It’s hard to find much to fault in Regan Smith’s swimming ability. The Lakeville, MN native has medaled in the Olympics, and now in 2022 is preparing to swim in the World Championships in Budapest – but she understands that swimming, like any skill, doesn’t come easy.
“I especially remember learning the breaststroke [at Foss Swim School], and what they called the ‘jellyfish kick,’ and I remember I couldn’t get the hang of that one,” she said. “I remember the instructors, bless them, they were so patient, but I just wasn’t catching on.”
Even at that early age Regan had shown a great talent for swimming, especially the butterfly and backstroke, which are her strongest strokes to this day. But that didn’t mean the path to competitive swimming was easy or automatic – she had to work though hard spots, develop resilience, learn that she could do things even when it first seemed she couldn’t, and ultimately find her own journey along the Swim Path, just like any other FOSS student.
Discovering a Love for Competitive Swimming
Of course, not everyone who learns to swim at FOSS will swim at the Olympics. (It’s true – we’ve checked.) But for those who discover a true love of swimming, Regan’s story and experience can offer inspiration and tips that can lead a swimmer to find a sport they can enjoy at school, or a lifelong hobby.
In fact, Regan’s first “competitive” swimming was at a Foss Fun Meet, where students of all abilities get to experience the thrill of a swim meet in a supportive, age-appropriate way. “When I won, I loved nothing more than seeing my parents cheering when I touched the wall,” she remembers. “I loved that feeling so much, I just wanted to keep doing that.”
Regan credits her older sister with leading her to more advanced swim experience. “I owe it to my sister,” she said. “She was twelve and I was seven and a half. She swam in middle school, and that inspired her to do year-long club swimming. I said, I’m ready to join a club too. But if she wasn’t doing that, I might have stopped.”
At that point it was no longer about learning to swim, but learning to swim faster. “FOSS taught me all the basics, and I felt really safe. I remember learning the backstroke, I was uncomfortable not knowing where the wall was, but FOSS taught me what to do,” she said. “In the swim club, I was swimming 3 or 4 times a week, for 60 minutes at a time. I had graduated to a new level.”
Teaching More than Swimming
Regan believes that swimming competitively, even at an early age, helped shape her as a person. “You learn the importance of hard work and determination,” she said. “A lot of people don’t appreciate how individual it is. You aren’t interacting with coaches or the other swimmers in the pool. You have to hold yourself accountable and be internally motivated.”
That internal motivation spills into other areas of a swimmer’s life, Regan believes. “I got so good at time management. I never feel more organized and efficient, never better at balancing life when I have swimming on top of everything else. And I see it in my friends too: We all had great grade, good friends, good relationships with our parents, and we were eating well. We were thriving at the same time as we were swimming.”
Tips for Moving On to Competitive Swimming
While every swimmer is different, Regan believes that club swimming is a great path for anyone who discovers a love of swimming at a young age. And it doesn’t need to be complicated.
“For a first swim club, I’d say just pick the one that is closest,” she said. “All clubs are good and will be able to teach you, and you have to go there a lot, so choose a good location. When starting out, your swimmer will be happy no matter what. They get to swim, meet kids outside their class and broaden their friend groups. You can’t go wrong.
“If they become more serious, and really want to get better or qualify for certain races, then look into teams, or seek out a coach with a good reputation.” But even if a swimmer never takes that next step, they will develop great skills and have a lot of fun.
What’s Next for Regan
As of this writing, Regan is currently preparing for the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary from June 18-25, 2022. While the exact seeding and heats are yet to be determined, we’ll be sharing ways to watch Regan compete in the weeks to come.
We’re following Regan every stroke of the way on her journey to the 2024 Paris Olympics. Follow us on social media to keep up with Regan, and check back for more insights from this famous FOSS graduate!