Freestyling with Matt McGinnis: Feb. 25
One thing I try to relish for every waking moment is the number of opportunities I've been given through the years. As an athlete, I've always felt that the amount of hard work put into sports and school play a major factor in success, but without adequate opportunities, the rewards would be greatly diminished.
For example, as a swimmer here at UT, I have the opportunity to access tutors for classes, top-notch weight rooms for strength and conditioning, and a vast career support network to attain a sense for the future after my swimming days are over. The support staff at UT has been immeasurably good to me. I almost feel that no amount of thanks could ever truly pay them back.
This week, our swim team has a terrific opportunity at the Big 12 Championships. Our team goal is to swim faster as a unit than we ever have before. This is the time of year where all the hard work pays off. The painfully burning crunches, the long distance swimming sets which never seem to end, the squats, and the days spent improving the slightest details of technique all come together to make for a fun competition in which we reap the fruits of our labor. Most of the other teams in the NCAA have already had their conference championship meets, so we have a good gauge on where everyone else is at, too.
I vividly recall about a year ago when I was visiting some friends at my home in Raleigh, North Carolina. I was at my old school, talking to my English teacher from my junior year of high school. I always liked him because he seemed especially understanding of the demands of balancing high level sports with classes. He asked me what it was like to compete at a major Division 1 school such as Texas and whether I felt overwhelmed when I first arrived here by the high amounts of expectations.
It was then that I realized just how lucky I am; immediately, a meeting with UT head swimming coach Eddie Reese came to mind, in which he told me that expectations can kill you if you aren't careful. Like he told the team at a meeting last week, he believes that as long as you go into a swim meet willing to race as hard as you can, the rest will take care of itself. Racing as hard as you can is really all you can ask of yourself. I've always agreed with that, and because of this I've never truly felt disappointed in myself while competing here.
Whether we qualify 12 guys for the NCAA meet or 18 (hopefully something closer to 18), I know that my teammates will have worked very hard to represent their school well this year. Because of that, I'm really looking forward to seeing some new names rise to the occasion this week and beyond. I'm also looking forward to having massages on the pool deck this week. Traditionally, our team has a massage therapist give us rub downs at championship competitions in order to "flush out" some of the more grueling races. As a swimmer who competes in the 500 freestyle and also weighs around 200 pounds, those massages can really come in handy.
More to come next week when I reflect on how our team performed at Big 12's and what we will be doing to prepare for the final stage of the season.